ישיבת כרם ביבנה

The Dinah Incident and the Miracle of Chanukah

הרב קלמן מאיר בר

"The actions of the patriarchs are a sign for their descendants." When a person is in a dilemma what to do, he should approach a similar case of the patriarchs and learn from it the proper course of action.

Chazal interpret the pasuk, "I was not secure, I was not quiet, I was not at rest; and torment has come" (Iyov 3:26) in two different ways. In Bereishit Rabbah (chapter 84) they write: "I was not secure – from Esav; I was not quiet – from Lavan; I was not at rest – from Dinah; and torment has come – Yosef's torment has come to me." In Shemot Rabbah (chapter 26) this was taught to refer to the four [conquering] kingdoms: "I was not secure – from Bavel; I was not quiet – from Madai; I was not at rest – from Greece; and torment has come – from Edom." Chazal wish to teach that what happened during the Dinah incident was a sign for Am Yisrael during the Greek exile. Indeed, if we study these events more closely we will notice the similarity between the two.

The Rishonim wrote extensively about the Dinah incident. As the Ramban asks: "How did Yaakov's righteous sons perform this action to spill innocent blood" of the men of Shechem? Even if Shechem and Chamor had sinned, what was the crime of their subjects?

The Rambam (Hil. Melachim 9:14) answers that the men of Shechem were obligated to observe the seven Noachide commandments, which include upholding justice. Shechem had stolen Dinah and the members of the town did not judge him at all, and for this they deserved to die. This answer is not without difficulties. The Ramban comments that if we sentence them for disobeying one of the seven Noachide commandments, then they had already deserved to die for being idol-worshippers, murderers and fornicators. Rather, Yaakov's sons are not held responsible to judge them, so how did they kill them for not upholding justice? (See the Ramban's answer there.)

The Maharal, in his commentary on the Torah, "Gur Aryeh," writes that this question is not in place. The stealing of Dinah should not be viewed as a private action of individual people. Instead, it should be viewed as a declaration of war on the Jewish nation. Until the kidnapping, Yaakov's family and the Canaanites were viewed as two separate nations, and the desire of the Canaanites was to "become a single people" through spiritual assimilation. This war was opened by Shechem and Chamor through the kidnapping of Dinah for a wife, and the beginning of this common existence is tantamount to a declaration of war. Therefore, when Yaakov's sons punished the men of Shechem, the punishment should not be viewed on an individual basis, whether so-and-so participated in the war. It should be viewed as an all-out war, which is why they killed all the men of Shechem.

This is how the Netziv explained in his commentary Yaakov's blessing: "I will separate them within Yaakov, and I will disperse them in Israel." (Bereishit 49:7) Am Yisrael requires zealotry in order to maintain its holiness, in order to prevent the nation from assimilating and mixing with the nations of the world. However, it should only be in small measures, and therefore: "I will disperse them in Israel."

G-d Himself confirmed the actions of Levi. When the angels wished to excommunicate Pinchas, G-d said to them: "Leave him! He is a zealot, son of a zealot." (Sanhedrin 82a) There is an obligation to fight with all your strength against this trend of mixing with another nation.

As the actions of the patriarchs, so it was also during the time of their descendants, the Chashmonaim. In the book of Josephus it says that the war of the Chashmonaim started because of the decree that: "Whoever marries a woman, she should submit herself to the governor first." (Ketubot 3b) Matityahu's daughter was about to get married and she defied the decree. She did this because the Greek's sole purpose with this decree was to assimilate and become one nation – just like the Dinah incident. For the same reason they decreed against other similar signs of Am Yisrael's uniqueness, the Jewish calendar and circumcision that express the difference between Am Yisrael and the nations. The decree against women was another link in this war. Then, like the patriarchs before them, the Chashmonaim from the tribe of Levi – who were separated through holiness: "Sanctify them and they shall minister to Me," (Shemot 28:41) – rose up to fight with all their strength against mixing with the Greeks.

It is interesting to note that the reason for both decrees was the same. On the pasuk, "Go up to Bet-El", (Bereishit 34:1) Rashi writes: "Because you were late on the road [to fulfill your vow] you were punished, and this came upon you from your daughter." There was a little laxity here that caused Yaakov to be punished so that he was forced to experience the Dinah incident. The same was true also during the period of the Chashmonaim. The Bach writes: "The reason for the decree was because they were lax with the [Temple] service."

The correction was also the same, when Yaakov commanded that the foreign idols be removed. The Ramban (Bereishit 35:4) comments that even though they were not actually idol worship, Yaakov commanded that they be removed "for purity of holiness" and as hidur mitzvah. If the decree was made because of laxity in observance, the correction is to increase purity in holiness. This was also the case with the actions of the later generations, the Chashmonaim, when they came into the Temple to purify it. They could have used impure oil because, as tumah was permitted in public, but since they had become lax with the Temple service – they sought to aspire for purity of holiness. They searched and found oil that was made in purity which would light the seven candles."

"The Compassionate One! May He perform miracles and wonders like he did for our forefathers, in those days at this time."

 

 

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