by Muriel Stern
In this week’s portion, we read from Genesis chapter 32: 32 until the end of chapter 36. Jacob prepares to meet his brother. They did not part on good terms and Jacob is fearful. He divides his family into several groups and sends them across the stream at Jabbok. He himself stays behind and wrestles with a man who turns out to be an angel. Jacob comes out of the fight with a limp and a new name. From now on he shall be called Israel. The meeting with Esau goes better than expected. Instead of killing him, Esau embraces his brother. Jacob and his family settle outside of Shechem. The Lord has done everything Jacob asked Him to do when he had his dream at Bethel. Clearly, God is with Him, blessed and protected.
And right after we read the horrible account of how the prince of Shechem raped Leah’s daughter. When the news reached Jacob, he waited until his sons returned from the fields before doing anything. The brothers were outraged and came up with a plan. If all the males of the city agreed to be circumcised their sister could marry Shechem. The men of Shechem agreed and three days later the brothers set the second part of their plan in motion. Simeon & Levi took their swords and killed every male, taking revenge for what was done to their sister. They take Dina from Shechem’s house and bring her back to her family.
Dina was a young girl with a bright future ahead of her as the only daughter of the very wealthy Jacob. And suddenly it was all gone. Not only did Shechem violate her body, but he also altered her whole future. The custom of the time was to have the girl marry the one who violates her. Unheard of in our days! But we do have to understand the times this young woman lived in. Without a husband to protect her, she would be left on her own. And after how she was treated by Shechem she was no longer marriage material. Her only option of having the protection of a husband and possible sons in the future was to marry Shechem. An option that was taken away by the actions of her brothers.
In Genesis chapter 49 Jacob brings up the incident again as he calls his sons together.
“Simeon & Levi are brothers, their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce and their fury, so cruel!” (verse 5-7a)
I think that Jacob made an important point. While Simeon & Levi were rightfully outraged at how their sister was treated, they acted in anger. Their anger was justified, but their actions were not. For me, that is the lesson that stands out in this portion. How do we act in situations that rightfully make us angry? Do our actions actually help the victim or is it more about how we feel? Are our actions in proportion to the violation?
The story continues and the family moves to Bethel. God meets Jacob and confirms his name change. Rachel passes away after giving birth to another son, Benjamin. Also, Isaac passes away and is buried by his sons. We read the account of the family line of Esau and with that, we get to the end of our portion for this week.
About Muriel Stern
Muriel Stern has a lifelong love affair with words, specifically with the Word. It is her hope that with her writing she does honor to the Author and inspires others to fall head over heels for the Creator as well. Muriel & her husband Daniel reside in the City of the Great King. Their four children love books as much as their parents.