Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Dina in a Box

When Yaakov finally meets Esav and introduces his family, his daughter Dina is nowhere to be found. The Midrash relates that Yaakov had hidden her in a box. Fearful that Esav might want her hand in marriage, Yaakov put her in a suitcase so Esav would not see her at all. The Midrash goes on to say that this was a mistake. Had Esav married Dina, she would have transformed him into a righteous man. For the sin of withholding this opportunity from his brother, Yaakov was punished with the rape of Dina.

This extraordinary Midrash needs a lot of explanation, and it is not my intent here to attempt to explain it all. I would just like to suggest one idea.

Did Yaakov's lack of faith in his daughter weaken her sense of self? The fact is that Dina could have fixed Esav, but Yaakov didn't believe it. What is the impact on a child when a parent isn't aware of their strengths and as a result relates to them inappropriately? Is such a child possibly more susceptible to rape?

Am I out of line here?


  1. The midrash certainly does need explanation. However the Midrash only faults Yakov for not allowing the possibility for a marriage. It relates that he was punished for this. It does not say that he set his daughter up to be a rape victim. That's not at all the point!

  2. anonymous the second12/06/2006 11:13 PM

    My reading of the midrash is along the lines of Rabbi Gordon. Perhaps we are reading different midrashim. I am looking at Bereschit Rabba, 76:9 (Theodor Albeck p. 907. Certainly in Rashi's version of the midrash this seems to be the case.

  3. R' Gordon,
    As usual, your approach is novel. However, the answer to your last question is YES. But, if you were to delete the second to last question, then the answer to you last question would be reduced to MAYBE.

  4. R Gordon,

    I am not sure that it is indeed a fact that Dina could have fixed Esav. The Midrash you quote has Hashem faulting Yaakov because "maybe" Dina would have helped Esav (I am not sure what to make of this. Did't Hashem know whether Yaakov would have been successful? Maybe it's a 'Rayah' to the Ralbag?).

    Yaakov is faulted for not trying to be more constructive in his relationship with Esav. If anything, his lack of faith is not in Dina, but in Esav.

  5. I meant the Ralbag's view on Free Will that Hashem does not know what a person will choose to do. So B'chirah is absolute.

  6. Oh, that Ralbag. I do not believe his position on G-d's knowledge can be stated so simplisticly.

  7. Agreed. But it's a little strange for the Midrash to use that language. Any thoughts?

  8. The Midrash is indeed very hard to understand. How could Yaakov have been expected to sacrifice Dina or risk her character by marrying her off to Eisav? The Torah Temima offers a puzzling approach. Yaakov knew for sure that Dina would influence eisav and turn him into an intense BT. That is what he feared. He didn't want eisav to be חוזר למוטב because he hated him. I think this approach is not acceptable. Perhaps the issue lies in assessing who Dina was. The hiding of Dina "in a box" was essentially claiming that she was at a lofty level of כבודה בת מלך פנימה, that didn't line up with reality. Chazal say ותצא דינה בת לאה, she was a יצאנית like her mother. Meaning, her כבודה בת מלך פנימה was less than it should have been. Yaakov was punished for pretending she was worthy of being hidden in "the box". This also explains the contradiction in Rashi whether it was the hiding of dina from eisav or the ותצא דינה that led to her abduction.