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Thinking Out Of The Box

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Vayishlach

Nov 15, 2013

Parshas Vayishlach


The Torah relates how Yaakov Aveinu crossed the Yabok river with his eleven children.[1] The number eleven refers to all of Yaakov’s sons at the time. Yaakov had a twelfth child, his daughter, Dinah.

The Medrash Rabbah explains why Dinah is not mentioned. “Where was Dinah?” the medrash asks. Yaakov placed her into a box and locked it so that Eisav would not cast his eyes upon her and take her. Therefore, Yaakov was punished. He withheld her from his brother. Perhaps she would have influenced Eisav for the better. “You, Yaakov withheld this chessed from your brother. You did not seek to marry her to a circumcised one, behold she was taken as a wife by an uncircumcised one. You did not seek to marry her off in a permissible manner, behold she is taken in matrimony in an impermissible manner.[2]

As a consequence, she was taken forcefully by the hand of Shechem ben Chamor.



Dinah was eight years old at the time.[3]  Is it reasonable to assume that the young Dinah would be effective in countering a lifetime of Eisav's wickedness?

Why is Dinah the one being punished? She had no part in the act of being locked up. Wouldn't it have been more appropriate for Yaakov to receive punishment rather than his daughter?

 In addition, what connection is there between the “crime” of containing Dinah and the punishment of being violated by the wicked Shechem?

Background/Deeper Understanding


In order to understand this, one must first understand that the trials of the Avos are not those of action, whether they will commit the proper action or not. There is no question that their actions are beyond reproach. Their trials are those of depth, such as in what spirit their actions are performed.

This point is best illustrated by the trial of Lech Lecha. Avrohom Aveinu was commanded to leave his land, his birthplace, and his father’s house, in that order. From the physical vantage point, the order should have been reversed. That was not his test. Rather, he was commanded to inwardly leave his land, his birthplace, and father's home, in ascending order of difficulty.

Certainly, one is not obligated to offer his eight year old daughter to a wicked person in matrimony in the hopes that she would influence him. After careful reflection of the matter, this would be the obvious conclusion. Yaakov Avenu's choice of action was clear, beyond a doubt. And it was not for this that he was punished.

Mori VeRabi, Rav Mordechai Gifter, z”l, suggested that something was lacking in the internal "give and take" of Yaakov. The decision to withhold Dinah from Eisav was too automatic for someone of Yaakov's level. The trait which Yaakov perfected was that of rachamim (compassion)[4]. Any deviation from his trait is deemed cruelty on his part.

Regardless of the fact that he reached the proper conclusion, the method used to reach that conclusion must be flawless. He should only have decided on his path of action after completely investigating both sides of the matter, holding them up to the light, and choosing one over the other. It was considered a short-coming that Yaakov Avenu only saw one side.


This miniscule lack of compassion caused Yaakov Avenu to overlook something. Although Eisav was wicked, he was circumcised. Although undesired, a marriage between Eisav and Dinah would have been permissible.

Yaakov made his decision without considering this. Had he done so, he would have arrived at the same conclusion (to withhold Dinah from Eisav), but it would have been a decision born of the compassion expected from Yaakov Avenu.

By not considered the fittingness of the match between the circumcised Eisav and the daughter of the circumcised Yaakov, Yaakov created a minute flaw within his soul.

This flaw manifested itself in the area of relationships. If Eisav is not considered fit despite his being circumcised, then, Shechem is not to be considered unfit even though he is uncircumcised.

The tragic abduction of Dinah was not a punishment. It was a reality. The tear in Yaakov's soul was inherited by his daughter. When parents err in the area of character traits, the impact passes to their offspring.

The Torah tells us "Vateitzei Dinah bas Leah asher yaldah LiYaakov lir'os bivnos ha'aretz".[5] Dinah went out to see and be with the daughters of the land. Dinah was being tested. She failed. She committed an error in judgment. A daughter of a circumcised one does not go out to be with the daughters of an uncircumcised one.

Had Yaakov Avenu been perfect in his middah, it would have been passed down to Dinah that the line between circumcised and uncircumcised is not to be crossed, and yes, even matrimony with the circumcised Eisav is to be considered.

Thus, the Torah emphasizes that Dinah is the daughter of Leah who bore her to Yaakov.

This lesson is something to bear in mind when dealing with our own choices. The impact of an improper choice impacts the choices of our future generations.



[1] Perek 32, posuk 23

[2] Parshah 76, piska 9

[3] Rabeinu BaChaye, perek 34, posuk 3

[4] Rav Moshe Alshich, Toras Moshe, Shmos, perek 17, posuk12. Maharal, Sefer Netzach Yisroel, perek 7

[5] Perek 34, posuk 1

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