Sister Act: Vayishlakh 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How far would you go to defend the honor of someone in your family? Would you go that far for someone not in your family?

In an effort to avenge the rape of their sister Dinah, Simeon and Levi massacre the tribe of Shechem. When Jacob criticizes them, Simeon and Levi are undeterred:

The Pitch: “But [Simeon and Levi] answered, ‘Should our sister be treated like a whore?’” – Genesis 34:31

Swing #1: “What offends me here – beyond the carnage … is the very invisibility, the inaudibility of Dinah. In the same book of Genesis in which matriarchs have such strong voices, Dinah is utterly denied any voice of her own whatsoever.” – Burton L. Visotzky, The Genesis of Ethics: How the Tormented Family of Genesis Leds Us to Moral Development

Swing #2: “‘Should our sister be treated as a whore?’ they ask defiantly. But they are also implying that Jacob himself had treated Dinah as a prostitute: by doing nothing, he had tacitly suggested that the rape of his daughter was acceptable to him.” – Karen Armstrong, In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis

Swing #3: “Simeon and Levi seem to have the last word here, but the recompense for their violence comes many years later. In his deathbed blessing of his sons, Jacob criticizes them, demotes them from the order of birthright, and condemns them to being scattered (Genesis 49:5-7). This comes true, as the tribes of Levi and Simeon became landless.” – Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah

Late-Inning Questions: To our commentators, which is a worse response to Dinah’s suffering: Jacob’s inaction, or Simeon and Levi’s overreaction? Which is worse in your opinion?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We’re excited for another edition of Jews, Brews, and ’Ques on Sunday, December 3rd. This event is a fun and relaxing way to support the synagogue while eating scrumptious food prepared by teams from across Charleston. I’m also proud that we’re donating a portion of our proceeds to funds that benefit victims of recent hurricanes. Get your tickets before they disappear!

The Big Inning at the End: More and more men are being exposed for inappropriate sexual behavior, and the sports world certainly is no exception: Yesterday, Toronto Blue Jays announcer (and former major-league player) Gregg Zaun was fired after management received numerous complaints. It is a hopeful sign that more (although, unfortunately, not all) portions of our society are taking stands for the dignity of all people.

Shabbat Shalom!