Parshas Vayishlach brings us to the long awaited showdown between Yaakov and Esav. The pesukim explain three ways that Yaakov prepares for this meeting: he davens to Hashem, sends presents to Esav in order to show respect for him, and prepares his family for war. However, there is one more preparation he made which is not listed in the pesukim.
In Perek 32 pasuk 23, the pasuk says, “וַיָּקָם בַּלַּיְלָה הוּא וַיִּקַּח אֶת שְׁתֵּי נָשָׁיו וְאֶת שְׁתֵּי שִׁפְחֹתָיו וְאֶת אַחַד עָשָׂר יְלָדָיו” “And he arose during the night and he took…his eleven children”. Rashi explains that we know Yaakov had only eleven sons (since Binyamin had not yet been born), so the pasuk must be excluding someone by saying a specific number. Rashi brings a medrash which says that the Torah is excluding Dinah, Yaakov’s daughter, who was a very beautiful girl and would have therefore caught Esav’s eye right away. In order to protect her from this, Yaakov put her in a box and hid her from sight. However, we see that this was not the right thing to do. The medrash explains that Yaakov was punished for hiding Dinah by having Shechem kidnap her. The reason for he was punished, the medrash explains, is because “שמא תחזירנו למוטב” “Perhaps she would have returned him (Esav) to virtuous conduct”.
This brings up several questions. First off, why would Yaakov have to consider this possibility of Dinah bringing Esav to do Teshuvah? Why would she be able to do what no one else could? Also, why was the punishment having Shechem kidnap her? Lastly, if Yaakov should have thought of this, why did he put her in the box to begin with?
I will begin my explanation with the last question. Dinah was Leah’s daughter. As we saw in last week’s parshah, Leah expected to marry Esav and spent many long hours crying that she would marry such a huge Rasha (See Bereishis 29:17). When the opportunity presented itself to marry Yaakov, she jumped at it and never looked back, becoming the mother of half of Klal Yisrael. Can you imagine what was going through Leah’s head as Esav came closer and closer? All those years of depression and bad memories were headed right towards her, in human form! Can you imagine what her reaction would have been if Esav had actually shown interest in her daughter? It might have been the worst thing that could ever happen to Leah in her entire life! To have the man who tortured her thoughts for so many years come and take her daughter! This is why, in my opinion, Yaakov hid Dinah away, to protect Leah from that possibility.
Now that we understand why Yaakov hid Dinah, still how do we know that she could have brought Esav to do teshuvah? The answer is Yaakov’s punishment. The day after Shechem takes Dinah, he decides he wants to marry her. Why would he do this? He is the prince of a powerful nation and so he can do whatever he wants. Why would he decide to make this a legitimate relationship when he can keep her without it? We clearly see that Dinah had an effect on wicked people which made them see the error of their ways and made them realize that they had to change their way of living. In a way, you can say that Dinah was the greatest Kiruv personality in history! (And still Esav was so bad that Rashi says Dinah might have had an effect on him). This is also the reason why Yaakov was punished this way, this episode with Shechem showed him how wrong he was to hide Dinah form his brother.
After understanding this aspect of Dinah, we can dig a little deeper to try and figure out where she fit in to her family. Dinah was different from the rest of Yaakov’s children in several ways. While Yaakov had other daughters, she is the only one mentioned in the Torah. This is partly because of another point about Dinah, that she was supposed to be a boy, but Leah davened that the fetus should change into a girl (See 30:21). Pirkei D’Rabbi Elazar tells us another difference about Dinah, that she was born without a twin. Each one of the Shevatim were born with a twin sister who was their soul mate, everyone except Dinah and Yosef who were born alone. The Radal comments on this that since every son was born with his soul mate, when Yosef was born, everyone assumed that he was destined to marry Dinah as they were the only separate births (yet another reason for Yaakov to hide her in the box). However, once she was defiled by Shechem, this was impossible.
If we examine the traits of Yosef and Dinah, it appears to be a perfect Shidduch! Dinah was supposed to turn bad into good, for this she would need someone to protect her from the harmful effects that bad could have on her. Yosef was the perfect person for this as he was impervious to Ayin Hara, the evil eye, and could protect those around him from it as well. Dinah would in turn help Yosef turn bad into good, thus teaching us that everyone has a responsibility to help make the world a more spiritual place. The ironic thing about this Shidduch is that while Dinah was the one person who could bring Esav to teshuvah, Yosef was the one who had the power to help Yaakov defeat Esav! We see in last week’s parshah that Yaakov only decided to return home, which would result in his confronting Esav, after Yosef was born. The pasuk in this week’s Haftorah says, “וְהָיָה בֵית-יַעֲקֹב אֵשׁ וּבֵית יוֹסֵף לֶהָבָה, וּבֵית עֵשָׂו לְקַשׁ, וְדָלְקוּ בָהֶם, וַאֲכָלוּם” “And the house of Yaakov will be fire and the house of Yosef will be a flame, and the house of Esav will be straw, and they shall ignite them and consume them…” (Ovadyah 1:18). Yosef was the spark Yaakov needed to ignite the flames which would consume Esav. So Dinah was supposed to save him and Yosef was supposed to destroy him! I would venture to answer that Yosef would only destroy Esav if Dinah failed in her mission, but if she succeeded, it would be unnecessary for Yosef to do anything.
But as we have discussed, Dinah was supposed to marry Esav, not Yosef, and therefore was born alone. So why was Yosef born alone? Who was he supposed to marry? Pirkei D’Rabbi Elazar tells us that as well. Yosef’s soul mate was none other than Osnas, Dinah’s daughter! So we see that Yosef was supposed to marry someone with Dinah’s character traits. And if you think that Dinah has nothing to do with this, why wouldn’t Osnas have been born together with Yosef like the rest of the brother’s soul mates were!
We also see that Osnas inherited some of her mother’s qualities as she was able to raise two sons, Menashe and Efraim, to be tremendous tzaddikim, all while living amongst the idol-worshipers in Egypt. So it can make sense that Osnas was Yosef's soul mate.
Using this חשבון, we can learn a lot more about our ancestors. Yaakov’s sensitivity, Yosef’s greatness, and Dinah’s Ahavas Hashem. For only someone who has a tremendous amount of love for Hashem could walk into the evil world of Esav and turn it into a place of Torah.
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