With Parshas Vayishlach comes Yaakov’s return to Eretz Yisrael, but not before a number of events occur along the way. Yaakov’s preparations for his meeting Esav which ends in a tearful reunion, the death of his mother, Rivka, and our focus, the story of Dinah’s kidnapping by the Chivi prince, Shechem.
While on the return journey home, Yaakov stops in the city of Shechem, buys a plot of land, and settles in for a short time. The prince of Shechem, also named Shechem, spots Dinah around town, kidnaps her and takes her back to the palace. Obsessed with her, he asks his father, King Chamor, to negotiate with Yaakov to allow him to marry her. The Shevatim were enraged by the incident, and decided to deal with this situation in a cunning way. They told Chamor and Shechem that if they wanted to have any sort of connection with Yaakov’s family then they and the entire city would have to be circumcised. Shechem and Chamor agree and convince the citizens of the city to be circumcised. On the third day following the circumcisions, which we know from Avraham in Parshas Vayeira is the most painful time, Shimon and Levi go and kill out all the men in the city, following which they go to the palace, kill Shechem and Chamor, and take Dinah back with them.
The question that all the commentaries ask is how come Shimon and Levi killed out the entire city? How were they deserving of death together with the actual perpetrators of the crime, Shechem and Chamor?
The Ohr HaChaim adds an additional question that how come they killed the people of the town first and only then did they move onto the palace and Shechem? (This is seen from the pesukim. See Bereishis 34:25-26.) He explains that the people of Shechem were actually not deserving of death at all. However, we have a concept called “רודף” which is that if someone is coming to kill you, it is permissible for you to do anything to prevent him from doing so, including killing him if necessary. When the people of Shechem saw that Shimon and Levi were planning on killing their leaders, they stepped in front to stop them. Seeing the angry mob ahead of them, ready to kill to protect their king, Shimon and Levi took appropriate halachic measures to protect themselves, and killed out the city before moving on to the palace.
After Dinah’s return, all the brothers went out and looted the city, claiming all possessions as their own. On the surface, this does not seem to be an act befitting of the sons of Yaakov, but the Ohr HaChaim gives a great explanation for this as well. Halachically, in a case similar to Dinah’s, the perpetrator is obligated to pay an Embarrassment fee. There is no set price for this, it’s all dependent on the embarrassment of each individual party. Yaakov was world-renowned because of his tremendous wealth and piety, kidnapping his daughter was equivalent to kidnapping the child of one of our world leaders today. The level of embarrassment for the family must have been tremendous! What the brothers were doing was collecting this fee which was so high that it was covered only by the property of the entire city.
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