Yaakov’s journey back to Eretz Yisrael took two years, with a number of events happening to him and his family on the way. Parshas Vayishlach discusses this two year journey from his showdown with Esav until he finally reached home. One event on the way was the story of Dina and Shechem.
Yaakov settled with his family at the outskirts of the city of Shechem. When his daughter Dina went out to observe the women of the city, she was kidnapped by the prince, also named Shechem, and taken to his palace. Soon, Shechem fell in love with Dina and wanted to marry her; however, even though he had kidnapped her, he didn’t feel right marrying her without her father’s agreement. So he went with his father, King Chamor, to ask Yaakov for permission to marry Dina.
Yaakov allowed his sons to deal with the situation, and led by Shimon and Levi, they came up with a plan to exact revenge. They told Chamor and Shechem that they would happily give Dina to Shechem and in addition, they would become a part of the economy and culture of the city. However, they would only agree to this if every man in the city was given a Bris Milah. Shechem quickly agreed and they convinced their subjects to receive Milah.
On the third day after the milah, which we learn is the most painful day, Shimon and Levi attacked the city, killing every man, including Shechem and Chamor, and rescued Dina from the palace. Upon learning about what they did, Yaakov claimed that they had put the entire family in grave danger from the surrounding nations. Now that they were a threat, everyone would try to attack them to protect the,mselves! Shimon and Levi reply simply, “הַכְזוֹנָה יַעֲשֶׂה אֶת־אֲחוֹתֵנוּ” “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?” (Bereishis 34:31). This answer seems to pacify Yaakov, who gives no reply, and the story ends.
Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky explains that Yaakov actually did respond to Shimon and Levi, but only much later. In Parshas Vayechi, before he dies, Yaakov imparts a bracha onto each of his sons. However, what he tells Shimon and Levi seems more like a curse than a blessing. “אֲחַלְּקֵם בְּיַעֲקֹב וַאֲפִיצֵם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל” “I will separate them within Yaakov, and I will disperse them in Yisrael” (49:7). The common explanation given for this pasuk is that together, Shimon and Levi could cause a lot of trouble; just look at what happened in Shechem! Therefore, Yaakov decreed that they should be kept separate from each other so that nothing like this could happen again.
Rashi brings a different explanation. Yaakov was establishing that the tribes Shimon and Levi would have to travel from town to town throughout Eretz Yisrael as the teachers of Torah, and the scribes writing Sifrei Torah and other holy objects. While other tribes also had a responsibility to learn Torah, the education of the nation was placed in the hands of these two tribes. This, says Reb Yaakov, was a direct response to their attack on Shechem.
All the brothers were understandably upset about what happened with Dina, and they all together planned how they would be able to get her back and take revenge on Shechem. However, Shimon and Levi took it farther than everyone else. By saying “הַכְזוֹנָה יַעֲשֶׂה אֶת־אֲחוֹתֵנו”, they showed that they actually felt the pain of their sister in terms of what she was going through and what her life would be like following this episode. While all the brothers shared these feelings, they did not feel it to the depths that Shimon and Levi did. Therefore, it was Shimon and Levi who went out and killed the city, and when they were confronted about it, had the perfect excuse, “הַכְזוֹנָה יַעֲשֶׂה אֶת־אֲחוֹתֵנו.” They could not settle their feelings until they had exacted revenge on the whole city, not merely weakened them enough to go in and take Dina back.
Yaakov recognized this attitude, and rewarded them by making them the teachers of Torah. These were the only people who could be motivated to travel from town to town without rest, never having time to stay at home, living life on the road, dealing with all the challenges and frustrations that come with educating large amounts of people. People who have a burning desire to spread the word of Hashem, who do more than what they are obligated in because they feel the responsibility, and can connect that they feel from their perspective. These were the perfect people to be responsible for teaching Torah to Bnei Yisrael.
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