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Where was Dina?

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil
November 21, 2018

Yaakov was preparing for his encounter with Esav. He transferred the entire family across the river. Yet the Torah seems to miss out the mention of one person – Dina.

Rashi (32:23) commenting on the transfer, states that Dina was hidden by Yaakov in a box.

Yaakov didn’t want Esav to set his eyes on his daughter, he was worried that they might end up together; he therefore hid her so Esav would never see her.

This would seem to be the right thing for Yaakov Hatsadik to have done. Yet our Chachamim fault Yaakov. Rashi mentions – for refusing to allow Dina to marry Esav in a permissible fashion, Dina was eventually taken in a forbidden fashion by Shechem.

We are told that had Yaakov allowed her to marry Esav, then perhaps she would have inspired him or future generations to be close to Hashem.

By not allowing Esav to meet Dina, Yaakov closed the door on his potential return via her influence.

This is an astounding Chazal and has perplexed many commentators.

Even granting the tremendous effect that a righteous wife can have on the most sinful husband, it is difficult to understand the drastic consequences of Yaakov’s seemingly innocent act.

Why is it that Yaakov Avinu’s actions which seem much warranted, given the situation, are faulted?

Let us first take a look at why specifically Dina could have had the right effect on Esav.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak Barzel, in his Iyunei Rashi, sights the Gemara Berachot (60a), which states that Dina was initially conceived as a male foetus.

Leah had prophetically foreseen that there would be 12 sons to Yaakov. She had already given birth to six. Bilha and Zilpa, Yaakov’s concubines, already had two sons each, and Rachel only had one. If she were now to have a seventh son, that would mean that Rachel would have less then even the concubines. She therefore prayed to Hashem that He miraculously transform her foetus to a female and she indeed delivered a baby girl instead of another son.

Thus Dina was born through an outright miracle, a Heavenly Intervention. This Rav Barzel suggests, afforded her a degree of spiritual protection upon which Yaakov could have relied in the hope that she could positively influence Esav.

Yet we can still ask, was he really supposed to rely on the fact that maybe Esav would change through marrying his daughter, surely the risk was too high for his daughter.

A further answer is given by the Netziv. He offers an interesting insight suggesting that Yaakov’s fault was not the fact that he hid her in a box, but rather the way in which he hid her in the box.

His fault lay in the way in which he banged in the nails so to speak, with happiness. He was happy not to give his daughter to Esav. Rather then looking at the sad side that his brother was such a Rasha, and how sad it was that he was unable to give his daughter to him, he was happy.

I would like to suggest a further reason to this complex situation.

The night before Yaakov met Esav, he was attacked by Esavs arch angel. There was a wrestle between them the entire night. Esav’s angel eventually yielded to Yaakov, and although Yaakov came out with an injury to his thigh (Shelah Hakadosh and Radak both say this was a hint to the fact that Dina would be abused), he was successful in defeating the angel and even receiving a blessing.

Why is it that Esav’s angel came to attack Yaakov now? Surely he had other previous times in Yaakov’s life in which he could have attacked.

Our sages explain that this fight was a spiritual fight representing the war in the upper worlds. Nothing occurs in this world, unless it is first determined above.

Esav was about to meet Yaakov the next day, and the outcome was being determined in heaven. That outcome would depend on this fight. Yaakov won and hence the next day we find that Esav did not try to attack.

In fact when Esav finally meets Yaakov we are told, (33:4)”And Esav ran towards him (Yaakov) and he embraced him and fell upon his neck and he kissed him and they cried.”

Why did Esav kiss him, why did they weep? Is that what we were all expecting of a seemingly war monger intent on destroying his enemy?

Rashi, noting that above the words (written in our Sefer Torah) “and he kissed him” are dots, gives two differing explanations. The first is to show that Esav didn’t kiss him with his whole heart. It was a kiss, but his heart was not fully pro this action.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, however explains it otherwise. He states that “it is a given law that Esav hates Yaakov. But at this time his mercy was aroused and he kissed him with all his whole heart”. According to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, it is known that Esav hates Yaakov, but there are times including this one, where his love and affection are aroused.

Furthermore our Sages ask why was Esav crying?

The Chatam Sofer notes that when Esav saw the righteous Yaakov, his entire family and the wealth he amassed he came to a realisation that perhaps his ways were wrong. After all a man can be righteous, fulfil Hashem’s will and live a good life. He wondered if all the years that had passed had been to waste – it is for this reason that he cried?

Perhaps our sages fault Yaakov for not allowing Esav to see Dina, for the setting was ripe. Esav’s emotions were moved, he was crying at the lack of fulfilling his potential. He kissed his brother, (according to Rashbi) full heartedly. This was the time to act. Had he have seen Dina and wanted to marry her, then she would have had the perfect stand to build on, she could have built on these emotions and taken off from there.

Life is full of trials and tribulations, yet we are all blessed at some time in our history in this world to see the spark of Hashem. The question is do we initiate and eternalise that spark, do we work from there, or do we let it float by us and continue our lives as if nothing happened.

Let us work to build on the positive energies we receive, on the good times, on the times we clearly see Hashem in our lives and build a strong foundation and future Amen.

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