From Shechem to Aza

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by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz

From Shechem to Aza the Tragedy of Dinah’s assault in the city of Shechem and current violence in Gaza/Aza The Consequences of Passive Complicity

וּבְנֵ֨י יַעֲקֹ֜ב בָּ֤אוּ מִן־הַשָּׂדֶה֙ כְּשׇׁמְעָ֔ם וַיִּֽתְעַצְּבוּ֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיִּ֥חַר לָהֶ֖ם מְאֹ֑ד כִּֽי־נְבָלָ֞ה עָשָׂ֣ה בְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לִשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בַּֽת־יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְכֵ֖ן לֹ֥א יֵעָשֶֽׂה׃ (בראשית ל״ד:ז)

Meanwhile Jacob’s sons, having heard the news, came in from the field. The men were distressed and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter— 

וְכֵ֖ן לֹ֥א יֵעָשֶֽׂה
 a thing not to be done (Bereshis 34 :7)

This week’s Parsha relates the story of Dinah, daughter of Yaakov. It is one fraught with tragedy, violence, and profoundly impactful lessons on the culpability of silent bystanders. As told in Bereshis 34, Dinah was kidnapped and assaulted by a local prince named Shechem. Enraged upon learning of this, Dinah’s brothers exacted vengeance through devastating means.

The Kidnapping and Assault of Dinah

Dinah, whose age is not specified but is understood to be quite young, went out alone to visit some local women. Shechem, a powerful ruler in the land, saw Dinah and forcibly took her away against her will back to his home, later raping her. Dinah’s family heard about this devastating incident afterwards.

Bnei Yaakov’s Fury at Shechem as Well as Complicit Bystanders

Dinah’s brothers, Bnei Yaakov, were utterly enraged when they found out what Shechem had done to their sister. Most commentary focuses on their outrage against Shechem himself, as the violent perpetrator and central offender. However, Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (HaKsav VeHakabalah) stresses their anger would also have targeted the townspeople who witnessed Dinah being taken captive but did nothing to speak out or intervene against this kidnapping of a young girl off the street.

הודיע הכתוב שלא היה חרון אפם על שכם לבדו פועל הרע בידים, כי אמנם על כל האנשים הנעשה בפניהם לקחת אותה בחזקה לעיניהם, ולא קם ולא זע אחד מהם לעשות ע״פ האמת למחות בידו לבלי עשות חציפות הגדולה לתפוס בנערה מתוך הרחוב, וזהו וכן לא יעשה. אין אחד עושה לפי הנכון והיושר, (רעכטליכקייט ווירד ניכט אויסגעאיבט) ומטעם זה אמר על אנשי העיר אשר טמאו אחותם.

Their silent complicity empowered Shechem. Failing to intervene despite being witnesses made the townspeople deeply culpable rather than mere innocent bystanders. Rabbi Mecklenberg points out that the Torah refers to the “Anshei Hair”  People of the City who defiled their sister  because they were silent onlookers they didn’t act in a honest and truthful way a way that justice righteousness and correctness demands that is the meaning

כן לא יעשה   רעכטליכקייט ווירד ניכט אויסגעאיבט
Correctness is not performed.

As Vayikra 19:16 commands “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.”  

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin (Oznaim LaTorah) says that Bnei Yaakov likely blamed themselves as well for failing to adequately safeguard their sister, allowing such an assault to happen through negligent security precautions.

The Duties of Active Resistance and Intervention Against Injustice

This story powerfully illustrates how guilt and responsibility for misdeeds extend beyond direct actors. When bystanders like Shechem’s townspeople see wrongs unfolding, yet say nothing and take no actions, this passive acceptance enables further offenses and moral harm. Speaking out and resisting is not solely the duty of victims like Dinah – it is incumbent on anyone in a position to protest oppression they observe. Edmund Burke captured this concept in saying “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  

Pirkei Avos 5:11’s warning states that “The sword comes into the world, because of justice delayed and justice denied.” We all must stand up decisively against injustice just as firmly as if we were victims ourselves.    

Lessons for Modern Terrorism and Violence

The ethical duties demonstrated by Dinah’s tale hold equally true for incidents of violence today. When analyzing modern terrorist attacks for instance, while perpetrators deserve the harshest condemnation, blame frequently extends wider. Neutral observers like reporters, governing bodies or local citizens that witness planning or aftermaths of bombings but fail to loudly expose these offenses unintentionally boost terror campaigns through their silent complicity.   

While the terrorists who directed and acted in the Oct. 7 Simchat Torah Massacre attack are the main source of our anger and must be destroyed, the truth is that the UNRWA, UN, the doctors, reporters and “innocent” Gazans who all saw what was going on in the hospitals and during the inhuman assault on Oct. 7 are also  guilty.

Ultimately, the lessons around Dinah’s tragedy and her brothers’ reactions teach that all moral beings who see oppressive harms unfold without speaking against them share partial culpability and  accountability when their acquiescence allows  further acts of aggression We all must stand up decisively against injustice just as firmly as if we were victims ourselves. Perpetrators may enact violence directly, but passive bystanders enable it through their inaction, making spectators as guilty as participants!

About Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz is a member of The Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel

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