Monday, December 26, 2005

Va-yishlach

Gen. 34:1-35:12

Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and was buried under the oak below Bethel; so it was named Allon-bacuth. - Gen. 35:8

I have lived a long life and seen three generations of my young mistress’ family grow to adulthood, but never have I been so grieved and ashamed as I have been by the actions of her grandsons Simeon and Levi. And the howls of despair and grief that come from the women’s tent as my youngest lady, Dinah, bewails her lost husband, are enough to break this old heart in two. The young fools! If she had been taken unwillingly, at least their sister would have been an honored wife, mistress of a household – and what is left for her now? But young men do not think of these things when their blood is up and their honor is wounded.

How I remember my first nursling, young Rebecca, running breathlessly home, her eyes alight with excitement and the bracelets that Abraham’s manservant had given her jangling about her wrists. Her brother Laban was no prize, but what if he had taken offense and slaughtered Eliezer and his party? I was not there when Jacob arrived in Paddan-Aram, but I can imagine Rachel, too, blushing and laughing after being thoroughly kissed in public by her normally cautious cousin. Her brothers, too, could easily have brought this story to a bloody and premature end.

And I must wonder, is that incident, so well known to the boys, one source of this unwarranted violence? The gods know, for all Rachel's beauty and charm, they have never forgiven her for being better loved than their more decorous mother. If they saw her behavior as unseemly, might they not have felt that she influenced their sister and, horrible as it is to think, might the brutal slaughter at Shechem not have been a reflection of their feelings toward their own father?

In the meantime, the women of Israel and those of Shechem, now united in the sorrow of our sister Dinah, are incidental casualties of these battles between men.

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