Don't Blame Dina

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 12:00am -- Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Dina, Jacob’s only daughter, “goes out” in this week’s Torah portion, Va’Yishlach. She socializes with other young women and is then raped by a Hivvite prince.

Dina is clearly a victim. After all, the text notes that the prince “va’yi’aneihah,” translated variously as “forcing her,” “humbling her,” and as “he abused her” (Genesis 34, 2).

And yet some of our commentaries (some, but not all) blame Dina for the assault. She should not have “gone out,” they argue; she should have remained close to home. She should not have been spending time with those young women; she should have remained with her own.

We ought to object to these indictments of Dina by these commentators, who were overwhelmingly male. We should be sensitive to Dina and apply that sensitivity to the many women who have recently reported to have been abused by male superiors. It is easy and tempting to say, “Yes, but there were probably extenuating circumstances.” But until we walk in the shoes of the accuser (read, “victim”), we should be sympathetic, knowing that women are vulnerable today just as Dina was then.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Jeffrey Weill