Baruch Hashem, Rav Moshe Weinberger has reviewed this write-up of his drasha from the this past Shabbos, parshas Vayishlach. See here for past at YUTorah.org's website to hear Rav Weinberger's past shiurim both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20 years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: email, rss feed, podcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.
Rav Moshe Weinberger
After Shimon and Levi killed all the inhabitants of Shchem for countenancing the horrible attack on their sister Dina, Yaakov Avinu rebukes them for placing the whole family in danger. He tells them, “You polluted me to create enmity with the dwellers of the land, with the Kenani and the Perizi, but I am few in number and they will gather against me and smite me and my house will be destroyed!” (Bereishis 34:30). The brothers then answered Yaakov, “Shall our sister be treated like a prostitute?” (ibid. 31).
The Ohr Hachaim asks a very basic question on the brothers’ response. How did they address their father’s concern? He was worried that their family would be wiped out because Shimon and Levi caused the nations around them to see them as an existential threat. Even in halacha (Yerushalmi Teruma 8:4), if an oppressor tells a group of Jews they will all die unless they turn over a specific woman for abuse, it is permissible to turn her over. Even more so here, where Dina had already been taken, the brothers should not have endangered the entire family of Yaakov. But Shimon and Levi answered only that they did not want their sister’s abuse to go unanswered. How does this address the threat their actions brought upon Yaakov’s family?
The Ohr Hachaim offers an amazing answer. They brothers responded to Yaakov that “Just the opposite! We will be in more danger among the nations when they see that one despicable character abused the daughter of Yaakov, doing whatever he wanted with her. The [Jewish people] will have no way to survive among the nations. Just the opposite, by doing this [killing the people of Shchem], the nations will be afraid of [the Jewish people] and will be terrified of them.” Shimon and Levi argued that the neighboring people saw that if an entire city was destroyed for condoning the defilement of a daughter of Yaakov by their leader, if they attempted to harm the Jewish people, the consequences would be even worse.
Based on the principle that “silence constitutes agreement” (Bava Metzia 37b), Yaakov’s silence in the face of his son’s answer that he conceded that Shimon and Levi’s argument was correct. By taking decisive action to avenge Dina’s abuse, Yaakov agreed that they were protecting, rather than endangering, their family.
We also see that the brothers were 100% correct in their assessment. The pasuk (Bereishis 35:5) says, “They traveled and the fear of G-d was upon the cities around them [Yaakov’s family] and they did not pursue them.” Shimon and Levi succeeded in “putting the fear of G-d” into the neighboring nations, ensuring that no one else would attempt to harm them. Even many years later, when Yosef sent his brothers back to Eretz Yisroel to bring Binyomin to Egypt, he imprisons Shimon (Bereishis 42:24) because he knew that if Shimon and Levi were together, they could destroy Egypt. Even far away from Eretz Yisroel, in Egypt, they knew that one does not hurt the children of Yaakov without severe repercussions.
The Ohr Hachaim’s explanation of the interchange between Yaakov and his sons is also reflected in how the Midrash (Bereishis Raba 34:80) explains Yaakov’s criticism. According to Rabanan in the Midrash, “You have polluted me” means, “The barrel [of wine] was clear, and you polluted it.” But the brothers response according to Rabbi Yehuda bar Simon in the Midrash was that it was just the opposite: “The barrel [of wine] was polluted and we purified it! They said, ‘[Shall our sister be treated] like a prostitute?!’ They said: Shall they treat us like ownerless people?!” This Midrash apparently agrees with the underlying concept of the Ohr Hachaim’s explanation.
Even though Yaakov conceded that Shimon and Levi’s actions were correct in retrospect, the way they went about their strategy was wrong. Acts of zeal can go overboard. They should have had this dialogue with their father Yaakov Avinu before deceiving and killing the people of Shchem. By unilaterally taking action, they were guilty of deciding on a halachic matter in front of and without consulting with their rebbe, the sage of the generation, their father: Yaakov. Therefore, at the end of his life, he cursed Shimon and Levi (Bereishis 49:7), “I will separate them throughout Yaakov and I will scatter them throughout Yisroel.” Shimon and Levi were to be dispersed among the Jewish people. Normally, the punishment for one who decides on a halachic matter in front of and without consulting his rebbe is death (Eiruvin 63a). In order to save them from death, Yaakov Avinu decreed that they should go into exile because exile atones for capital crimes (Sanhedrin 37b).
The Way of Exile and the Way of Eretz Yisroel
There are two legitimate ways the Jewish people conduct themselves throughout history: the way of exile and the way of Eretz Yisroel. We must sometimes bow to and flatter the nations of the world in order to avoid persecution. The Jewish people’s position in the world is precarious, so we must sometimes bow to Eisav. This is the way of exile. But in our essence, this is not the Jewish way. Reb Tzadok Hakohein of Lublin, zy’a, explains in Resisei Laila that “The power of the Jewish people is that it is from the holy seed of the Jewish nation which was born in Eretz Yisroel.” Even though Yaakov and his sons bowed down to Eisav, one of his children, Binyomin, was not born yet and never bowed down to Eisav. His way was the way of Eretz Yisroel.
That is why, generations later, when every Jew was bowing down to Haman, one man did not bow: Mordechai, from the tribe of Binyomin (Esther 2:5). According to the Midrash (Yalkut Esther 1054), Haman asked Mordechai, “Why are you not bowing down to me like your father [Yaakov] did to my father [Eisav]?” Mordechai answered him, “My father Binyomin was in his mother’s womb and did not bow down. I am his great-grandson… Just as my father did not bow down, so too I do not bow down or prostrate myself.” We therefore see that this quality of self-respect has existed in our people from almost the very beginning.
That is why the Temple Mount, the location of the Holy of Holies of the Beis Hamikdash, is built on the land of the tribe of Binyomin (Yuma 12a), who the Torah (Devarim 33:12) calls, “friend of Hashem.” The pride and glory of the Jewish people, the Divine Presence, is most revealed by the one who upholds and respects G-d’s glory in the world: Binyomin. This recognition that G‑d’s children need not grovel before the nations of the world provides the home base for Hashem’s glory on earth: the Temple Mount.
When Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister of Israel, he was under tremendous pressure to agree to a land for peace plan proposed by Saudi Arabia in August 1981, referred to as the “eight-point plan.” Although Shamir was from the Begin tradition of Jewish pride, rather than self-effacing subservience to the wishes of the gentile nations, he was on the verge of giving in to the plan and compromising on Israeli national security. He agreed to meet with a group of rabbonim from the Dati Leumi camp the day before he traveled to the U.S. to meet with President Reagan to discuss the plan. One of those rabbonim was Rav Shlomo Aviner, shlita. After the meeting, Rav Aviner took PM Shamir aside, took out a Tanach, and began reading him psukim about how Hashem gave Eretz Yisroel to the Jewish people and he asked Shamir to please remember that. Shamir was silent, but told Rav Aviner that he understood what he was trying to tell him. While he was watching, Rav Aviner slipped the Tanach in the Prime Minister’s briefcase, who then packed it up and left the meeting.
Several days later, after the negotiations in Washington, Rav Aviner received a call from the Prime Minister, who told him the following: I want to thank you for reminding me about what the Torah says about the land of Israel and the Jewish people. When I was in the meeting with President Reagan, they told me I have to agree to this. And I have to agree to that. But I asked, “What about our security?” They promised me millions of dollars for additional security. I raised one objection after another, and each time, they offered me millions and millions more to address each of my concerns. Finally, I thought about it and pulled out the Tanach you placed in my briefcase. I then began reading the psukim in my broken English to President Reagan and everyone else present. I showed them that G-d promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people. After that, they simply packed up their bags and concluded that they could not do anything with me. So, Rav Aviner, I want to thank you for what you said to me during the meeting.
This is why the Arabs are rabidly obsessed with the Temple Mount, even though Jerusalem is not mentioned a single time in the Koran and even when they do pray on our Temple Mount, they face Mecca! They cannot tolerate what the Temple Mount, which rests on the land of the tribe of Binyomin, represents: the essential nature of the tribe of Binyomin and the Jewish people which refuses to bow down to what the gentiles want us to do with our land.
And Shimon and Levi’s call, “Shall our sister be treated like a prostitute?!” was the beginning of the Chanukah revolution against the Syrian-Greeks as well. According to the Midrash (Megillas Taanis 17 Elul), the Greeks decreed that every Jewish bride must be with the local governor before she could marry her husband. When the governor came to defile the daughter of Matisyahu ben Yochanan, the Kohein Gadol, he and his sons overcame the governor and killed him. This is how the Chanukah revolution began; with a feeling that “enough is enough, Jewish blood is not cheap.”
The same applies today. First, we can literally say about thousands of our holy sisters who are prisoners to their Arab “husbands,” “Shall our sister be treated like a prostitute?!” And our brothers are being killed while davening in a holy shul in Har Nof. Our children Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali were taken captive and killed at the beginning of the summer. People are stabbed or killed while shopping. How long will Jewish blood be spilled like water? How long will we “show restraint” to satisfy the great-grandchildren of Eisav? When will we stand up like Shimon and Levi and cry out, “No more!”
May we soon merit more Jews like Shimon and Levi who will not countenance human scum treating the children of Yaakov Avinu like cattle to be slaughtered at will. And may the words of the Navi (Ovadia 1:21) soon come to pass, that “Saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Eisav and kingship shall belong to Hashem.”