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Dinah's rape and Shabbat Dinah

From this Shabbat's Torah portion:

וַתֵּצֵא דִינָה בַּת־לֵאָה אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה לְיַעֲקֹב לִרְאוֹת בִּבְנוֹת הָאָרֶץ׃ וַיַּרְא אֹתָהּ שְׁכֶם בֶּן־חֲמוֹר הַחִוִּי נְשִׂיא הָאָרֶץ וַיִּקַּח אֹתָהּ וַיִּשְׁכַּב אֹתָהּ וַיְעַנֶּהָ׃ וַתִּדְבַּק נַפְשׁוֹ בְּדִינָה בַּת־יַעֲקֹב וַיֶּאֱהַב אֶת־הַנַּעֲרָ וַיְדַבֵּר עַל־לֵב הַנַּעֲרָ׃
"Now Dinah, the daughter whom Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to go seeing among the daughters of the land. Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, chief of the land, saw her, and took her and lay with her and abused her. And his very self clung to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman, and he spoke to the young woman's heart" (Genesis 34:1-3)

The short story of Israel's 13th tribe is one of rape and of silencing, as well as the story of the utter chaos which enters a family when a member is hurt in such a way.

For many generations, this story of Dinah's rape was commented on and judged through the eyes of men living within societies where rape was seen both as a great violation of social norms, as well as shameful for the victim. In which other instances is the victim accused of "bringing it on themselves"? Most traditional commentary isn't very kind or even respectful towards Dinah, and read her pain as the consequence of her actions.

But the reading of Dinah's story has changed dramatically over the past decades, mostly thanks to women finding in it a reflection of their own personal stories of hurt and humiliation. The Reform movement in Israel has even made this Shabbat into a special time when we deal, as a community, with the ongoing impact of gendered violence. Here is a link to Hebrew liturgy and midrash for this Shabbat.

I hope that in the coming years we will find more ways of adding this special day into our Canadian/Jewish calendar, and help turn our Kehillot Kodesh into places where we come together to talk about pain, as much as we talk about pleasure.


Sexual violence can be extremely confusing for people since it undermines our very sense of self-hood. If you or people you know need support dealing with sexual abuse, please contact Edmonton's Sexual assault center

Who will hear Dinah's voice? A conversation in Hebrew with Rabbi Ayala Sha'ashua Meron about Shabbat Dinah.

The Red Tent: A novel and powerful midrash on Dinah's story by Anita Diamant.

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