Rabbi Israel Chait


Dinah went out amongst the people of the land and Shchem seduced her. Shchem was so attracted to Dinah that he ultimately wanted to marry her. Jacob consented because he felt that Shchem was capable of doing teshuvah and it was an opportunity for them to elevate themselves and live according to Jewish law. Shimone and Levi in their outrage determined that Shchem and his people must be obliterated. Their immoral behavior demanded their destruction. Thus Shimone and Levi deceived their father and suggested that Shchem and his people circumcise for the purposes of conversion. However, it was merely a ploy and Shimone and Levi killed them while they were still weak and recuperating from their circumcision.

After they killed Shchem and all his people, Jacob chastised them. His rebuke reflected his concern that their actions will provoke the other nations to attack them. However, Shimone and Levi merely respond that they could not allow Dinah to be treated as a harlot.

Years later when Jacob was on his deathbed, he again chastised Shimone and Levi. He curses their anger, for under it's rage, they unjustifiably killed Shchem. This poses a problem. At the time of the event Jacob rebuked them because he felt their actions placed them in jeopardy. However, later on, he condemns them for committing an injustice. Based upon his earlier rebuke, it would seem that Jacob did not feel that their actions were unjust but rather not politically astute behavior. This apparent contradiction must be explained.

Jacob really felt an injustice was perpetrated by the brothers. He favored their plan to convert them, for he felt they were capable of repentance. He therefore criticized Shimone and Levi for allowing their anger to overwhelm them and dictate their behavior. On his deathbed, when blessing his children, he was giving them insight into their personalities, which would help them in their struggle to live proper lives. He thereby told Shimone and Levi that they were short tempered and should not allow their emotions to control their actions. At the time of the incident, he was unable to tell them that their response was improper because it was being provoked by anger. When a person is under the influence of an overwhelming emotion he is incapable of detachment and objective reflection of the situation. Therefore, Jacob proffered a political reason, which he felt was also compelling. However, Shimone and Levi felt compelled to demonstrate strength. They felt an injustice was committed against their sister. If they would not respond, they felt it would be viewed as an admission of weakness and ultimately cause great aggression against them. However, Shimone and Levi failed to appreciate that the danger of strength is over-retaliation. This was Jacob's argument. If a person's response is perceived as harsh, then it will cause enmity. The retaliator will be seen as egotistical and professing a superior attitude. That is why Jacob uses the term "l'havishani", that your actions will make me hated amongst the nations. Your excessive retaliatory actions wreaks of superiority and will create a desire in people to destroy you. Jacob thereby felt that their actions were not only politically incorrect but were also unjust.

In contemporary times we see that Israel faces similar problems. Any act of retaliation, no matter how justified under the circumstances, poses the problem of being perceived as professing superiority. Thus retaliatory actions many times are unjustifiably viewed as unfair and only provokes hatred. This was Jacob's fear as expressed to his sons.

This if the fear expressed by our Chazal in formulating the concept of Ayin Hara. Psychologically people resent an arrogant person and seek his ultimate downfall, albeit purposefully or even at times unconsciously.

An analysis of this event affords us the opportunity to appreciate the intellectual acumen of Jacob in perceiving human behavior.