Vertluch: Parshas Vayishlach

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‘Dinah, the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to look about among the daughters of the land.’ (34; 1)

Dina had decided to wander around to observe how exactly the other nations acted. While doing so, Shechem-the son of Chamor-saw her and became fixated with her. He decided to kidnap her and subsequently violated her. At that point, he made up his mind to marry her so he asked his father to help him seal the deal. Chamor then traveled to Yaakov to attempt to convince him to allow their children to marry. He tells him we are all of royalty and our children should marry into each other’s families and everything will turn out just fine, etc.
The next pasuk seems a bit odd: ‘Shechem said to her father and to her brothers, “Allow me to find favor in your eyes. Whatever you tell me, I will give. (34; 11)

The question that begs to be addressed is that his son had just abducted a girl; not only that but he violated her too. Where does he get the chutzpa, and how does he have the gall to walk over and ask of Yaakov to look at him favorably? You’re a kidnapper; you have no morals, how can you even approach the person you wronged and ask him that? What exactly was Chamor, thinking?

Rav Sholom Schwadron, zt’l, was once walking down the street when he saw a crowd had assembled and was watching something right in middle of the street. Everyone was looking and trying to get a glimpse at ‘this scene.’ R’ Sholom stretched out his neck to try to see what everyone was observing. To his disbelief, he saw an open sewage pit-and in there, sitting on a rock deep down, was an old Arab man who was just sitting and eating his lunch amidst this horrific smell; he was peacefully eating as if he was sitting in a classy restaurant. It was clear that he worked for government and that he was a contractor who was used to this kind of behavior and environment.

As R’ Sholom walked away from this scene, he thought to himself- that when a person becomes accustomed to a situation, they fail to realize how bad of a situation they may be in. They are so used to their ways and it’s so much a part of them that they can’t understand why others are disgusted by them.

The same is p’shat here. Chamor and the people of his city were morally corrupt. Their lives were steeped in immorality and in all other ingredients, to the extent that when his own son violated a girl-he failed to realize the severity of what his son did; so he went to ask Yaakov to find favor in his eyes which will allow his son to proceed with his selfish acts. He then strolled over to ask Yaakov to approve the marriage, as if it was a regular and typical business deal. There was nothing out of ordinary in his warped mind; it was common practice. He was unable to see beyond the corrupted world that he lived in.

R’ Elyashiv zt’l explains and says that we say every morning ‘lo lidei chait v’lo lidei aveira v’avon’. Says R’ Elyashiv that it’s one thing for a person to fall and do an aveira, as we can still have an escape route and pull ourselves right back up. But the moment a person falls in to the web or clutch, and becomes entangled in the aveira it is extremely difficult to escape that entanglement.

For example, there are those that come to daven every day in shul and they work hard and try to focus on their davening-that it should mean something. Then there are those who come to shul but only because it is frowned upon should they not; but they lack any appreciation for davening. Not only that, but they start talking during davening and perhaps even disrupt others. Should someone try to quiet them down in middle of davening, they understand. They agree it is hard for them but they understand that one shouldn’t be behaving in that manner. However, you also have those that as soon as they are shushed they go wild. They shout and they scream ‘you’re not in charge’, ‘you think you’re better than me’, etc because the entire concept of tefilah is meaningless to them. It is those people who unfortunately fell ‘lidei chait lidei aveira.’ Because to them, the guys who asked them to step outside become the bad ones.

This was what Chamor and Shechem represent. They couldn’t begin to fathom just how atrocious this act that had just happened, was.

The message here is pretty clear; none of us wish to emulate Shechem or Chamor. Unfortunately, we all fall; we are all humans. The test that we should work on is that when do fail, lo aleinu, we should be able to pick ourselves right back up and move forward. Failing to do so can wind up warping our holy minds and chas v’shalom blurring our vision from what’s right and wrong.