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Vayishlach. The Morality of Violence

Jacob's daughter, Dinah, is attacked, raped and abducted, by the crown prince of Shchem. The language used depicts the crime in violent terms:

Shchem son of Hamor the Hivite, chief of the country, saw her, and took her and lay with her by force, and raped her. (34:2)

This is undoubtedly an atrocity. What makes it worse is that the text deliberately depicts Shchem as entitled, as the “chief of the country.” Maybe he saw it as his right to have his way with any girl he saw!

This depraved act, is viewed by Jacob and his sons as a moral travesty: “Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter…he had committed an outrage in Israel.” (34:5-7) Jacob’s sons then trick the men of Shchem and:

On the third day, when they were hurting, Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob's sons, brothers of Dinah, took each his sword, came upon the city unmolested, and slew all the males. (43:26)

The question we shall address this week relates to the moral justification of Shimon and Levi’s bloodbath in Sh’khem. Does the Torah condemn or condone their actions? On the one hand, it depicts Sh’khem’s ruthless rape. On the other hand, were all the men of Sh’khem guilty?