I dedicate this parsha post as a zechus for a blessed and speedy refuah sheleimah for Yitzchok Levi HaKohen ben Daniel Avraham.


The whole of Sefer Bereishis, the Book of Genesis, is dedicated to relaying to us the lives and legacies of our Forefathers and Foremothers.  Every one of their actions, and every occurrence in their lives, are a portent for the future… for their descendants… for us.  This is hinted to us explicitly – in fact twice – in this parsha!  Let’s learn.


Flipping back to Parshat Toldos:  Immediately after Yaakov exited his father Yitzchak’s tent, joyful and content after having been blessed so specially, Eisav entered bearing his freshly-prepared delicacy, and demanded the blessing of the firstborn.  Yitzchak was seized with violent trembling as he realized how he’d been deceived, and he was fearful of a terrible consequence to his mistake.  Still, he affirmed that, now with his knowledge, Yaakov was to remain blessed.

Eisav responded with a grievous cry, and struggled to accept the finalization of the blessing’s transmittal, which was ‘rightfully’ his.  He begged his father to bentch him too.  Yitzchak replied:

“Vayomer ‘Ba achicha b’mirma vayikach birchasecha.’ – He said ‘Your brother came with cunning and he took your blessing.'”  {Bereishis 27:35}

In recognition of the negative connotation borne by “mirma – cunning,” Rashi brings down from Onkelos and the Midrash that this actually means ‘b’chochma – with wisdom’… of the Torah.

Returning to Vayishlach, the present parsha of our discussion, we recount the tragic episode of Dina, the daughter of Leah and Yaakov.  After Yaakov’s charged reunion with Eisav following his many years of exile away from his family and homeland, Yaakov and his household journeyed forth alone, settling in Shechem.  After a brief period of relative peace, it happened that one day while the men of Bais Yaakov were away and preoccupied with studies…:

Vateitzay Dina bas-Leah asher yaldah l’Yaakov liros bivnos ha’aretz – Dina went out, the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Yaakov, to see the girls of the land.”  {Bereishis 34:1}

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory teaches in one of his sichos (talks), that Dina wasn’t simply gallivanting off to mingle with the girls of this disreputable city.  Rather, she ventured forth beyond her holy tent, in order to come to other young ladies and exert a positive influence on them in a genuine and charismatic way.  Her goal was to spread around, and instill within them the truth and wisdom so passionately taught in the House of Jacob.  She sought to kindle the light of kedusha and Yichud Hashem amongst whomever she could.  But this, my dear friends, is a jewel of wisdom saved for another conversation.  You can learn this Chiddush of Chassidus at greater length here.)

While Dina walked the streets of the city, she was seen by Shechem, the governor of the city’s son.  He desired her, kidnapped her, was close with her, and maltreated her.  When word of the terrible news, that the beautiful tzadekes daughter of Yaakov was abused, her brothers were overcome with righteous outrage.  Curiously, after Shechem mistreated Dina so, he actually grew real feelings of sensitive love for her.  Perhaps with remorse for his inappropriate and rash behavior, he requested of his father Chamor to contact Yaakov, concerning a formal marriage and the bride-price for Dina’s hand.  Chamor popped the proposal, including the suggestion that the Jewish People intermarry with his, and a promise that the land before them would be open for their settlement.  The two nobles assured them that they were prepared to pay even the highest prices for their desire to be granted.

“Vaya’anu v’nei-Yaakov es-Shechem v’es-Chamor aviv b’mirma vaydabeir asher timay eis Dina achosam – The sons of Yaakov answered Shechem and his father Chamor with cunning when they spoke, because he had defiled their sister Dina.”  {Bereishis 34:13}

Yaakov’s sons explained that they were forbidden to allow their sister to marry a man without a Brit Milah, and the only possible way to allow this, including the detail of intermarriage, would be for all the males of the place to be circumcised as Bais Yaakov was.  However, there was one catch here that Yaakov’s sons didn’t let on, as they spoke up, joining the exchange between the two fathers:  No matter what pleasant deals were proposed by Shechem and Chamor, the shameful actions had been committed, and there was no return.  All of civilization is bound by the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach (the Seven Noahide Laws) which include the prohibition of immoral relationships.  One who oversteps this basic law of human decency is liable for capital punishment.  The inhabitants of the city were also found guilty, since none opposed Shechem’s forbidden conduct, and they thereby also broke the Noachide law to administer justice.  Yaakov’s sons allowed Shechem and his people to undergo the Brit Milah, as it provided a merit and tikkun (rectification); since it is taught that Milah negates physical desires, Shechem could partially amend his failure in this area through the mitzvah.  But the Torah continues, that on the third day, the most difficult and painful point after circumcision, Yaakov’s 2nd and 3rd oldest sons Shimon and Laivi, took their swords and ransacked the vulnerable, weakened city, slaying every male, and ultimately releasing their sister from captivity and returning her home.

Although the words of Yaakov’s sons were smooth and agreeable outwardly, they understood that retribution had to be meted out.  While they appeared to acquiesce to the noblemen’s proposal , they indeed contemplated the instruction of Torah within.  When they spoke… it was “b’mirma – with cunning.”  Refer back to Yitzchak’s discussion with Eisav, and notice, that Yitzchak used the exact same word to describe Yaakov’s actions!  Yaakov came unto his father b’mirma, and many years later, his sons also spoke to the corrupt rulers b’mirma!  The children mirrored their father in their devotion to Torah wisdom, to work diplomatically when dissolute people were concerned, and solve challenges.

This is reflection between parent and child is not restricted to the men, but the Torah also gives us an example with women.  Rochel Imeinu, Mama Rochel, was unable to bring a child into the world for many years.  Her desire was so strong, and she expressed her suffering to Yaakov, equaling a lack of children to spiritual death.  After a heated exchange, they reached a conclusion to dissolve Rochel’s maidservant Bilhah’s status as a servant, so that she might wed Yaaov, and Rochel would “be built up” through her.  After observing Bilhah’s two births, Leah desired to give her maidservant Zilpah to Yaakov, also as a wife, so that she might take part too in bringing another part of Bais Yaakov into the world.  Zilpah mothered two sons, and Rochel was still yet barren.

“Vayeilech Reuvain bimei k’tzir-chitim vayimtza duda’im basadeh vayaveh osam el-Leah imo vatomeir Rachel el Leah ‘T’ni-na li miduda’ei b’naich.’ — Reuvain went in the days of the wheat harvest and found jasmine flowers in the field.  he brought them to Leah, his mother.  Rochel said to Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s jasmine flowers.'”  {Bereishis 30:14}

Some say that jasmine flowers induce fertility; thus, Rochel requested some, hoping that, combined with her endless prayers, would prove to be an effective cure and an end to her suffering.  Leah initially appears to be slightly annoyed.  She implied, that first Rochel became her rival concerning Yaakov, and on a note of incredulity questioned how she now asked for her special blossoms too.  The sisters spoke and reached a deal:  In exchange for the duda’im, Rochel was to forfeit that night, which was her designated night with Yaakov, to her sister.

“Vayavo Yaakov min-hasadeh ba’erev vateitzay Leah likraso vatomeir ‘Aylai tavo ki sachar s’charticha b’duda’ei bni’ vayishkav imah balaiyla hu. — Yaakov came home from the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him.  She said ‘You will come to me, for I have hired you with my son’s jasmine flowers,” and he was with her that night.”  {Bereishis 30:16}

Leah had a purpose, and a strong desire to fulfill it to the utmost:  She was a mother of  Bnai Yisrael, and she always strove for the opportunity to build it herself, and increase her share whenever possible.  She gave birth to six of the twelve tribes, equivalent to the rest of the other wives’ offspring put together!  So eager she was, that she exerted herself to go out and greet Yaakov, and welcome him into her tent.  (And that very night, Hashem granted her wish; she conceived another child!)  Vateitzay Leah – And Leah went out…  Vateitzay, vateitzay…  Doesn’t it sound familiar?  Look back, and above:  The Torah illustrates Dina’s ventures as Vateitzay Dina – Dina went out.”  Dina was a girl who also possessed a strong drive and grace as her mother; Leah’s outgoing persona was mirrored by her child, and perhaps on an even greater scale.  Rashi actually declares, in their praise, that these two women are the source of the expression “K’imah k’bitah – Like mother, like daughter!”


The examples we’ve given today are very specific and are clearly observed to be reflections between those as close as a parent and their children.  But we, too, are the children of the Avos and Imahos.  Their spiritual strength and character traits are inherent, and so often manifested within us.  They sojourned and journeyed almost endlessly; we therefore have the courage and strength to live as “wandering Jews,” for there is no place in this world for us of permanent residence and tranquility, until the coming of Moshiach.  How can we ever withstand the relentless pressures and temptations of a world in denial of G-d surrounding us?  Our ancestors were the “Ivrim”…  those who crossed over to the other side, against the crush of humanity, and stood strong for their faith, belief and heritage.  It’s all in our “spiritual DNA.”  I guess you could really say in this case that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…”

May we always merit to draw chizuk and guidance from the legacies of our forbears, and make them and Hashem proud by emulating their ways.