Parashas Vayishlach

This week’s parashah relates the episode in which Shechem, the son of Chamor the Chivite violated Yaakov’s daughter Dinah and then approached Yaakov to ask for her hand in marriage. The Torah relates (Bereishis 34:13-15):
And the sons of Yaakov answered Shechem and Chamor his father with guile, and spoke, for he had defiled Dinah their sister, and they said to them: “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised, for that is a disgrace to us. Only on this condition will we accede to you: if you will be as we are, that every male among you be circumcised.”
The Maggid remarks that the phrase “with guile” in this passage is odd, for the words that Yaakov’s sons spoke make evident in themselves whether they were spoke with guile or not. He also asks why the Torah says that Yaakov’s son “answered Shechem and Chamor” and afterwards says that they “spoke” – Why the double language?
The Maggid suggests that the Torah’s intent is to indicate why Yaakov’s sons responded to Shechem and Chamor rather than allowing Yaakov to respond. It is a basic principle that a junior person should not speak up before a senior person. Indeed, the Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 74:4 teaches that Rachel died before Leah as punishment for having responded first when Yaakov told them of his intent to leave Lavan’s house (Bereishis 31:14). All the more so should sons refrain from speaking before their father. But in the case of the discussion with Shechem and Chamor, it was actually to preserve Yaakov’s honor that his sons stepped in and responded.
The Maggid brings out the point with an analogy. When a father and his sons are walking down a road or entering a house, the sons usually let the father go first in order to honor him. But in some situations it is more to the father’s honor for the sons to go first. For example, if the road is littered with clumps of dirt, then it is better for the sons to first, so that they can crush the clumps with their feet as they walk and prepare a clear path for their father. Similarly, in the case of the discussion with Shechem and Chamor, where a crafty response was called for, Yaakov’s sons understood that it was more of an honor to their father that they be the ones to respond, so that their father would be spared the degradation of speaking with guile. The Torah’s phrasing was designed to convey this idea. The Torah makes a point of stating that guile was involved in the response that Yaakov’s gave, to indicate that it was with this background that they took the initiative and spoke.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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