There seems to be a child missing: “And he took his two wives and his two maidservants and his eleven children.” Yaakov had eleven sons and one daughter! רש״י tells us that Yaakov hid Dinah in a box, so that Eisov would not see her and want to take her for a wife. Yaakov received a punishment for this when Dinah went out and was violated by Shechem. He should have been sensitive to his brother’s needs, as Dinah might have influenced Eisov to initiate a positive change in his life. But how can we expect Yaakov to marry his daughter off to such aרשע as Eisov? Furthermore, we find that Leah was lauded for her crying when she davened to Hashem that she not fall into Eisov’s hands. If Leah was praised, how can Yaakov be criticized?
The Alter M'Kelm explains that Yaakov was obligated to lock Dinah in a chest; of course there was no way he could allow her to marry Eisov. Yaakov is faulted for closing the chest just a little more forcefully than necessary (a movement detected only by Hashem).
Yaakov understood only too well the danger of allowing Eisov to notice Dinah. He knew he had no recourse but to hide her from him. The Alter’s statement is conveying to us that Yaakov’s mistake was that the act of protecting his daughter should have been carried out with regret and with a heavy heart.
As parents, we can learn an important lesson from this episode. There are times when we must take negative action against a child for appropriate reasons. It is not something we enjoy doing, but it is certainly necessary for the growth of the child. Performing the action with empathy and clear concern for the child can make a world of difference. And sometimes we have to say no or reject someone justifiably – but it should be done with a heavy heart. We see from the Medrash that we may one day have to answer for our actions.
Rabbi Gidon Goldberg
Head of School