The Piercing Silence of Rape

The Piercing Silence of Rape


Rabbi Analia Bortz
Rabbi Analia Bortz

Genesis 34 is at the heart of the story of Dinah’s rape. Dinah’s rape is seen in the Bible as a dishonor to the good name of Jacob’s dynasty.

Yes, you heard it right.

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Is anybody asking about her feelings? Her pain, her story, her anguish, her grief, her agony? Shimon and Levi entered the town of Shechem three days after Dinah’s rape murdering all males, including Shechem (the rapist) and Hamor (his father, leader of the town).

I was expecting Jacob hugging his daughter, consoling her, nurturing her and assuring her she would be taken care of. Instead,  Jacob our patriarch, gets upset with Shimon and Levi’s behavior responding:

“ You have made trouble for me by giving me a bad reputation among the people of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my men are few in number, so that if they unite against me and attack me, I and my house will be destroyed.” Genesis 34:30

Unfortunately the traditional way of interpreting this episode based its etiology in Dinah’s behavior, as if she had incited Shechem to force her into sexual intercourse. Dinah is perceived as the provocateur of the scene.

The text starts, “VaTetze Dinah…lir’ot b’bnot ha’aretz And Dinah went out to visit the daughters of the land.” Genesis 34:1.

The commentary on Etz Hayim explains, “Dinah, an only daughter raised in a family of men, was seeking company of other young women.” When the Torah describes Jacob’s encounter with God, it point out “VaYetze,” the outcome is different in this “VaTetze.” There is no encounter with God pain and affliction.

Even Midrash Tanchuma (VaYishlach 5) teaches the following: “A woman should not show herself in the street wearing conspicuous jewelry. Jewelry was given to the woman for the purpose of adorning herself in her own house for her husband. It would be wrong to set a stumbling block even before a righteous man and certainly before people who are on the lookout for an opportunity to sin.”

Does the victim become the victimizer?! Are they now the perpetrator, the wrong-doer upon whom to place the blame?

This particular midrash motivates me to speak out. Dinah’s rape is an example that triggers the need to decry domestic violence (towards both women and men), to speak out against sex trafficking; against verbal, physical and emotional abuse, against pornography (especially child pornography) against rape and gang rape, even when it seems so far away from home.

Why is this disturbing text in the Torah? We should ask ourselves this question. If the Rabbis wanted us to remind silent, they would have skipped this unfortunate episode.

Most likely, the Rabbis wanted us to break the piercing silence, to awaken the awareness of wrongdoing and evil that surrounds us, to challenge us with taking actions. Let’s elevate our voices and break the piercing silence of RAPE.

Shabbat Shalom!

Editor’s note: Are you ready to act? Get more informed about this painful reality, at



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