In this week’s parshah we read of the incident involving Dina and Shechem, the son of Chamor and nasi of the city of Shechem. Upon learning that Dina was abducted by Shechem, Shimon and Levi devised a plan to killed all the male residents of the city, including Shechem and Chamor. There are various opinions that explain the rational of Shimon and Levi in killing all the inhabitants of the city.
The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 9:14) says one of the seven commandments that Bnei Noach are obligated to follow is to set up a judicial system that will judge people who transgress any of the mitzvos that Bnei Noach are required to follow. It is also the role of these courts to carry out punishment when a Ben Noach transgresses. The punishment of a Ben Noach for transgressing any of their mitzvah obligations is sa’yif (decapitation). If a Ben Noach witnesses a transgression by another Ben Noach, he must bring him to judgment. If he doesn’t, the witness is deserving of punishment for not enacting judgment on the transgressor. The Rambam concludes that it is for this reason that the entire population of the city of Shechem deserved death, for they all knew that Shechem kidnapped Dina, and did not bring him to judgment. Therefore they were all guilty of not enacting judgment, and deserved death.
The Ramban disagrees with the Rambam and asks the following questions: If everyone in the city was guilty and deserved the death penalty, then why did Yaakov Avinu not kill them himself? And if he was afraid of them, why did he disapprove of Shimon and Levi’s actions? After all, they believed in Hashem and did what was right. Additionally, the Ramban disagrees that a Ben Noach is to be killed when he does not bring another to judgment; since it is a positive commandment and Bnei Noach are only killed when they transgress a negative commandment.
The Ramban therefore writes that the residents of Shechem in fact deserved death, but for other reasons. He says that all of the nations of Canaan worshiped idols and transgressed with arayos (immoral relations) and performed many other sins deserving of death. However, Yaakov believed that the penalty for these actions was not for Shimon and Levi to carry out. Additionally, Yaakov knew that they did not kill them for this reason, but rather out of retaliation for what happened to Dina. Thus he disapproved, and scorned them for acting out their anger.
The Ramban adds that although Yaakov knew that when his sons told Shechem and Chamor to circumcise the entire city that they were not intending on actually marrying in with this city. However, he did not object because he thought that they would only use this ploy to rescue Dina and then leave. Indeed while this was the intention of the other Shevatim, Shimon and Levi intended to take further action.
According to the Rambam we can better understand why Shimon and Levi did not kill the women of Shechem. The Rambam writes (Hilchos Melachim 9:14) that a woman cannot testify against, or judge, a ben Noach. Therefore the women of the city were not guilty of not trying Shechem, since there was nothing they could have done about it. However, according to the Ramban that they only killed them out of retaliation, it is not clear why Shimon and Levi did not kill the female inhabitants of the city.
Perhaps they felt that in order to achieve retaliation it would suffice to only kill the male inhabitants. Additionally, this may have been an indication to Yaakov Avinu that they were acting solely out of retaliation and not to carry out the penalty that was due them, since they deserved death as well.
The Ramban said that although the residents of Shechem and the rest of Canaan deserved the death penalty, it was not incumbent on Yaakov or his sons to carry out the judgment. It is apparent from the abovementioned Rambam that he disagrees with this point. Indeed the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 10:11) explicitly writes that the beis din of Yisrael is obligated to arrange judges for the geri toshavim that will judge them according to their laws, unless they see that they have their own judges.
The Maharam Shik (Orach Chaim 142) writes that according to this Rambam, beis din in Eretz Yisrael has an obligation to establish courts for the geri toshavim, comprised of either fellow geri toshavim or Jewish judges. Outside Ertetz Yisrael, beis din does not have this obligation. But if beis din wishes to establish a court system in order to maintain the correct lifestyle, they have this right – and are “zocheh la’shamayim.”
Therefore, if Yaakov Avinu and his sons knew that the residents of Shechem were guilty and deserving death, and there was no court that would try them for their crime, they were obligated to establish a court and exact judgment on them. And even if the residents of Shechem were not geri toshavim, Yaakov and his sons would nonetheless have the right to establish a court to judge them.Rabbi Raphael Fuchs