When the brothers of Dina heard what Shechem had done to her, they were understandably distressed.
And the sons of Jacob came from the field. And the men were saddened and very angry that a violation had been done with Israel, to sleep with the daughter of Jacob.
The verse does not end there, however. Rather, it continues:
Vechen lo ye’aseh: Such a thing will not be done.
That the daughter of Jacob should be treated as an object, violently abused, and held captive – “vechen lo ye’aseh” – this cannot be tolerated.
So they hatched a plan to weaken the men of the city of Shechem. They promised that the house of Shechem and the house of Jacob could merge, if only all the men of Shechem would be circumcised. Then, while those very men were weakened, the brothers of Dina attacked the town and rescued their sister.
There is much to say regarding their tactics; whether and to what degree they were right. Yaakov, for his part, was concerned at the very least on pragmatic grounds. After the brothers returned with their sister, he criticizes them:
“You have caused me trouble, muddying me to those who dwell in the land, the Canaanites and the Perizites. And I am but few men; if they gather upon me and strike me, I and my house will be destroyed!”
And they responded to him “Shall he make our sister into a harlot?”
The Torah is ambiguous regarding who, exactly, is right in this story. Did, indeed, the brothers go too far? Did Yaakov face a battle shortly thereafter, as one midrash indicates? Were they both right on some level? The Sages and Medievals tease out the arguments for each side and each facet requires extended study.
Whatever else is the case, one phrase sticks in our minds and hearts at this moment.
Vechen lo ye’aseh – what happened to Dina was intolerable. Such cannot be done.
We cannot reconcile ourselves to what took place on October 7th. I was dismayed, recently, to have a conversation with a rabbi who gave a sermon regarding justification for the massacre of our people on that day. Vechen lo ye’aseh! Such things – even the justification of such things – cannot be abided.
We need to remind people of this basic fact; even Jews, even our leaders, may need reminding. Vechen lo ye’aseh. What shall we say when people complain regarding Israel’s actions taken in self defense? We know that our soldiers will make mistakes; we know civilians suffer and even die. This is tragic. We wish that no innocents ever come to harm. Yet, we have no choice.
Listen to vital words from Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, words that we should each read and re-read, words written for just a moment such as this.
Speaking in the early 1950s regarding the new State of Israel, Rabbi Soloveitchik gave a talk which is called Kol Dodi Dofek:
“For the first time in the annals of our exile, Divine Providence has amazed our enemies with the astounding discovery that Jewish blood is not cheap!
“…The Torah has always taught that a man is permitted, indeed, has a sacred obligation, to defend himself. With the verse, ‘If a burglar is caught in the act of breaking in’ (Exodus 22:1), the Torah establishes the halakhah that one may defend not only one’s life but his property as well.7 If the thief who comes to take the property of the householder is capable of killing the householder (should the householder not comply with his demands), the householder may rise up against the criminal and kill him. For good reason the Torah relates that two of its great heroes, Abraham and Moses, took sword in hand to defend their brethren… This behavior does not contradict the principle of loving-kindness and compassion. On the contrary, a passive position, without self-defense, may sometimes lead to the most awesome brutality. ‘And I will gain honor from Pharaoh, and all his hosts, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians will know that I am the L-rd’ (Exodus 14:17–18). G-d did not seek honor and recognition. He wanted Pharaoh, Moses’ contemporary, to know that he must pay a high price for his edict that ‘Every male child born shall be cast into the river’ (Exodus 1:22). His present desire is that the blood of Jewish children who were slain as they recited the eighteen benedictions of the daily [Amidah] prayer shall also be avenged. When G-d smote the Egyptians, He sought to demonstrate that there will always be accountability for the spilling of Jewish blood. At present, it is necessary not only to convince the dictator of Egypt [Nasser], but the self-righteous Nehru, the Foreign Office in London, and the sanctimonious members of the United Nations, that Jewish blood is not cheap.”
No blood is cheap. Our covenant does not celebrate, venerate, or desire death. We do not forget ourselves – neither our love for compassion and life, nor our commitment to see that we receive them as much as anyone else. In the words of the Rav “Thank G-d we have lived to see the day when, with the help of G-d, Jews have it within their power to defend themselves.”
We cannot tolerate the threat of terrorists on Jewish streets and in Jewish homes. Our children cannot be kidnapped without penalty. The daughters of our people cannot be violated. Israel needs our voice now. If others waiver, become weak kneed, begin to talk of equivalencies between our soldiers and their terrorists, our hostages and the would-be muderders released from Israeli prisons, we must stand strong. Our blood is not cheap. It cannot be spilled. Certain lines should never be crossed and there are boundaries- socio-cultural and moral- that are in desperate need of repair. We need to strengthen those boundaries now, to lend our voice and legitimacy to an ongoing and painful situation and to better it for Jews around the world and for Jews who are now too small and weak to do anything to secure their future. We must continue to repeat this over and over again – Jewish blood is not cheap. Vechen lo ye’aseh – we will not tolerate anyone acting otherwise.