Torah Portion Vayishlach:
Collective vs Individual Responsibility
(Who is Guilty and Who is Less Guilty)
Rabbi Tom Samuels, MCJC
Genesis 34: 1-31
וַתֵּצֵ֤א דִינָה֙ בַּת־לֵאָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָלְדָ֖ה לְיַעֲקֹ֑ב לִרְא֖וֹת בִּבְנ֥וֹת הָאָֽרֶץ׃
Now Dinah, the daughter whom Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land.
וַיַּ֨רְא אֹתָ֜הּ שְׁכֶ֧ם בֶּן־חֲמ֛וֹר הַֽחִוִּ֖י נְשִׂ֣יא הָאָ֑רֶץ וַיִּקַּ֥ח אֹתָ֛הּ וַיִּשְׁכַּ֥ב אֹתָ֖הּ וַיְעַנֶּֽהָ׃
Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, chief of the country, saw her, and took her and lay with her by force.
וַתִּדְבַּ֣ק נַפְשׁ֔וֹ בְּדִינָ֖ה בַּֽת־יַעֲקֹ֑ב וַיֶּֽאֱהַב֙ אֶת־הַֽנַּעֲרָ֔ וַיְדַבֵּ֖ר עַל־לֵ֥ב הַֽנַּעֲרָֽ׃
Being strongly drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob, and in love with the maiden, he spoke to the maiden tenderly.
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שְׁכֶ֔ם אֶל־חֲמ֥וֹר אָבִ֖יו לֵאמֹ֑ר קַֽח־לִ֛י אֶת־הַיַּלְדָּ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את לְאִשָּֽׁה׃
So Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as a wife.”
וְיַעֲקֹ֣ב שָׁמַ֗ע כִּ֤י טִמֵּא֙ אֶת־דִּינָ֣ה בִתּ֔וֹ וּבָנָ֛יו הָי֥וּ אֶת־מִקְנֵ֖הוּ בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וְהֶחֱרִ֥שׁ יַעֲקֹ֖ב עַד־בֹּאָֽם׃
Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah; but since his sons were in the field with his cattle, Jacob kept silent until they came home.
וַיֵּצֵ֛א חֲמ֥וֹר אֲבִֽי־שְׁכֶ֖ם אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֑ב לְדַבֵּ֖ר אִתּֽוֹ׃
Then Shechem’s father Hamor came out to Jacob to speak to him.
וּבְנֵ֨י יַעֲקֹ֜ב בָּ֤אוּ מִן־הַשָּׂדֶה֙ כְּשָׁמְעָ֔ם וַיִּֽתְעַצְּבוּ֙ הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֔ים וַיִּ֥חַר לָהֶ֖ם מְאֹ֑ד כִּֽי־נְבָלָ֞ה עָשָׂ֣ה בְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לִשְׁכַּב֙ אֶת־בַּֽת־יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְכֵ֖ן לֹ֥א יֵעָשֶֽׂה׃
Meanwhile Jacob’s sons, having heard the news, came in from the field. The men were distressed and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter—a thing not to be done.
וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר חֲמ֖וֹר אִתָּ֣ם לֵאמֹ֑ר שְׁכֶ֣ם בְּנִ֗י חָֽשְׁקָ֤ה נַפְשׁוֹ֙ בְּבִתְּכֶ֔ם תְּנ֨וּ נָ֥א אֹתָ֛הּ ל֖וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה׃
And Hamor spoke with them, saying, “My son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him in marriage.
וְהִֽתְחַתְּנ֖וּ אֹתָ֑נוּ בְּנֹֽתֵיכֶם֙ תִּתְּנוּ־לָ֔נוּ וְאֶת־בְּנֹתֵ֖ינוּ תִּקְח֥וּ לָכֶֽם׃
Intermarry with us: give your daughters to us, and take our daughters for yourselves:
וְאִתָּ֖נוּ תֵּשֵׁ֑בוּ וְהָאָ֙רֶץ֙ תִּהְיֶ֣ה לִפְנֵיכֶ֔ם שְׁבוּ֙ וּסְחָר֔וּהָ וְהֵֽאָחֲז֖וּ בָּֽהּ׃
You will dwell among us, and the land will be open before you; settle, move about, and acquire holdings in it.”
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר שְׁכֶם֙ אֶל־אָבִ֣יה וְאֶל־אַחֶ֔יהָ אֶמְצָא־חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֵיכֶ֑ם וַאֲשֶׁ֥ר תֹּאמְר֛וּ אֵלַ֖י אֶתֵּֽן׃
Then Shechem said to her father and brothers, “Do me this favor, and I will pay whatever you tell me.
הַרְבּ֨וּ עָלַ֤י מְאֹד֙ מֹ֣הַר וּמַתָּ֔ן וְאֶ֨תְּנָ֔ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר תֹּאמְר֖וּ אֵלָ֑י וּתְנוּ־לִ֥י אֶת־הַֽנַּעֲרָ֖ לְאִשָּֽׁה׃
Ask of me a bride-price ever so high, as well as gifts, and I will pay what you tell me; only give me the maiden for a wife.”
וַיַּעֲנ֨וּ בְנֵֽי־יַעֲקֹ֜ב אֶת־שְׁכֶ֨ם וְאֶת־חֲמ֥וֹר אָבִ֛יו בְּמִרְמָ֖ה וַיְדַבֵּ֑רוּ אֲשֶׁ֣ר טִמֵּ֔א אֵ֖ת דִּינָ֥ה אֲחֹתָֽם׃
Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor—speaking with guile because he had defiled their sister Dinah–
וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֲלֵיהֶ֗ם לֹ֤א נוּכַל֙ לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֔ה לָתֵת֙ אֶת־אֲחֹתֵ֔נוּ לְאִ֖ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־ל֣וֹ עָרְלָ֑ה כִּֽי־חֶרְפָּ֥ה הִ֖וא לָֽנוּ׃
and said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to a man who is uncircumcised, for that is a disgrace among us.
אַךְ־בְּזֹ֖את נֵא֣וֹת לָכֶ֑ם אִ֚ם תִּהְי֣וּ כָמֹ֔נוּ לְהִמֹּ֥ל לָכֶ֖ם כָּל־זָכָֽר׃
Only on this condition will we agree with you; that you will become like us in that every male among you is circumcised.
וְנָתַ֤נּוּ אֶת־בְּנֹתֵ֙ינוּ֙ לָכֶ֔ם וְאֶת־בְּנֹתֵיכֶ֖ם נִֽקַּֽח־לָ֑נוּ וְיָשַׁ֣בְנוּ אִתְּכֶ֔ם וְהָיִ֖ינוּ לְעַ֥ם אֶחָֽד׃
Then we will give our daughters to you and take your daughters to ourselves; and we will dwell among you and become as one kindred.
וְאִם־לֹ֧א תִשְׁמְע֛וּ אֵלֵ֖ינוּ לְהִמּ֑וֹל וְלָקַ֥חְנוּ אֶת־בִּתֵּ֖נוּ וְהָלָֽכְנוּ׃
But if you will not listen to us and become circumcised, we will take our daughter and go.”
וַיִּֽיטְב֥וּ דִבְרֵיהֶ֖ם בְּעֵינֵ֣י חֲמ֑וֹר וּבְעֵינֵ֖י שְׁכֶ֥ם בֶּן־חֲמֽוֹר׃
Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem.
וְלֹֽא־אֵחַ֤ר הַנַּ֙עַר֙ לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת הַדָּבָ֔ר כִּ֥י חָפֵ֖ץ בְּבַֽת־יַעֲקֹ֑ב וְה֣וּא נִכְבָּ֔ד מִכֹּ֖ל בֵּ֥ית אָבִֽיו׃
And the youth lost no time in doing the thing, for he wanted Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most respected in his father’s house.
וַיָּבֹ֥א חֲמ֛וֹר וּשְׁכֶ֥ם בְּנ֖וֹ אֶל־שַׁ֣עַר עִירָ֑ם וַֽיְדַבְּר֛וּ אֶל־אַנְשֵׁ֥י עִירָ֖ם לֵאמֹֽר׃
So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the public place of their town and spoke to their fellow townsmen, saying,
הָאֲנָשִׁ֨ים הָאֵ֜לֶּה שְֽׁלֵמִ֧ים הֵ֣ם אִתָּ֗נוּ וְיֵשְׁב֤וּ בָאָ֙רֶץ֙ וְיִסְחֲר֣וּ אֹתָ֔הּ וְהָאָ֛רֶץ הִנֵּ֥ה רַֽחֲבַת־יָדַ֖יִם לִפְנֵיהֶ֑ם אֶת־בְּנֹתָם֙ נִקַּֽח־לָ֣נוּ לְנָשִׁ֔ים וְאֶת־בְּנֹתֵ֖ינוּ נִתֵּ֥ן לָהֶֽם׃
“These people are our friends; let them settle in the land and move about in it, for the land is large enough for them; we will take their daughters to ourselves as wives and give our daughters to them.
אַךְ־בְּ֠זֹאת יֵאֹ֨תוּ לָ֤נוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים֙ לָשֶׁ֣בֶת אִתָּ֔נוּ לִהְי֖וֹת לְעַ֣ם אֶחָ֑ד בְּהִמּ֥וֹל לָ֙נוּ֙ כָּל־זָכָ֔ר כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר הֵ֥ם נִמֹּלִֽים׃
But only on this condition will the men agree with us to dwell among us and be as one kindred: that all our males become circumcised as they are circumcised.
מִקְנֵהֶ֤ם וְקִנְיָנָם֙ וְכָל־בְּהֶמְתָּ֔ם הֲל֥וֹא לָ֖נוּ הֵ֑ם אַ֚ךְ נֵא֣וֹתָה לָהֶ֔ם וְיֵשְׁב֖וּ אִתָּֽנוּ׃
Their cattle and substance and all their beasts will be ours, if we only agree to their terms, so that they will settle among us.”
וַיִּשְׁמְע֤וּ אֶל־חֲמוֹר֙ וְאֶל־שְׁכֶ֣ם בְּנ֔וֹ כָּל־יֹצְאֵ֖י שַׁ֣עַר עִיר֑וֹ וַיִּמֹּ֙לוּ֙ כָּל־זָכָ֔ר כָּל־יֹצְאֵ֖י שַׁ֥עַר עִירֽוֹ׃
All who went out of the gate of his town heeded Hamor and his son Shechem, and all males, all those who went out of the gate of his town, were circumcised.
וַיְהִי֩ בַיּ֨וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֜י בִּֽהְיוֹתָ֣ם כֹּֽאֲבִ֗ים וַיִּקְח֣וּ שְׁנֵֽי־בְנֵי־יַ֠עֲקֹב שִׁמְע֨וֹן וְלֵוִ֜י אֲחֵ֤י דִינָה֙ אִ֣ישׁ חַרְבּ֔וֹ וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ עַל־הָעִ֖יר בֶּ֑טַח וַיַּֽהַרְג֖וּ כָּל־זָכָֽר׃
On the third day, when they were in pain, Simeon and Levi, two of Jacob’s sons, brothers of Dinah, took each his sword, came upon the city unmolested, and slew all the males.
וְאֶת־חֲמוֹר֙ וְאֶת־שְׁכֶ֣ם בְּנ֔וֹ הָרְג֖וּ לְפִי־חָ֑רֶב וַיִּקְח֧וּ אֶת־דִּינָ֛ה מִבֵּ֥ית שְׁכֶ֖ם וַיֵּצֵֽאוּ׃
They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword, took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away.
בְּנֵ֣י יַעֲקֹ֗ב בָּ֚אוּ עַל־הַ֣חֲלָלִ֔ים וַיָּבֹ֖זּוּ הָעִ֑יר אֲשֶׁ֥ר טִמְּא֖וּ אֲחוֹתָֽם׃
The other sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the town, because their sister had been defiled.
אֶת־צֹאנָ֥ם וְאֶת־בְּקָרָ֖ם וְאֶת־חֲמֹרֵיהֶּ֑ם וְאֵ֧ת אֲשֶׁר־בָּעִ֛יר וְאֶת־אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּשָּׂדֶ֖ה לָקָֽחוּ׃
They seized their flocks and herds and asses, all that was inside the town and outside;
וְאֶת־כָּל־חֵילָ֤ם וְאֶת־כָּל־טַפָּם֙ וְאֶת־נְשֵׁיהֶ֔ם שָׁב֖וּ וַיָּבֹ֑זּוּ וְאֵ֖ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּבָּֽיִת׃
all their wealth, all their children, and their wives, all that was in the houses, they took as captives and booty.
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יַעֲקֹ֜ב אֶל־שִׁמְע֣וֹן וְאֶל־לֵוִי֮ עֲכַרְתֶּ֣ם אֹתִי֒ לְהַבְאִישֵׁ֙נִי֙ בְּיֹשֵׁ֣ב הָאָ֔רֶץ בַּֽכְּנַעֲנִ֖י וּבַפְּרִזִּ֑י וַאֲנִי֙ מְתֵ֣י מִסְפָּ֔ר וְנֶאֶסְפ֤וּ עָלַי֙ וְהִכּ֔וּנִי וְנִשְׁמַדְתִּ֖י אֲנִ֥י וּבֵיתִֽי׃
Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me, making me odious among the inhabitants 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.”
וַיֹּאמְר֑וּ הַכְזוֹנָ֕ה יַעֲשֶׂ֖ה אֶת־אֲחוֹתֵֽנוּ׃
But they answered, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?”
Genesis 49: 5-7
שִׁמְע֥וֹן וְלֵוִ֖י אַחִ֑ים כְּלֵ֥י חָמָ֖ס מְכֵרֹתֵיהֶֽם׃ בְּסֹדָם֙ אַל־תָּבֹ֣א נַפְשִׁ֔י בִּקְהָלָ֖ם אַל־תֵּחַ֣ד כְּבֹדִ֑י כִּ֤י בְאַפָּם֙ הָ֣רְגוּ אִ֔ישׁ וּבִרְצֹנָ֖ם עִקְּרוּ־שֽׁוֹר׃ אָר֤וּר אַפָּם֙ כִּ֣י עָ֔ז וְעֶבְרָתָ֖ם כִּ֣י קָשָׁ֑תָה אֲחַלְּקֵ֣ם בְּיַעֲקֹ֔ב וַאֲפִיצֵ֖ם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
“Simeon and Levi are brothers— their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.”
Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Melakhim 9: 14
They (Simeon and Levi) were justified in what they did, he says. The other members of the town saw what Shechem had done, knew that he was guilty of a crime, and yet neither brought him to court nor rescued the girl. They were therefore accomplices in his guilt. What Shechem had done was a capital crime, and by sheltering him the townspeople were implicated. (Click Herefor background on Maimonides)
Babylonian Talmud Shevuot 39a
Kol Yisrael arevin zeh bazeh, “All Jews are sureties for one another.”
Tanna De Bei Eliyahu Rabbah, Chapter 11
The people of Israel are similar to a ship. If there is a hole in the lower hold, one does not say, ‘Only the lower hold has a hole in it.’ Rather they must immediately recognize that the ship is liable to sink and that they must repair the hole down below.
Karl Jaspers: The Question of German Guilt
There exists a solidarity among men as human beings that makes each co-responsible for every wrong and every injustice in the world, especially if a crime is committed in his presence or with his knowledge. If I fail to do whatever I can to prevent them, I too am guilty. If I was present at the murder of others without risking my life to prevent it, I feel guilty in a way not adequately conceivable either legally, politically or morally. That I live after such a thing has happened weighs upon me as indelible guilt. (For more on Jaspers. , Click Here)