"the fear of G-d was upon the cities that were around them"
No sooner has Yaakov avinu - our patriarch Jacob - set foot in the land of Israel, than the sanctity of his family is violated: his daughter Dina is raped by Shechem, the prince of the city of the same name. And no sooner has Shechem raped Dina, than he and his father approach Yaakov and sue for peace:
"And Chamor spoke with them, saying, 'My son Shechem his soul has a liking for your daughter. Please give her to him for a wife. And intermarry with us; you shall give us your daughters, and you shall take our daughters for yourselves. And you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you; remain, do business there and settle there.'" (ibid 34:8-10)
Unforgivable violence followed by a hand extended in peace. Israel responds in three different ways: Yaakov exhibits restraint. He listens attentively to the proposition of Shechem and Chamor and offers no immediate response.
Yaakov's sons respond with a plan that would ostensibly "rescue" the honor of Israel and at the same time accept the offer of coexistence with the inhabitants of the city of Shechem: They condition the proposed intermingling of the two peoples with the circumcision of all the males of Shechem.
Two of Yaakov's sons, Shimon and Levi, are silent as the proposed deal is agreed upon, and biding their time, they wait for the opportunity to strike the city of Shechem, killing all the males of the city.
Yaakov expresses his dismay at what the two have done, ("You have troubled me, to discredit me among the inhabitants of the land... ," ibid 34:30) but, in truth, the three responses put forth by Yaakov and his sons reflect his own earlier well-planned response to Esau: prayer, (here embodied by Yaakov's restraint), gifts, (the proposed conciliation), and war, (Shimon and Levi's response).
All three of these responses, in turn, foreshadow the responses recorded generations later at the Sea of Reeds, where Pharaoh and his army threatened to annihilate the recently escaped Israelite slaves. One faction of Israelites proposed prayer, another, submission to the Egyptians, and a third, to make a stand, despite the desperate odds. At the Sea of Reeds G-d rejected prayer as being irrelevant, ("Why do you cry out to Me?" Exodus 14:15) circumvented the option of submission by splitting the Sea of Reeds, and, with His own hand, as it were, took up the fight on behalf of Israel, and slaughtered to a man, the Egyptian army.
Consistently Torah teaches us that the dignity, integrity and purity of Israel is not to be compromised. Deliberation has its place and all options can and should be raised and weighed, if only to make clear the moral imperative to reject and destroy all that would seek to harm and to sully Israel.
At the end of the day, when Israel acts to defend its own dignity, and the dignity of G-d, G-d secures, with His own hand, the safety and well-being of Israel.
This was true in the days of Yaakov avinu, in the days of our master Moses, and in our day: Peace plans and processes and proposals and road maps and disengagements and freezes and gestures that don't redress the indignity done to Israel are a waste of our time and a waste of G-d's time. It is bold action, and not pusillanimous proposals, that G-d sanctions:
"Then they traveled, and the fear of G-d was upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue Yaakov's sons." (ibid 35:50)
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as Rabbi Chaim Richman and special guest host Yosef Adest, (filling in for Yitzchak Reuven who is currently in the USA), discuss the reality of the white spaces and black letters that together comprise the true message of the Torah scroll, Yaakov’s struggle with the arrogant Lavan, Yaakov's love for his wives, the sisters Leah and Rachel, and the current month of Kislev.
This week's TEMPLE TALK is only one part.