Judging An Action

  Yacov Nordlicht

In this week's parsha, we find דינה, the daughter of יעקב periodically leaves the encampment of her father and is taken and violated by שכם. Afterwards, שכם had become enamored with דינה, so he implored his father to arrange the שידוך between their family and יעקב. When the father of שכם went to speak to יעקב about the potential שידוך,  the sons of יעקב  met him and were deeply disturbed by what had happened to their sister.


When the פסוק describes just how terrible it was what שכם did to דינה, the פסוק says " כי נבלה עשה בישראל לשכב את בת יעקב וכן לא יעשה", "for he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with the daughter of Yakov - and such a thing is not done."


At first glance, this פסוק requires a much deeper explanation. It seems clear from the פסוק that the sin committed by שכם  was much more grievous as a result of דינה  being the daughter of יעקב. It seems as if he had committed his vulgarity with another woman, although it still would have been a terrible act, it wouldn't compare to the gravity of performing this sin with the daughter of יעקב. The question we have to ask is why was it so much worse for שכם to have done this sin specifically with דינה? Perhaps שכם didn't know she was the daughter of יעקב, and in effect he should be rendered a שוגג on the fact that it was with דינה! How is it possible for the פסוק  to hold him accountable for this "outrage" if he may not have even known to whom he was committing this act? And furthermore, the end of the פסוק doesn't seem to make any sense at all. What does it mean "and such a thing is not done"? The פסוק already stated that what שכם had done was an outrage, of course such a thing is not done! What novelty is the פסוק coming to add?


The בית הלוי was bothered by these questions. In order to introduce his answer, he recalls a story which transpired earlier on in his life. There was one time where he was traveling to an unfamiliar city during the winter and was forced to stay the night at an inn. The innkeeper didn't recognize the great בית הלוי and as such treated him like a regular traveler. After he had settled in, and took up a seat in the hall of the inn, an established looking Rebbe walked into the inn with his Chassidim looking for a place to rest for the night. The innkeeper, immediately recognized this esteemed Rebbe, and was quick to offer every room he could. As he scrambled putting the numbers together, he realized he was one room short and wouldn't be able to house all of the Rebbe's Chassidim. After a quick חשבון, he decided that the Chassidim should take precedence even over the travelers who had already settled in. And so, the innkeeper quickly found the בית הלוי and informed him that he would have to sleep outside, for the room that he had previously promised to the בית הלוי was needed for the Rebbe's Chasidim.

After a few minutes of compromising, the innkeeper agreed to let the בית הלוי sleep on the floor in the hallway. In the morning, the innkeeper woke up the בית הלוי for שחרית with the Rebbe and the Rebbe's Chassidim. When the בית הלוי walked into the מנין, a look of shock and awe spread over the Rebbe's face and he immediately humbled himself before the great בית הלוי. When the innkeeper saw how the Rebbe and the Chasidim were actively nullifying themselves before the בית הלוי, he quickly realized what had transpired. He walked up to the בית הלוי trembling and asked the בית הלי to forgive him, for he didn't know who he was talking to.

The בית הלוי  answered him, "if you would have treated me the way that a regular person should be treated (and not tried to embarrass me), then you would have been considered a שוגג. You didn't mean to cause me harm, so your action itself was a שוגג. But if this is the way you would treat a normal Yid, by asking him to sleep outside in the cold במזיד, then you aren't considered a שוגג at all- quite the contrary, you were במזיד in your actions of embarrassing me, even if you didn't know who I was!"

This is the פשט in the פסוק. The end of the פסוק isn't just an extraneous afterthought. Rather, it’s explaining the essential דין which is operating here, and more pointedly, why the actions of שכם were that much worse because he performed them on בת יעקב. Strictly because such a thing isn't done and he was anyway a מזיד in his vulgar actions to defile someone, he can't be considered a שוגג because the circumstances were unbeknownst to him. He is considered a מזיד through and through. The gravity of the sin was only able to be attributed to him because of this נקודה. Only because he acted במזיד שלא כדין can he be considered someone who actively and knowingly defiled the daughter of the Gadol Hador.