Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The motive of Shimon and Levi in Shechem


What motivated Shimon and Levi to destroy the city of Shechem, as opposed to just taking back their imprisoned sister Dinah?

"The lord would never have allowed himself to act as he did were it not a queston of a foreign, forsaken Jew-girl. That was the thought that brought home to the minds of Simeon and Levi that there are times when the Family of Jacob too must grasp the sword... They had no desire to act prudently. They wanted to make themselves feared so that nobody would attempt anything similar. The daughters of Jacob were not to be considered as being at anybody's disposal. But nevertheless they went too far, to take revenge on innocent people for that which powerful ones had done."

(Commentary of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch to Bereishit 34:25)

Have a good day,


  1. In the past, I have suggested something similar about some of the laws regarding Amaleiq. It's not just that we were supposed to eradicate a dangerous ideology and culture. The laws go beyond that (such as not taking booty, even for sacrificial purposed) because that would also turn them into an example that would prevent copycat attacks. And then, Hashem utilized Sanchereb to take the history of the area from barbarian tribes to countries and empires, choosing a man who eradicated most of tribal identity. And even the remaining tribes got somewhat reigned in, and the example wasn't necessary. But Sanchereb's eradicating old ties not only also made the halakhah unimplementable. The Author of both the Torah and History coordinated the effective end of the law as humanity moved beyond its need.

    But rather than viewing the obligation as cruel, one can then see it as a military necessity. In the Canaanite world and the First Temple period, making an example of Amaleiq would have saved us much of the wars and killing that were constant through that period. I would suggest that the law would have saved lives overall.


    On a different note, notice how everyone lives in their own world of experience, and Hashem coordinates it all. Shimon and Levi, in their world, did something wrong. Yaaqov takes them to task for it -- for functional reasons at the time, but at the end of his life uses it as an example of a character flaw to watch out for. Meanwhile, we don't simply say that the city of Shechem were their victims. We ask a separate question of how Hashem allowed them to succeed.

  2. R' Micha-
    Both points are fascinating; thank you. I must admit that I never thought about Sancherev in that light.