Parsha Vayishlah

Was Yaakov over protective?


Yaakov returns from Aram to the Land of Israel with all his family. He makes peace with his brother Esav and he sets about re-claiming his territory. Yaakov’s only daughter Dina goes out to visit the local towns. The expression “to go out” has two meanings. It can be simply to go and see. But it can also mean to try to escape the stifling atmosphere at home.

Shehem the son of the local Chieftain Hamor, kidnaps her, rapes her and then falls in love with her and wants to marry her. Yaakov and his sons are invited to negotiate. But Shimon and Levy take the law into their own hands and end up massacring the city and bringing their sister home. This earns them condemnation from Yaakov and throughout the Torah.

A larger issue is whether Yaakov was right to let his daughter go out to mix with the local pagans in the first place. Some commentators suggest he was wrong. It is like parents today who often allow a daughter to go a long way away from home to College where she will be subject to all kinds of temptations.

Other commentators suggest the opposite. He had been too over protective, shutting her away to prevent Esau or anyone else seeing her. The consequences were that the moment she was free, she went to the other extreme, to go out to escape.

Wise parents impose discipline and teach standards. But if they go too far and are too strict and rigid it can sometimes have a similar effect to being too lenient and easy. As in all things one needs to find a balance.