We just read about Shimon and Levi slaying an entire town for tolerating a tremendous injustice done in their midst. But there was something else at play too – maybe even deeper and more fundamental than the simple reason attributed to the retribution.
Yaakov chastises his sons, saying that by their action, they have placed him in peril. Their reply seems totally detached and unrelated to the rebuke: “? הַכְזוֹנָה, יַעֲשֶׂה אֶת-אֲחוֹתֵנוּ - Shall our sister be dealt with as a prostitute?” Communication breakdown? How does this possibly answer their father’s claim that their actions caused them to face extermination? No answer, no give and take. The chapter ends here.
So what was so convincing about this short snippet that left Yaakov Ovinu speechless? What can possibly make you agree that putting your life in danger was justified?
Had Yaakov’s sons taken their father’s reasoning into consideration, what would have been the outcome? Would the Hittites and surrounding nations have respected and honored Bnai Yisroel for being able to restrain themselves? Would they see the Daughters of Israel as dignified women with self-respect? Would they be safer that way?
In all probability that’s not exactly the message the Hittites would have gotten. And perhaps, they would not have been better off being constantly victimized by the neighboring bullies.
And maybe even if it wouldn’t have turned out exactly like that, what kind of life is it knowing you can be bought?
Well, certain things are worth fighting for. Dying for. Suffering for.
Certain things just cannot be prostituted, bastardized and sold out. The Torah is one of them. One’s integrity is another. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of flexibility. But there are red lines. And it really doesn’t matter whether you start by prostituting your integrity or the Torah. They’re bound together. If you start cutting corners “for the Torah”, first a little white lie, a little dishonesty here, a bissaleh fraud there… If you start cutting corners of the Torah… you’ll end up in the same place as well… you’ll eventually cut the fundamental corners, the cornerstones. You’ll willfully distort the Torah, as distortion will become part of you.
Maybe Shimon and Levi’s mistake was taking booty. They didn’t make it clear enough that their sole objective was doing justice. They declared to the entire world: “Don’t mess with us!” But then and there they also erred buy touching the material belonging. And perhaps that was Yaakov Ovinu’s claim against them: if you can’t carry out your duty in the purest possible form, you may as well not do it at all. But they still answer him There’s no prostituting the Torah!
'אין חכמה ואין תבונה ואין עצה נגד ה
© Joseph Izrael 2007