Our Parasha relates in great detail the revenge that Shimon and Levi exacted from Shechem, and his whole nation, for his defilement of their sister, Dinah.
We read how they, to this end, laid down as a pre-condition to allowing Shechem to wed Dinah, that he, and all his people, had to first be circumcised, declaring that:’to give our sister to a man who is uncircumcised, is a disgrace to us.’
And, as becomes clear, their sole purpose in this condition, was that they would then be able to overcome the local people at the time of their greatest pain and discomfort, on the third day after their circumcision, take their sister, avenge her defilement, and escape.
And, as we read, their ploy succeeded, and they took their sister, after killing Shechem and all the males of his people.
The Be’er Mayim Chaim derives a wondrous ‘reproach’ to all of us, from the conduct of Shechem, the accursed ‘villain’ of the unsavory episode:’We read that Shechem was so besotted, that, in his ardor, he even dared to interrupt his father, the king’s, discussion with Yaakov, to beseech him for the hand of his daughter.
‘Here is a mussar lesson to each of us: we delude ourselves that we truly yearn to serve Hashem, and if we are asked:’Do you love Hashem?’, we would answer:’With all our being’.
‘Yet we learn from here, that this is clearly not so! Look at Shechem, the son of a king, who, when he desires the hand of this daughter of Yaakov, see the extent his ardor: he is unable to contain it for even a moment, and is as if ‘out of his mind’, saying:Whatever you ask of me, I will give, ‘only give me the maiden for a wife’- indeed, had the cutting off of his member, and giving it to them, sufficed to gain her hand, he would not have hesitated!
‘The proof of this, is that when they laid down the condition of circumcision, he, the pampered son of a king, surely aware of the great pain this would cause, and the humiliationof undergoing circumcision so as to marry a maiden, none of this deterred him; as we read: Shechem ‘did not delay doing the thing’, even before relating the condition to his people, and asking them to follow his example.
‘If our love for Hashem, and for his service, was like this, nothing would deter us! We would ‘skip over mountains’ to serve Him, so great would our yearning for Him be.
‘Yet, when we say that we yearn to serve Hashem, we are deceiving ourselves. The proof is the manner in which we pursue the pleasures and material rewards of this world: when we want something, how much effort and thought we exert to avhieve it, day and night, compared to he’casual’ manner of our avodat Hashem.
‘Were we servw Hashem in the manner of Shechem’s ardor,, what wonderful spiritual heights we would achieve; what great nachat ruach: ‘pleasure’ would we give our Heavenly Father - but, alas, all our thoughts and efforts are devoted to the physical pursuits of this workd, even though we will never truly find satisfaction in them, there will always be something ‘missing’, in this pursuit.’
The Parshanim bring a chiddush, on a saying of David Hamelech, to sweeten the ‘lesson’, that even the righteous can learn from the wicked of the nations - as the Be’er Mayim Chaim deduced from the actions of Shechem, as we brought.
The Psalmist says:(Ps’ 119:88)’מאויבי תחכמני מצותיך כי לעולם היא לי’: expounds the Metzudat David: ‘Your mitzvot give me wisdom, to be wiser than my enemies’.
The Chovot Halevavot, expounds the words homiletically: ‘From my enemies, I learn how to perform Mitxvot- how to serve Hashem’.
‘The zeal and single-mindedness with which the wicked, our ‘enemies’, pursue their evil ends, teach us how much more should we exert ourselves in our service of Hashem.
My teacher and Rabbi, Rav Daniel Beller זצ׳ל, in a drasha on erev Kol Nidrei, cited the Kotzker Rabbi, who mused that, he once noticed the Tsar’s soldier marching back and forth for ‘hours on end’, this led him to rebuke’ himself: If this is the faithfulness with which the ‘goyim’ serve their leader, this obligated us to ‘learn’ from them, how to serve the King of Kings!’.
A parting insight from the Chafetz Chaim:’We read in our Parasha, of the words of Yaakov Avinu: ‘I lived with Laban, but kept the Mitzvot’- comments Rashi:’And i did not learn from his wicked ways’’.
Asks the Sage:’Is it the way of Yaakov Avinu to praise his own righteousness? Surely not! Rather we have to expound his words homiletically: Yaakov Avinu, in his righteousness, reproached himself that he did not learn from Laban, who, in his wicked deeds, performed them in such a complete and whole-hearted manner.
‘Lamented Yaakov: Alas, I, in my way of doing good deeds, have not reached his level of doing them with the same zeal and completeness- and he pleads with His Maker:’From my enemies, give me wisdom how to perform Your Mitzvot’.
‘Namely,: help me to learn from our enemies, the wicked, so that just as they perform their wicked deeds whole-heartedly and with alacrity, so too maywe learn to perform the Torah and the Mitzvot with enthusiasn and desire’.
לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.
Danny Ginsbourg is a retired lawyer who made aliya from Australia a decade ago. He has written five volumes of Torah thoughts in Hebrew,and was awarded the Jerusalem Prize.for the two volume Davsha shel Torah to which there are already several sequels.