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"Don't Box Me In!"

11/21/2018 11:54:54 AM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In ths week's Torah Portion, Parashat VaYishlach, we read this about Yaakov: "And he [Yaakov] arose that night, and he took his two wives and his two maidservants and his eleven children, and crossed over the ford of Yabbok."  At this point we must ask the question which Rashi asks: "Ve-Dinah heikhan haitah?" - "And where was Dinah?"  Like all great commentators, Rashi answers his own question: "Netanah be-teivah." - "He [Yaakov] placed her in a box."  He goes on to explain that Yaakov placed his daughter Dinah in a box so that Eysav would not see her and desire to be with her.  This action was looked upon with extreme disfavor by our Rabbis.  In fact, Rashi continued: "It is for this reason that Yaakov was punished."  Because Yaakov prevented Dinah from having a good influence upon Eysav and quite possibly changing his ways so that he would be more like Yaakov, Rashi tells us that Dinah "fell into the hands of Shechem."  And thus the story of the rape of Dinah.

What Rashi is telling us is that Yaakov had no right whatsoever to place Dinah inside a box.  Hashem placed Dinah in this world for a reason: to change the world by having a positive influence on Eysav thus causing him to change for the better.  The bottom line is that Yaakov acted in a selfish manner.  Dinah was capable of bringing tremendous good in this world by changing Eysav, but Yaakov did not allow her to accomplish her "mission."  He placed her in a box.  He should have allowed Dinah to exert her positive impact on both Eysav and the rest of the world.  Rashi's commentary story gives new meaning to the phrase "thinking out of the box."  Yes, it is quite "natural" as parents to want to protect our children from all harm by keeping them in a "box," by keeping them away from all the Eysavs, all the harm, of this world.  But this often ends up stifling who and what they are.

We should take a lesson from what is found in another box that is worn every day [except Shabbat and Yomim Tovim].  Inside the tefillin that is worn on the strong arm and the head is found a parchment upon which is written these words: "Kadeish Li chol bachor...." - "Sanctify to Me [HaShem] every firstborn...."  We must sanctify our children to HaShem by allowing them to become the best Jews they can become.  How do we do this?  By teaching them how they must serve HaShem through our Tradition and allowing them to share what they have learned with the rest of the world.  This is the right way for us to "think out of the box" and bring about "Tikkun HaOlam," "the repair of this world." 

Wed, August 21 2019 20 Av 5779