Random Musing Before Shabbat – Vayishlakh 5775 – No One’s In the Kitchen With Dinah (or Eric or Michael)

Some years ago in these musings, I wrote a little ditty based on the tragic story of Dinah. In the story of Dinah, true justice was not served. The revenge of Dinah’s brothers involved trickery and excessive violence. In the current climate, given the recent failures of two grand juries to properly allow the course of justice to be pursued in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, it seemed appropriate to revisit it.
 
(to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”)
 
I’ve been reading from the Torah,
all the livelong week
I’ve been reading from the Torah,
in the hopes I’ll get a peek
Of the secret hidden meanings
found between the lines
Yet they somehow still elude me,
I can’t see the signs
 
Torah please reveal,
Torah please reveal
Torah please reveal your secret truths
Torah please reveal,
Torah please reveal
Torah please reveal your truths
 
Shechem thought that Dinah was lovely
So he went and took her like a prize
Dinah’s bro’s said “this ain’t a problem”
If you goys all circumcise,” we’re singing
 
Oy, oy, oyddly doy doy
Oy, oy, cut off your diddly oy doy oy
Oy, oy, oyddly doy doy
So the goys got circumcised
 
I’ve been reading from the Torah,
all the livelong week
I’ve been reading from the Torah,
in the hopes I’ll get a peek
Of the secret hidden meanings
found between the lines
Yet they somehow still elude me,
I can’t see the signs
 
Torah please reveal,
Torah please reveal
Torah please reveal your secret truths
Torah please reveal,
Torah please reveal
Torah please reveal your truths
 
While the Shechemite men were healing
While they all were resting in bed
Some of Dinah’s brothers came stealing
Into town and killed them dead, they’re singing
 
Oy, oy, we got our revenge
On those lousy Shechemites
Oy, oy, now us all will dread
Mess with us you’ll wind up dead
 
I’ve been reading from the Torah,
all the livelong week
I’ve been reading from the Torah,
in the hopes I’ll get a peek
Of the secret hidden meanings
found between the lines
Yet they somehow still elude me,
I can’t see the signs
 
Torah please reveal,
Torah please reveal
Torah please reveal your secret truths
Torah please reveal,
Torah please reveal
Torah please reveal your truths
 
When the deed was done they told Jacob
And an angry scolding to them he gave
For what they’d done to his reputation
And not their murd’rous acts so grave, he’s singing
 
Oy, oy, look at what they’ve done
How am I supposed to do business now
My ferkhakhte sons must be crazy
Their deeds I can’t disavow
 
I’ve been reading from the Torah,
all the livelong week
I’ve been reading from the Torah,
in the hopes I’ll get a peek
Of the secret hidden meanings
found between the lines
Yet they somehow still elude me,
I can’t see the signs
 
Torah please reveal,
Torah please reveal
Torah please reveal your secret truths
Torah please reveal,
Torah please reveal
Torah please reveal your truths
 
In the sturm und drang of our story
There is one voice that we’ve not heard
Didn’t anyone ask Dinah
Of what she thought there’s not a word, she’s singing
 
Oy, oy, don’t they want to know
What I’m thinking, how it makes me feel?
Oy, Oy, they do not seem to know
That a woman’s pain is real!
 
[adding these verses for 2014]
 
Ferguson and Staten Island are quite far apart
Yet, in both of these locations, somehow justice fell apart
“Hands Up!” “We Can’t Breathe” they’re calling
Rise up together as one
Justice, justice, no more stalling
‘Til the work is done!
 
All across the land
Let’s stand hand in hand
As we work to make this country safe
People everywhere
Let’s show that we care
All lives matter equally, we’re singing
 
No more Eric Garners
No more Michael Browns
For the sake of all in our nation
We will not stand down, we’re singing
 
Hands Up! We Can’t Breathe
Hands Up! We Can’t Breathe
Hands Up! We Can’t Breathe…
This is not America!
 
Well, I could go on…but I won’t. It’s silly, and almost trivializes what is otherwise a most troubling piece of Torah text-the story of the rape of Dinah, and the revenge done by her brothers, as well as the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at the hands of policeman. It’s no laughing matter. Two wrongs simply never add up to a right, and in this case, we have wrongs compounded upon wrongs compounded upon wrongs, ad nauseam. Over the years, in writing about this parasha, I’ve taken all the parties to task: Shechem, for his impetuousness, and for being a rapist. Jacob’s sons for the deceit, trickery, and murderous deeds. The good people, the Hivites of Shechem, for their casual willingness to be circumcised whether it was truly in repentance for what Shechem had done to Dinah, or simply in order to satisfy their own lust. Jacob, of course, for caring not so much about what had happened, and who had done what, as he did about what it did to his reputation, and his ability to conduct business with the people in the region.
 
As for Michael Brown and Eric Garner, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? Enough is enough. I am proud of the people of our country who are standing up in protest in cities from coast to coast. Something is not right in the country, and it’s not going to get fixed until the people demand it.
 
In my musings, I’ve never really tackled the Dinah story. There are interpreters of Torah who fault Dinah by interpreting the text to imply that Dinah was out where she shouldn’t be, or being flirtatious. How typical of the generations of misogynist redactors and interpreters of this sacred text to fall back on a “blame the victim” mentality. Others ask us to place ourselves in the values and ethics of the time when the story is taking place. I reject both of these whitewashings categorically. Historically, we’re far too good at apologetics.
 
Similarly, there are those who blame victims like Michael Brown and Eric Garner for their deaths. There are those who say that race is not the issue. I reject these whitewashings as well. Like the story of Dinah, the deaths of Eric Warner, Michael Brown, and so many others are irredeemable stories.
 
As you may know, I am particularly fond of working to redeem so-called irredeemable texts. I’ve found no footholds at all in this story other than the classic “well, it’s a great lesson on how not to behave.” I don’t find that satisfactory. The only place left for me to turn is to Dinah. Yet she is absent from the text.
 
Prone as I am to inventing creative midrash, as I have done so often in these musings, I do not feel I can legitimately do so in this case. It’s not that I can’t imagine what Dinah might have felt and thought–I surely can. It’s that I don’t feel qualified, as a male, to even try to put words in Dinah’s mouth, thoughts in Dinah’s head, and feelings in Dinah’s heart.
 
Great female scholars and writers, like Anita Diamant, Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Phyllis Trible, Drorah Setel, professor Renita Weems (from whom I was privileged to learn at Vandy) and so many others are far more qualified and capable to imagine Dinah’s viewpoint.
 
So my challenges to myself and to you (whether you are male or female) this Shabbat are:
 
1) to seek out the feminist and women’s commentaries and interpretations of this biblical story (along with others) and see if they help bring any greater insight into why this troubling text is part of the canon. (See below for some references.)
 
2)work together to help us find redemtpion for the troubling stories of the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and so many others.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Adrian
©2014 (portions ©2007) by Adrian A. Durlester
 
Other Musings on this parasha:
 
 
 
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About migdalorguy

Jewish Educator & Musician, Technology Nerd and all around nice Renaissance guy
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