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December 12, 2003 - Image 95

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-12-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Lease Pull Ahead Ext. Until Jan 2nd

Torah Portion

Leases Expiring Between 12/1/03 - 6/30/04

Anger Management,
Torah Style

It seems that it is not the anger of
Simon and Levi per se that was out of
place, but how they acted upon their
rage. They acted as renegades, outside
any system of justice, without even
consulting Jacob.
By being part of the brit
(covenant),
we as Jews agree to be part
hen is anger justified?
of
a
covenant
with God, which
Does anger ever lead to
includes laws concerning a fair system
constructive action?
of justice. Similarly, as citizens of
These fundamental
America,
we agree to abide by the
questions about human nature are
legal system of the United States.
raised in Vayishlach by one of the
These systems force us to take the
more troubling incidents in Torah, the
humanity of every individual into
rape of Dinah.
account, even criminals.
Dinah's abduction and
The danger of uncon-
rape by Shechem, son of
trolled anger is that it leads
Hamor, are horrific.
to the devaluation of
Nonetheless, we must also be
human life. Simon and Levi
disturbed at the brutality
not only ignored the
with which her brothers
humanity of Shechem, but
Simon and Levi respond.
of his entire people, con-
Not satisfied with the deal
demning them to guilt by
Jacob strikes with Hamor,
association.
Simon and Levi murder all
But did this seemingly
of Hamor's men.
RABBI AMY
obvious
lesson have to come
Jacob himself, twice in the
BOLTON
at the expense of Dinah? I
Torah, sharply criticizes his
Special to the
believe the greater "truth"
sons' actions, here in
Jewish News
which
we are to learn comes
Vayishlach and also in Vayichi
from that which is not writ-
as he "blesses" them: "Simon
ten in Vayishlach. We learn nothing of
and Levi are a pair; their weapons are
Dinah's feelings or desires; there is no
tools of lawlessness ... Cursed be their
communication between the brothers
anger so fierce, and their wrath so
and Dinah or Jacob and Dinah. The
relentless ..." (49:5-7).
true victim of the crime is left out of
Yet are we to believe from Jacob's
the story. Thus the anger and revenge
response that the better course of
of Simon and Levi is that much more
action would have been simply to
egregious — they spend their emo-
bring the Hivites into the covenant of
tional energy on revenge, not comfort,
circumcision without Shechem suffer-
on hatred, not empathy.
ing any consequences? Was not the
Their first responsibility should
brothers' anger at the rape of their sis-
have been to their sister, to attend to
ter justified?
her physical and emotional well-being
The commentators themselves
after the trauma she endured. When
debate the ethics of the brothers'
anger and revenge cloud one's vision
actions. Some, including Malbim and
of what is truly needed in a situation,
Rambam, argue that their actions
as in the case of Simeon and Levi's
were justified from a halachic perspec-
response to Dinah's rape, our humani-
tive: Shechem abducted a woman,
ty as a whole is diminished.
which, according to the laws govern-
May God guide us in how to corn-
ing b'nei noach (all people of the
fort and empathize with those in pain,
world), makes one liable for the death
and measure our angry responses
penalty, and the people of his city
appropriately. 0
stood by and did not carry out judg-
ment upon them. Others argue that
the brothers acted in haste with undue
cruelty, murdering the men when they
were defenseless and in pain from cir-
cumcision.
When is anger justified? What is
an appropriate way for one to act
Amy Bolton is the former director of
upon one's anger? Are there situ-
pastoral outreach and education of the
ations
that make you angry in
Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy
which you could redirect your
Network in Southfield. She resides in
energy in a more constructive
Highland Park, NJ:, where she works
direction?
in adult education and conducts services

Shabbat Vayishlach:
Genesis 32:4-3643;
Obadiah 1:1-21.

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