Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz offered this explanation of the stark words of Shimon and Levi, “Ha’cizonah ya’aseh es achoseinu? – Should our sister be treated like a harlot?”
When Yaakov Avinu criticized his children Shimon and Levi for killing the residents of Shechem after their sister Dina was violated by the son of Shechem’s leader (Bereishis 34:31), he gave two reasons for his displeasure with the vigilante actions of his children: (1) they shamed the family and made them loathsome in the eyes of the neighboring nations and (2) they placed their family in life-threatening danger of an attack by the incensed people surrounding them.
Shimon and Levi responded to their father’s critique with a four-word phrase: “Ha’chizonah ya’aseh es achoseinu? – Should our sister be treated like a harlot?” Rashi explains that they meant to say their sister is not “hefker” (lit. one who is abandoned), but rather has family members who are willing to lay their lives on the line for her.
At first glance, it seems Shimon and Levi gave an emotional response rather than a logical one, since they did not address either of the two concerns their father expressed. It is almost as if they acknowledged their entire family would be shamed and in grave danger as a result of their actions, but they asked Yaakov to take into account the mitigating circumstances and understand that theirs was a visceral reaction due to the situation at hand.
I would like to suggest an alternative understanding of their response to their father’s rebuke. They may have been answering the critique point-by-point by explaining that if they allowed their sister to be treated as hefker, (1) a non-response to their sister’s defilement would be a far greater shame to the family than the one they caused, and (2) the family would be in greater danger than before since the neighbors would assume that they could violate Yaakov’s family members with nary a response.
Permit me to take a page from the response of Shimon and Levi and propose that our reluctance to squarely stand with abuse victims who report predators to the authorities, has sent a shameful and dangerous message – that we do not have the moxie to do what it takes to keep our children safe.
We are also sending a shameful and dangerous message when we sit by silently, while friends and family members of the alleged perpetrators harass the victim’s family members for reporting the abuse to the authorities.
His entire post can be read here. In it he draws out the importance for supporting the victim of Nechemya Weberman.
Weberman’s trial is scheduled to start on Tuesday, October 30 in Brooklyn Supreme Court. Please SAVE THE DATE and plan to attend.