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by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton

Question:

I was really saddened to hear about the death of the Israeli soldier Eden Atias, who was stabbed to death by a terrorist as he slept on a public bus earlier this week in Afula, Northern Israel. What is even more troubling is how most media outlets didn't even see this story as newsworthy. When a British soldier was killed by terrorists in London earlier this year it was headline news for days on end. This type of biased reporting seems to be a problem from time immemorial - when did it start?

Answer:

In this week's Torah portion we read the story of how Jacob's daughter Dina was abducted, violated and then held hostage by Shechem - a local prince. Shechem's father, Chamor, approached Jacob and asked if he would agree to give his daughter to Shechem as a wife. Jacob's sons were enraged at what had happened and wanted to punish the locals who had failed to hold their leader accountable for kidnapping and violating this young girl. So they slyly "accepted" Chamor's proposal on condition that all the men of the city would agree to circumcise themselves. The Torah describes how on the third day after the mass circumcisions when the townspeople were most vulnerable, two of Jacob's sons - Shimon and Levi - "entered the city confidently" and after killing every male managed to rescue their sister Dina.

It seems to be self-understood that for two men to take on an entire city would have required much courage and confidence, why did the Torah need to emphasize this obvious point?

The famous Biblical commentator of the 16th century - Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz- referred to as "the Keli Yakar" - offers a novel interpretation: Shimon and Levi had no reason to fear the locals who having just undergone circumcision were greatly weakened and were in no position to fight back. But surely they would have had to fear the military intervention or at least condemnation that would have come from the other surrounding nations?  

The Torah wishes to stress to us that "they entered the city confidently" - without any fear of the global reaction. Shimon and Levi knew that once Shechem's men had undergone circumcision they would be perceived by the rest of the world as Jews (though in truth they were not). Already then Shimon and Levi understood the anti-Semitic dogma entrenched in the psyche of -unfortunately- many people the world over in seeing the death of a few "Jews" as no valid reason for a big tumult. Shimon and Levi knew that the surrounding nations would not make a sound; they could confidently go about their business without fear of a single resolution against them.   

What we see is that this anti-semitic dogma, viewing Israel as the aggressor and the death of an Israeli soldier differently to that of any another nation, was not born in the UN, news channels or even social-media networks. Already from the days of Shimon and Levi, it has unfortunately been part of our history.

So how have we managed to survive all of this? Here too, the above narrative provides the answer. Right after the incident with Shechem, G-d appeared to Jacob promising that He would always be with him. So too G-d continues to stand by our side and continuously tells us not to fear because He is always with us.

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