Netivat Sofrut: diary of a Soferet

Adventures of a female sofer learning to heal the world by doing Holy Work...writing a Sefer Torah

נחזיר את השכינה למקומה בצייון ובתבל כלה

"Let us restore the Divine In-Dwelling to Her Place in Zion & infuse Her spirit throughout the whole inhabited world."

So wherever we are, let us bring the Peace of G@d's Presence.

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Location: Vancouver/London, British Columbia/UK, Canada

SCRIBAL EVANGELIST As the only living certified Soferet (סופרת - female Jewish ritual scribe) & the first woman to practice sofrut (creation of sacred Hebrew texts) in over 200 years, I feel an obligation to blog about my experiences of The Work. I am also currently researching the foundation of a lost tradtion of women practicing this holy craft. For more on the services I provide, please see; Sofrut Nation. I am now available to engage with students, male or female, wishing to enter into the preliminary stage of learning sofrut. You are welcome to join me on this path. "Tzedeq, tzedeq tir'dof - Justice, justice you shall pursue." Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:20.

Friday, December 24, 2004



Referencing yesterday's "Large Zayin" post: in Breyshit verse 34:31 the letter Zayin in the word hach'zonah ("as a harlot") is written large. If this letter is omitted, the resulting word is ha'chonah ("the labeling with a title"). Perhaps Dinah's brothers do not want her to be labelled as a harlot, or perhaps they do not want her to receive the title "princess of the city of Shechem" which would separate her from both family and God's promised lineage.

In the previous verse, Ya'akov complains to Shimon and Levi that "you stirred up/disturbed me to make me odios/stinky". His reputation was recently changed from that of someone crooked to that of someone staright and upright (see angel wrestling). Now he is worried that his sons have undone what he gained at the river Yabok. But soon afterwards God assures him that his "name" has not reverted from Yisrael ("straight") to Ya'akov ("crooked").

Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum comments that in verse 32:23 there is a child missing: "And he took his two wives, his two handmaids, and his eleven sons." What happened to Dinah, Ya'akov's daughter? Rashi taught that Ya'akov hid her in a box, so Esav would not see her and want her for a wife. Rashi adds that Ya'akov was punished for this when Dinah went out and was violated by Shechem. Rashi claims Ya'akov should have been sensitive to his brother's needs, and perhaps Dinah might been a positive influence on Esav.

Jeffrey Feinberg notes that we are not sure Sh'chem raped Dinah. The verb anah means to humiliate or humble, and could be used for both rape or for taking a woman without the proper formalities. See Deuteronomy 21:14, 22:24, and 22:29. The Torah describes how Shimon and Levi attacked the city and ransacked it, adding that it was "because they defiled their sister". Who is "they", asks the Torah Temimah? It was Sh'chem the Prince who had abducted Dinah, so why implicate an entirely innocent community? The Rambam echoes this question by noting Ya'akov's anger with Shimon and Levi: if the whole town had been guilty, why would Ya'akov have been upset at his sons fearlessly pursuing justice? The traditional answer, provided by the Torah Teminah, is that the people of Sh'chem did not have law-courts and did not judge themselves; since God desires justice, their lack of justice was an offense significant enough for the entire town to earn punishment. But Genesis 20:9 and Deuteronomy 24:4 suggest that an enitre community shares the guilt of a sexual crime.

In verse 34:10 the word sachar means "moving about to do business". What is being discussed by the people of Shechem is whether to offer the children of Ya'akov both use of land and a status similar to licensed merchants. Since Ya'akov was wealthy and had many sons this seemed smart to the men of Shechem: Ya'akov's family would be buying goods from their city, and when those eleven sons married each would pay for a bride, further transfering wealth from Ya'akov's family to the city.

Why is Ya'akov's new name of Israel re-empahsized in verse 35:10? Rashi answers that Ya'akov had still been acting craftily, both in hiding Dinah from Esav and in delaying returning to Beth El as he had vowed after his dream of the ladder. Now both of those events have met their consequences, and Ya'akov forsakes trying to be crafty. Thus he truly has shifted from being Ya'akov ("crooked", "crafty", "heel") to being Yisrael ("straight", "upright", or "striving" ... "with God").

...& there is still that midrash about how Dinah was originally conceived in Rachel's womb & haShem switched Dinah to Le'ah. You can read all about it at Shema Yisrael .

Gut Shabbes


Blogger Alisha said...

Have you read The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant? If so, what did you think? Completely heretical? Plausible? Just curious...

Shabbat shalom!

12:44 a.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...



1:13 a.m.  
Blogger shanna said...

I was going to bring up The Red Tent as well. It colors my reading of this passage when we come across it every year, much as I think maybe I should block it out for the sake of learning Torah. I always wonder whether maybe Yisrael/Ya'akov's reaction is tempered by the knowledge (or suspicion) that Dinah was not actually raped but rather went with Sh'chem willingly (albeit without formally marrying him)...and whether Yisrael/Ya'akov understood her sexual/romantic desire as valid, even in conflict with the need to marry the "right" person. That is, Ya'akov's desire was toward Rachel, who was his partner for "this world," but his spiritual partner was Leah. Could it be that his Ya'akov aspect (this world) recognized that every human being can expeience romantic passion for a person who may or may not be their spiritual partner, and this sensitivity was in conflict with the Yisrael aspect recognizing that a Bat Yisrael (literally) should not intermarry?

Interesting that the Jewish people as a whole, or the men alone, are referred to as "B'nai Yisrael" whereas the women are sometimes referred to as "Beit Ya'akov."

7:04 a.m.  

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