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Wednesday
Nov212018

WHY SHIMON AND LEVI USED SUBTERFUGE

Curiously, Yaakov describes their assault on the city as, “they killed a man,” but that is because all the people of Shchem were considered to them as just one man. The odds were actually stacked in their favor: they were two againsta (single) man.” They were not at all fearful of the people of Shchem, and so Shimon and Levi did not have to employ such tactics, meting justice upon Shchem in a manner that desecrated G-ds name

Translated by Boruch Merkur

24. […] Yaakov Avinu had no contention with Shimon and Levi’s killing the people of Sh’chem; his only complaint was that they did not pursue justice with more formality, openly informing them that by law they were punishable by death, etc. At first glance though it is self-understood why they had to attack the city with guile [tricking them into circumcising and then killing them when they were suffering from their wounds], as they were so few in number [just the two of them], and they had to battle the entire city, all the people of Sh’chem. Curiously, Yaakov describes their assault on the city as, “they killed a man,” but that is because all the people of Sh’chem were considered to them as just one man. The odds were actually stacked in their favor: they were two against “a (single) man.” They were not at all fearful of the people of Sh’chem, and so Shimon and Levi did not have to employ such tactics, meting justice upon Sh’chem in a manner that desecrated G-d’s name.

On this basis, the following difficulty can be resolved. Why did Shimon and Levi punish the people of Sh’chem in this manner, attacking them with subterfuge? This question will be answered by first exploring a second difficulty: Why did Yaakov say, “In their anger they killed”? By Torah law the people of Sh’chem deserved to be put to death! But that is why specifically this term is used in his rebuke: Yaakov’s disapproval was not of the fact that “they killed” the wicked people of Sh’chem but because their killing stemmed from anger. Since their retribution was motivated by anger, they erred, wrongfully pursuing justice with guile, as the Torah states, “b’mirma, etc.” Similarly, even regarding Moshe Rabbeinu, and even after Mattan Torah, it says, “He became enraged and therefore erred” (Rashi BaMidbar 31:21; P’sachim 66a). Thus, Yaakov emphasizes that it is “their anger” that is cursed for their entire approach of subterfuge, etc., which was born of rage.

25. Accordingly we can also understand Shimon and Levi’s response to Yaakov’s rebuke. Yaakov said, “You have troubled me, discrediting me among the inhabitants of the land  … and I will be destroyed along with my household.” And his sons, Shimon and Levi, responded, “Would you have our sister be made to be like a harlot?” At first glance, what kind of response is that? Is the inference here that their sister’s being “made to be like a harlot” would have avoided “I will be destroyed, etc.”? (In fact, even according to Torah law this case did not warrant self-sacrifice, which is the difficulty of Ohr HaChayim here.)

This difficulty will be understood by first considering the precise use of the term, “Ha’k’zona – like a harlot”: 1) Why does it say “like a harlot,” with the Kaf ha’dimyon, as opposed to simply “a harlot”? 2) The law is that the relations of an unmarried man with a single woman does not render her a zona (Yevamos 61b). Why then does the Torah employ (albeit with a Kaf ha’dimyon, but still categorizing it as) “ha’k’zona,” harlotry? Rashi, who interprets the literal dimension of the Torah, indeed translates “ha’k’zona” as “hefker,” freely available to all. The Torah’s use of “ha’k’zona,” however, compels us to say that the category of zona is still intended, but at the same time, only with Kaf ha’dimyon.

The explanation is – according to the interpretation of Likkutei Torah (Korach 53c) on the verse, “Do not be led astray after your hearts…asher atem zonim achareihem (which you pursue promiscuously)” – that regarding Jews, who are bound in matrimony to G-d, being “led astray after your hearts” is z’nus, harlotry.

The marriage of the Jewish people with G-d took place at Mattan Torah, but it began much earlier, with Avrohom Avinu, which is alluded to in the saying of our Sages, “two millennia of Torah began in the days of Avrohom” (Avoda Zara 9a). This was Shimon and Levi’s mindset: Dina is “our sister,” and we are the children of Yaakov. Yaakov – being one of the Avos, who are the Chariot of G-d – was constantly connected only to the Alm-ghty. (Footnote 155: See Tanya Ch. 34, beg.: “They did not interrupt even for a single moment connecting their minds and souls to the Master of the universe.”) Indeed, among the Avos, it is Yaakov in particular who is associated with Torah and the concept of yichud, union (see Footnote 156). And Dina is “our sister” [who also must not be engaged in foreign unions]. In this sense, Shimon and Levi were particularly outraged by her abduction, crying out “ha’k’zona?!” – for it resembles the situation whereby a wife is prohibited to her husband, referring to the Alm-ghty and the Jewish people.

This understanding also answers why the children of Yaakov did not seek his counsel as to how to deal with this predicament, etc. [see Rashi to B’Reishis 34:25, “shnei b’nei Yaakov”]: Since this is a case of “ha’k’zona, etc.,” becoming separated from G-d, it touched the essence of their souls, transcending intellect and counsel. Shimon and Levi were thus inspiring to mesiras nefesh, endangering their lives, in a way that transcends reason, to exact vengeance on their sister’s abductors. They did not seek advice as they were in a state of consciousness that transcends reason. (Footnote 157: Regarding why they exacted justice on Sh’chem “b’mirma,” note what is explained in Chassidus on the concept of “your brother came b’mirma and took your blessing.”)

Why of all the Shvatim was it specifically Shimon and Levi who embraced the approach of mesiras nefesh? Shimon and Levi were at the age of bar mitzva at the time of Dina’s abduction, as it says, “and they took … Shimon and Levi – each man, his sword… (B’Reishis 34:25). In fact, it is from here that we derive the age of adulthood, when one is obligated in Mitzvos (and all that is connected with it) for all people and for all generations. (Footnote 159: Rashi (Nazir 29b, end), mefarshei ha’Mishna (Avos Ch. 5, end), “Ben shlosh esrei l’Mitzvos.”)) The story of their self-sacrifice illustrates how the beginning and foundation of one’s avoda (bar mitzva) should be beyond reason.

26. The lesson for us as it applies to our avoda:

The laws of the Torah are divided into many categories: Biblical, Rabbinical, and so on. In Biblical Mitzvos themselves there is a difference between ordinary Mitzvos and the three cardinal Mitzvos, for which one must be killed rather than transgress. However, since the Jewish people are married to G-d, assuming the role of wife to the Alm-ghty, every transgression is a concept of “zonim achareihem,” as above.

This is especially the case regarding prohibitions. An obligation, a Mitzvas Assei, is associated with drawing down light. When one fails to do a Mitzva Assei, the light is missing. A transgression, on the other hand, constitutes nourishing the chitzonim, which is tantamount to z’nus, channeling vitality, etc., to the opposite of holiness. Although it only draws on the chitzonius, superficiality, since “U’chvodi l’acher lo eiten” (Yeshayahu 42:8, and see Rambam Laws of Divorce Ch. 2, end), nevertheless chitzonius is indeed channeled to the dark forces.

Every Mitzva must therefore engage the entirety of the soul, reaching its very core, and we must refrain from every prohibition with mesiras nefesh, without any calculation. (See Tanya Ch. 24 and 25).

It is true that avoda must be done with the intellect, with reason, in order that it should permeate the inner faculties, but avoda must begin with kabbalas ol, transcending reason. If the avoda is initiated with kabbalas ol and mesira nefesh, without calculation, specifically then can avoda done later be according to reason, measured and contained by the laws of Torah.

(From the address of Shabbos Parshas VaYishlach 5725, Sichos Kodesh 5725, Vol. 1, pg. 188-191)

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