Parshat Vayishlach - Dinah and The Torah's stance on Sexual Violence

This week’s Parsha Vayishlach speaks about the rape that happened to Dinah (daughter of Ya’acov Yisrael) when they crossed over the Jordan to Canaan’s land and the other tragic events that unfolded.

This leads us to the question, what does the Tanakh have to say about rape?

Concerning rape, the Torah tells us that Elohim despises the vile crime of rape and considers it synonamous with murder incurring the death penalty: 

“But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her.”  Deuteronomy 22:25-27

Brothers, families and tribes of rape victims were often so traumatized by rape of their loved ones that they took up arms and wiped out entire clans to avenge this evil.

  • When Yaacov’s daughter, Dinah, was violated by the son of a neighboring ruler, Shechem, her brothers murdered him, his father, and all the men of his city in revenge (Gen. 34). 
  • After Tamar was raped by her half-brother, Amnon, her brother Absalom killed him, and incited a rebellion against his father, King David (2 Sam. 13). 

Thus rape traumatizes entire families and communities and can lead to civil unrest and war.

Mass gang rape is one of the most barbaric forms of murder, torture and war crime against women and children and is also written about in the bible as incitement to war and justified vengeance or retaliation.

  • After the unnamed concubine was gang-raped and left for dead by men in the tribe of Benjamin, the other tribes went to war against them upon hearing of her injustice (Jgs. 19-21). 

Thus we see in Torah, the despicable crime of rape was not brushed over or tolerated but rather exposed, confronted and avenged as a form of righteous justice and judgement. 

These judgements guide us today to understand that victims of sexual violence should be heard and all women and children should be protected from sexual violence. 

For those who revere Torah or Biblical principles, there should never be a conflict between political views and one’s stance against rape.  Rape is morally wrong and should always be condemned without regards to race, religion, nationality, tribe or political affiliation.

It took United Nations Women 7 weeks to condemn the sexual violence against Israeli women by the terrorist group Hamas on October 7th which is shameful and unnactable.  Let’s stand together with one voice without bias to make war crimes against women in Israel, Sudan, Congo, Ethopia, Ukraine and all over the world be heard, condemned and prosecuted to the full extent of the law and prayerfully help eliminate this vile and cowardly practice forever.

As a descendant of the lost tribes of Israel of the Americas this topic resonates with me because my ancestors experienced 400 years of torture and sexual violence along with all the other atrocities.  It was interesting to find in the study of this topic that the women who survived the slave trade and were rescued by Union soldiers after the Civil War were called by the name of ‘Dinah.’  (Ref.

In close, at every opportunity:

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31.8-9

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