The Silence of a Father; The Voice of a Daughter
I struggled mightily with this post. The women of Torah who are raped and abused never speak. and when I read about women whose voices are absent, I like to try to give them a voice, if only for a few moments.
In Parshat Vayishlach, we get an introduction to Jacob's only daughter, Dinah. Dinah and her family, recently arrived in their new home and Dinah went out to interact with the other young women in the area. She left the tent unattended, and on her expedition she was accosted and raped by a young man. The young man subsequently falls in love with Dinah and wishes to marry her. His father approaches Dinah's brothers who devise a scheme to put all of the men of the town in a vulnerable position and they then go do a revenge killing by slaughtering the males of the town, including the young rapist/suitor and his family.
This poem reviews just one small corner of the Parsha. After Jacob is informed of the rape of his daughter, the following sentence is written:
Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah; but since his sons were in the field with his cattle, Jacob kept silent until they came home. Genesis 34:5
Jacob did not cry out, he did not protest, he did not weep; he sat silently and waited.
As we learn when we study Breisheet, Jacob had favorite wives and probably had favorite children. Dinah was not only merely the child of Leah, the wife not favored, but she was a female child and so held a different status. Not only did Jacob not react to his daughter's rape, he was angry with the response of Dinah's brothers violent response to the event. His eventual response to his sons spoke not about his daughter, but about his own embarrassment at his son's behavior.
This series of poems attempts to convey the silence of the moment in an imagined meeting of Jacob and Dinah.
Parshat Vayishlach is about rape and violence. I cannot put myself in Dinah's spot, but I have chosen to give her courage and vision and a voice on this page, for don't the violated deserve a voice?
The Silence of a Father: The Voice of a Daughter
1. There is
A time for silence and a time for speaking;
A time for loving and a time for hating; A time for war and a time for peace.
2. THE SILENCE AFTER THE RAPE
Following the rape of the daughter
the silence of the father
echoes through the empty home.
We sit dumbfounded
and wait for a response;
A father's angry cry that pierces
but the air is filled with
If only one word had escaped
a word of comfort,
we could uncover what lies beneath
the heavy mantle of silence.
crosses his arms over his chest;
through the doorway
tapping his foot,
His silence fills the room.
As he continues to stare,
it is up to us fill in the gaps
for his daughter no longer
She sits silently.
3. Dinah Reflects Inwardly
"Where is your voice, my father?
“If we are defined by our words
then how much more so are we defined by our silences?"
4. Dinah's Voice
כְּשֽׁוֹשַׁנָּה֙ בֵּ֣ין הַחוֹחִ֔ים
I am like a lily among thorns.*
I am the daughter of my mother,
who sees the world differently.
My grandmother and great grandmother
found their own paths.
We can see the world beyond the tent and ache
to touch it,
to breathe it in.
I am a girl,
beloved my mother,
watched over by my brothers
and like my young uncle,
I am also a dreamer.
Hear my voice in the silence of the room.
It is bruised and cracked,
like my lips,
but it is not broken.
I am more than a rape.
I am better than the object of violence.
I am greater than seduction.
My name is Dinah,
Do not judge me.
Above all, do not pity me
for, like my mother,
I am a survivor.
Within the stillness of the room,
it is not my father’s voice you hear,
but if you listen carefully
you will hear the sound
of a daughter rising
and leaving the room.
וְיַעֲקֹ֣ב שָׁמַ֗ע כִּ֤י טִמֵּא֙ אֶת־דִּינָ֣ה בִתּ֔וֹ וּבָנָ֛יו הָי֥וּ אֶת־מִקְנֵ֖הוּ בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וְהֶחֱרִ֥שׁ יַעֲקֹ֖ב עַד־בֹּאָֽם׃
Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah; but since his sons were in the field with his cattle, Jacob kept silent until they came home.
Translation from Sefaria
Here are some podcasts I listened to in order to prepare for this poem:
Once again, Women Talk Torah, for an amazing way to view Jacob and his many children as well as the rape of Dinah.
I was curious about the comparison of Aaron’s silence following the death of his sons and Jacob’s silence upon hearing about the rape of Dinah.