In the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Ya’akov faced a rough decision. He sent messengers to his brother Eisav, who was approaching with 400 soldiers. Ya’akov was afraid that Eisav still held it against him for having taken the bracha from their father Yitzchak that Eisav felt was meant for him. So, Ya’akov commanded his messengers to say the following to Eisav, “I lived with Lavan – an evil person – yet I still managed to keep all 613 mitzvos and I did not learn from his evil actions.” What purpose did Ya’akov have in telling Eisav that he kept all of the mitzvos in the house of Lavan? Do you think that Eisav really cared whether or not Ya’akov performed mitzvos? Other than the Mitzva of honoring his father, Eisav was the furthest thing from mitzvos!
A bit further in the Parsha, the Torah teaches us that the night before his meeting with Eisav, Ya’akov took his family across the Ya’abok Stream. The Torah tells us that Ya’akov took with him his wives and eleven children. Rashi notes that Ya’akov had twelve children! Who was missing? Rashi explains that Ya’akov hid Dina in a chest so that Eisav would not see her and desire to marry her. She was the missing child in the meeting with Eisav.
Rashi continues that because Ya’akov hid Dina from Eisav, he was punished and later in this Parsha she was captured and raped by Shechem. The reason that Ya’akov was punished was because Dina might have been able to cause Eisav to repent of his evil ways. By withholding Dina from Eisav, Ya’akov was preventing his brother from repenting.
If we think about Rashi’s explanation, it is a difficult concept to comprehend. Dina was only eight years old at the time. Eisav was about 98 years old. Eisav was a murderer, adulterer and idolator. Why was Ya’akov wrong for keeping Dina away from Eisav?
Imagine if somebody said to you, “I know a wonderful boy for your daughter. He is wise, outgoing, has a personality and comes from so much Yichus. There is just one small point which shouldn’t make much of a difference. He spent some time in jail for 2nd degree murder and cheated on his 1st wife.” I am sure most people would respond, “Wonderful! Let’s pursue this shidduch!” I don’t think so. A parent is permitted – not only permitted, but - obligated to protect his child. So, why was Ya’akov wrong to protect Dina from Eisav?
The Rabbis feel that Ya’akov’s attitude should have been different. True, Eisav was a murderer, adulterer and idolator. But, he still came from the same house as Ya’akov. He still had two righteous parents - Yitzchak and Rivka. He was an expert in the Mitzva of honoring his father. He still remembered his grandfather Avraham because he was 15 when Avraham passed away. His situation was not hopeless.
Dina had the potential to help Eisav. She could have shed some light on his dark world. The Rabbis felt that Ya’akov prevented that potential from ever materializing. One never knows what can spark a person to return to Judaism.
Perhaps that was Ya’akov’s thinking when he sent word to Eisav that he kept all 613 mitzvos despite living in the house of Lavan. Ya’akov was telling Eisav, “Look, my dear brother, despite having grown up in the shadows of two righteous and holy people – our parents – you drifted away from their lifestyle. Some force got to you. I know that somehow you fell into a life of crime – a life filled with murder, robbery and immorality. I also was in a situation where I could have been pulled down. I lived in the house of Lavan – who is as wicked and conniving as they come. Yet, the pursuit of Torah and Mitzvos protected me and kept me on the straight and narrow path. The Torah overpowers evil. You too, Eisav, can turn around for the better. Bring some Torah and mitzvos into your life. The Torah will help you realize that Lavan’s way of life and your way of life will sink you and doom you for eternity, while following in the ways of G-d will guarantee you eternity.” When it comes to the power of Torah, it is always better late than never.