Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Genesis: Chapter 34
possession turns violent
and speech murderous
(For the full chapter, click here
Jacob and Esau parted in peace, and Jacob arrived "whole" [shelem] in Shechem. But the closure proves illusory. History continues to reverberate in endless echoes. As in the last chapter, we open with a focus on seeing. Like Jacob, Dina goes out to see. Instead she is seen, and the gaze turns into violent possession. The rape and kidnapping and Dina seems a direct continuation of the equivalence drawn between women and property in the previous chapters, which only gains force here [the leitworts are "take" and "give"]. The theft of Dina has disturbing verbal parallels with Jacob's theft of the blessing.Like Jacob, Shechem takes [lakakh]; like Jacob, he seeks to be motzeh hen, to find favor; like Jacob, he attempts reparation through gifts.
The possibility of redemption hinted by Shechem falling in love to with Dina and speaking "to her heart"; by becoming "soul-tied" (va-tidbak nafsho); and even by the verbal merging of Shechem and Dina in the term naar, youth,comes to naught.
Is the persuasion just another form of coercion?
The possibility of extinction that has haunted Jacob is here turned on the city of Shechem--and Jacob continues to fear for the destruction of his house)