Dinah: the original feminine mystique

I'll just be honest: I wouldn't kick that guy's shoes
out from under my bed. 
So last week, in DIG #7 (Trust No One), toward the end, the breastplate of stones is lit up by fire and illuminated on the cave ceiling we saw the stones projecting written Hebrew. I just so happen to have contacts who read and speak fluent Hebrew, and so I can tell you that the names illuminated on the ceiling were: Simeon (or Shimon), Levi (or Levy), and the last one, the one that crazy Rabbi Lev breathes out? Dinah. (There are various spellings; I prefer Dinah, so I'm staying with that, but the pronunciation is: DEEN-ah). In fact, I culled my sources from an extensive variety of places on the Internet, but then I was all: but what were the Hebrew words on the cave ceiling?! and so I got on the phone and called friend Ellen, who is my go-to Israel/Judaism/Hebrew expert. (No, seriously. AND she gives me health advice...that I promptly ignore because I never follow directions when it comes to health advice.) Her husband is a Rabbi, and so I got some first-hand Dinah information from him, too. Thank you, thank you!

So let's talk about Dinah, because I'm feeling the color red all around her.

Years ago, I read a really excellent book that was eventually turned into a Lifetime movie called THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant. It was a fictionalized version of Dinah's story. There's some controversy around it; some people are upset because they think it takes too much license with the Biblical story of Dinah. And that, also, there's no historical evidence ancient Israelite women had specialized tents they disappeared into when they gave birth or were on their ladies' days.

There are, however, actually two interpretations of Dinah's story and one is that she wasn't raped. (And here I'll just be upfront and let you know: I'm on Team Consenting Adults.) 

If you've been exposed to the Bible and/or Diamant's book, you probably already know who Dinah was. But let me tell you more about her, according to Biblical scholars:

The name Dinah means "Judgement." Dinah was born to Jacob and Leah, and she was the sister of the patriarchs of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Her story can be found in Genesis Chapter 34. But lots of stories about Dinah can also be found in the Midrash, a sort of ancient commentary on the Torah that analyzes and fills in story gaps; it's been around since the 2nd century AD, though the content it discusses is much, much older. 

According to parts of the Midrash, Dinah was actually destined to be Jacob's 11th son (Joseph), but Leah didn't want that. Rachel, Leah's sister, was also married to Jacob, and had only had one son, while Leah had already had six. So Leah begged God to make her fetus a girl, and God did. Forever after (some say), Dinah may have felt, in her soul, that she was a male and was very similar in nature to her brother Joseph (he of the amazing technicolor dreamcoat, tricked and sold into slavery by his conniving brothers). She was very forward and assertive for a woman of her time. 

She's also the only daughter of Jacob mentioned in the book of Genesis. According to the Midrash, it was highly unlikely that Jacob had no other daughters, and it suggests that each of Jacob's 12 sons were born with a female twin, who they would marry if Canaanites became forbidden (more on the Canaanites in a minute). 

Another Midrash tale is that Dinah had a child named Osnat from her dalliance with Shechem (more on him in a minute). Osnat was a daughter, and Dinah's family hated Osnat so much they banished her to Egypt either with the angel Gabriel or Dinah took her. Osnat was taken in by Pharaoh's wife, and ended up marrying (get this!) Dinah's brother Joseph.  Which kept it aaaallll in the family, just like the Jacobites seem to have liked it.

At the end (in the Midrash), Dinah ended up marrying Job (he upon whom God played a really unfair game with Satan) and had 10 children with him. (In other texts she ends up married to other men--one of them, her brother Simeon. Ew, gross! But then, that's modern day taboo for you...times were different in ancient BCE.) (Also they got to live to, like, 167 years old and stuff. Those ancient people must have had some kick ass health care insurance.)

The symbolic story behind Dinah is about the ancient Israelites trying to establish ties and social boundaries with outsiders (aka the Canaanites): her story is essentially about marriage, and back then (and it can be today if you choose well) marriage was about mutual respect, bonding (giving and taking), and being cooperative with outsiders (those not of your tribe).

The area the story of Dinah takes place in was called Shechem. Shechem was a Canaanite city, and the first capital of the Kingdom of Israel. Today, Shechem would be part of the West Bank, where the city of Nablus is (about 49 km/30 miles north of Jerusalem). It was one of the oldest settlements in Canaan, and it's first referenced in Genesis when Abraham goes there and builds an altar near a tree to offer God sacrifices. Later, Abraham's grandson Jacob (Dinah's dad) camps out near Shechem and also builds an altar there. This is where shit gets real and hits the fan all at once because, ultimately, Dinah's story is about uniting the land of Israel--making it whole--and to do that, the Jacobites needed to mix in with the Canaanites, and there begins the rising action, the conflict, in Dinah's story arc.

Shechem, in Dinah's time, was the center of a movement, a blending of many different languages, customs, beliefs--diversity abounded there. All of these different traditions eventually merged to become Israel. And Dinah was an assertive, progressive, open-minded woman; she WANTED to socialize and get to know people who were different from her.

The important thing to know about Dinah is that she was accepting of others' differences and those considered to be "outsiders." One day, a Canaanite prince named Shechem (yes, same name as his town) decided he was in love with Dinah and wanted her. This is where the differing versions of what happened begin:

Version #1, and the accepted Biblical tale: 

Shechem raped Dinah. Afterwards, he asked to marry her. But Dinah's brothers were pretty pissed, particularly Simeon and Levi, and they wanted revenge. So they told Shechem he could have Dinah, but only after he and all the men in Shechem were properly circumcised ***(I actually have a personal circumcision story to share, but I'll do it at the end of this article so you can skip it if you'd prefer--I know it's a controversial topic for some.)*** 

Shechem and his men consented to the circumcisions, and while they were recovering in pain (because seriously: OUCH), on the 3rd day (the day the recovery pain just so happens to be at its worst), Simeon and Levi and their other brothers ambushed and slew all the men of Shechem--every single one of them. (BAD FORM, SIMEON AND LEVI! You can't cut a man when he's down after being...cut. Bad. Form.) 

This made coexistence between Jacob's tribe (Israel) and the Shechemites (Canaan) virtually impossible. So there goes those peace accords.

Version #2, the Feminine Mystique tale:

Version #2, according to my Judaism expert, is the only story according to Judaism. And that's good, because it's the more awesome version as far as I'm concerned (and the team I'd root for). This is the version that says Dinah had consensual sex with Shechem. 

Dinah was actually a midwife. So in one version of this tale, Dinah goes outside to gather herbs for her midwifery stuff. She runs into Shechem, a local Canaanite prince, who hits on her and convinces her he's in love with her and would she please come back to his place and oh, I don't know....marry him? 

In another version of the story I found, she goes on a walkabout because she's curious about the Shechemites/Canaanites--she wanted to know about their festivals and celebrations, culture and food, and so she left her tent to see what was going on in town. While there, she ran into Shechem, who became instantly so smitten by her he asked to sleep with her. Being a woman who was self-confident and open, she said...Okay. 

And they did.

Here's what you should know (real quick) about sex in ancient times: there were two kinds. There was regular sex and prostitution sex. Sex in ancient times created bonding, a sense of obligation, a feeling of unity. There would have been a sort of "married" feel to what Dinah chose to do with Shechem. But prostitution sex was far different; that was for money, which made it dirty, which meant nice girls didn't do it.

So when Dinah chose to have sexual intercourse with Shechem, to lie with him, this version of Dinah's story insists the act was really the ultimate form of acceptance, of bonding with the outsiders, The Others. Afterwards, Hamor (Shechem's dad) goes to talk to Jacob about Shechem marrying his daughter--and this is where the symbolic give/take part of joining the Jacobites and the Canaanites together to create Israel comes into play: give your daughter Dinah to my son Shechem, and we will share our land. (Something sort of like that, I think.) 

However, just like in Version #1, Dinah's brothers Simeon and Levi are PISSED. Upon finding out what Dinah and Shechem have done, they cry out, "Should our sister be treated like a whore?" (In modern times, our USA version of this would have probably have been like The Jerry Springer Show.)

In Version #2, what Simeon and Levy were actually mad about was the bonding/uniting of the two tribes, because the last thing Simeon/Levi wanted was to intermarry with the Canaanites. (They had sister wives waiting for them, remember? Who needs Canaanites?)

So when Jacob hears about Dinah and Shechem's sweet sweet lovemaking, at first he's very quiet (maybe humming: "Is this the little girl I carried?..." because if I made this scene into a movie, I'd put Sunrise, Sunset in as background music for this bit. But I digress)...but then he negotiates for Dinah to marry Shechem. The assertion of Team Consensual Sex is that this negotiation stuff also happened in Story Version #1, because Hamor (Shechem's dad) also tries to get Dinah and Shechem married off. Scholars claim that, if what happened to Dinah had truly been rape, that wouldn't have happened--Jacob would have been obligated to protect his daughter and all his other women and seek justice; in fact, he curses Simeon and Levy for seeking justice. 

So really, the shame aspect of Version #2 is that Dinah was unmarried. Shechem wanted to marry her/make an honest woman out of her, but there was the Simeon/Levi Problem--two beefy dudes who were just not going to let this go. Premarital sex would have been a violation of the Jacobites' social group norms, but something that could have been dealt with via the act of marriage. So the actual tension in the situation was just that Simeon and Levi simply didn't want to intermix with the Canaanites. Simeon and Levy end up killing Shechem and friends and family (and raping/pillaging the town while they're at it...in addition, Dinah has to find her beloved's slain corpse knowing it was done at the hands of her own brothers), thus making it virtually impossible for the Jacobites and Canaanites to peacefully coexist and become one united nation and people.

Okay. Let's talk about Simeon and Levy--want to? Because seriously. What a couple of frickin' knobs, right? 

Simeon was the 2nd son of Leah and Jacob. His name means, essentially, "God has heard my suffering," and Leah named him that because Jacob preferred her sister Rachel over her. 

In the Midrash, it's Simeon who convinces Hamor and Shechem to have all the Canaanite men circumcised, and he also ends up slaying all the men himself (and kidnapping 100 Canaanite women at the same time). More traditional sources say he while he was physically strong, he was also a very envious fellow, particularly toward his brother Joseph. After he and Levi kill Shechem and his people, Jacob punishes Simeon because he's placed their family in such danger. When Jacob dies, in his final blessing to Simeon, he condemns Simeon's descendants to become divided and scattered (that's horrible blessing, by the way, and there's a name for it: The Blessing of Jacob...which is actually a poem in Genesis 49: 1-27).

Simeon had six children: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Saul, Jachin, and Zohar. When the Canaanites were overthrown by Joshua, the children of the Tribe of Simeon were given a part of the land in the area known as Judah. The Tribe of Simeon really dwindled in numbers, in the end. If they're out there still, they're like the Sumatran Tigers of all the 12 Tribes...nearly extinct.

Levi was really interesting to me as I researched this: he was the 3rd son of Leah and Jacob. His name means "to join," but most scholars suspect it actually just means "priest," referring to people who were joined to the Ark of the Covenant. While Simeon was very strong and envious, Levi was very pious but had tremendous impulse control. When Jacob blessed Levi, he also condemned Levi's descendants to become divided and scattered. 

Levi fathered three sons--Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Kohath later had a son named Amram, who married Jochebed, and they were the parents of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. (There's some confusion and differing interpretations of who Jochebed was, but the important thing, I think is that Moses, Aaron, and Miriam were all descendants of Levi.) 

The important thing about Levi (in terms of the show DIG), I think is that Levi supposedly had 2 visions: one in which he saw seven heavens, the Messiah, and Judgement Day. Levi's second vision was one that showed him seven angels bringing him priesthood, prophecy, and judgement. In that vision, the angels anointed Levi, making him a priest and telling him about his descendant Moses. In other words, Levi (a priest) is connected to the Messiah AND the Ark of the Covenant.

When Joshua divided up Israel amongst the Levites, they were given 42 cities located throughout the lands of the other 11 Tribes of Israel, but were given no land because God Himself was their inheritance. In these cities, the Levites were always the spiritual teachers. If you accidentally caused someone's death? You wanted to run to the nearest Levite city you could possibly get to. 

They were and are a tribe that was supposed to represent peace and harmony, and they were given the command to guard the Ark of the Covenant from defilement and destruction. Aaron, a descendant of Levi, was Israel's first high priest, and so the Levites essentially became a priestly class and their descendants were comprised of family dynasties integrated into Jewish societies. 

So that's Simeon and Levi. 

WAIT!! Before I go, can I tell you about Jacob, whose name God eventually changed to Israel? Because he was sort of knob, too--apples don't fall far from trees.

Jacob was the son of Rebekah and Isaac, and the grandson of Abraham. God established his covenant with Abraham, and blessed all of his descendants (including Jacob, and the 12 Tribes of Israel). Jacob was the younger of twins, and was born holding onto his brother Esau's heel. Jacob's name means "he grasps" or "he deceives." In fact, he really did! Jacob was a master liar, manipulator, and a schemer. He took advantage of Isaac's old age and blindness and cheated his big brother Esau out of his birthright and blessing, with the help of his mother Rebekah. 

Jacob struggled his whole life: with his father, with his brother, with his faith, and with his God. In fact, when God renamed him Israel, God did it because Israel means "struggles with God." As he aged, Jacob mellowed and relied on God more and more and started being nicer. But the night Jacob became "Israel," he had an all-out wrestling match with God (actually one of God's archangels) in which the Lord broke Jacob's hip to remind him just Who was actually in charge. (Honestly. Who the hell gets into a wrestling match with an all-powerful, Omnipresent deity and one of that deity's supernatural bodyguards?? Crazy people, THAT'S who). For the rest of his life, Jacob was called Israel, and he walked with a limp to remind him: Who's your daddy? GOD'S your daddy. 

And, eventually, Jacob learned to let go and let God. 

Jacob's claim to fame (besides literally being Israel and fathering the 12 Tribes) was that he had a vision in which God showed him the future: Jews would establish their own nation, then be scattered to the ends of the Earth, but they would all one day return to their homeland. Which actually did come true, the end.

Okay. That's pretty much it. Except listen: I searched high and low for information on Dinah's Sisters, and all I got were results leading back to Episode 8 of DIG. I think the point about this is...Dinah was officially the only daughter of Jacob, but she HAD to have had sisters. And Jacob was Israel. And he had two sons who screwed harmony and unity up for the Jacobites and the Canaanites. And later, the descendants of one of those sons became the priestly class, commanded to always take care of God's Holy Home, the Temple Mount. 

I think it's also interesting that the show has two Rabbis--Shimon and Lev. Brothers? I dunno know. But let's keep watching and see! And also, let's start a massive letter writing campaign demanding more Seasons of DIG so a girl named Amy in Atlanta, Georgia doesn't go stir crazy with nothing to research. Okay?

***Okay! Now, for those who are interested--do you want to hear my personal circumcision story? If no, get out of here! I'm about to tell a pee pee story. If yes, read on:

So my mom struggled with whether or not to circumcise my little brother after he was born. Finally, when he was about 2-3 months old, she decided to pull the trigger. Or cut the skin. Whatever. So I was about 3 and I remember this, to this day, THAT'S how big a scream my baby brother let out when the doctor did it. Right before, I remember my mom asking: "Will this hurt him?" And the 1975 doctor going, "No. He's too young; he won't feel or remember a thing." And then that blood curdling scream.

About 4 years later, one night, my mom had just finished giving my brother a bath. Afterwards, she sat him naked on the closed toilet and went to get her little cuticle scissors to cut his toenails. When she came back into the bathroom, he took one look at the little scissors, put his hands over his little penis and cried, "No, mommy, NO!!" 

(FYI: Please, please, PLEASE do not start a war in my blog's comments section. I promise I'm not advocating for or against this practice; I'm just telling you a ridiculously cute personal family story. Also, I'm embarrassing my brother in public just like he used to do to me when we were teenagers...win-win!) 

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