I’m not great at math, but even I know that 12-11 leaves one left over. You’ll need to know this when you read this week’s torah portion, Vayishlach. Our math problem is hidden in chapter 32 verse 23, “[Jacob]… taking his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children, he crossed the ford of the Jabbok [river].” At this time in his story, Jacob already had 12 children. His son Benjamin was born later, but Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Dina were traveling with him. 12-11… Who is missing?
Rashi tells us that is is Dina who is absent. Where was she? Rashi explains “[Jacob] had placed her in a chest and locked her in so that Esau should not desire to marry her.” Now just in case you’re thinking Rashi must be crazy – other commentators tell the same story. They explain that is was because of this action that Jacob would later be punished through his daughter. Genesis Rabbah imagines God telling Jacob, “Had you married [Dina] to [Esau] she would not have sinned.”
This midrash reminds me how easy is is to place blame when bad things happen to us and to those we love. Too often we hear that a victim is at fault because their choices put them in harm’s way. Too often we hear that tragedy is the result of someone else’s misdeeds.The greater challenge, the one we must rise to, is to ensure that victims are supported and never blamed. Dina’s story is not her fault, nor is it the result of her father’s actions. We honor her name and her story when we carry this message with us.