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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sanitized Parsha Retelling

Question on my 5-year-old's Parsha sheets this shabbos:
Why did Dinah's brothers kill Shechem?
Answer:
Because he wanted to get married to Dinah even though she didn't want to.
I guess that's one way to look at it.

46 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

to be fair, that is what transpired, after a fashion. this is really more about omission than an outright lie.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right. It would have been much better if the kindergarten's Parsha sheets read: "Because Shechem sexually abused their sister. And by sexual abuse I mean rape. And by rape I mean he took her against her will, and forced her to have sex with him. And by sex I mean..." well, you get the idea. Yeah, that's what I want my 5-year old learning, too.

10:21 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

LOL. Honestly, I don't even remember how I learned the story at that age. Probably the same way my kids do. It's just funny to hear a 5-year-old reciting the sanitized version.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets see how they cover Tamar/Yehudah in next week's Parsha. I just remember in 3th grade skipping it, and our teacher telling us thats its just another boring chapter with names...

10:34 AM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

When I was young, I knew rape was a horrible, horrible crime despite the fact that I had no idea what intercourse was.

I'm not sure I need a 5 year old class discussion about violent crimes, but I think it could be a disservice to water down the discussion of the parsha to what was presented.

While I have yet to have to explain any (another aspect about the parsha) and molestation (a watered down, but more poignant version of what happened) would be appropriate and would get the point accross less graphically.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over Shabbos I heard the followings story:

A rabbi's wife was a teacher in an elementary school where the students were taught that "vayishkav" means to "move in to a new house together" so that Shechem and Dinah moved into a new house together. But then when Yaacov rested his head on 12 stones on Har HaMoriah and the pasuk uses the language of "vayishkav" they asked "Did Yaacov move in to a new house with twelve stones!?!"

11:14 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Sephardilady, I agree. I don't think they would have had to get overly graphic if they would have described as something that wasn't as pareve as "marriage". It would have been fine to have just said that Shechem hurt Dinah, or something along those lines. I guess in the Rebbe's mind, "marriage" was the best way to describe "sex", but really, the rape was more about the violence of the act than the sex, IMHO. Editing that part out makes the story blurry, and hard to understand.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My grandson learned the Tamar/yehudah story translated accurately in the 3rd grade.It went
completely over his head.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember we skipped it in third grade, too--and, of course, most of us ran home to look it up in a translated chumash. No one got why we skipped it, as the whole thing went right over our heads.

We also skipped all of Parshat B'reishit. We started in first grade with Lech L'cha. Looking back, I don't really know why. I think six-year-olds would have a lot fewer problems with B'reishit than we did in high school, when we got back to it.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

i think with us they skipped both too. (and i know they skipped shoftim perek 12; as well as several of the sections of the story of shimshon; as well as the whole parshas balak thing with the immorality issue, they just said it was idolworship; plus the icky details of king achashverosh's chosing ester; and why his previous queen died.[ i hear that when the rebbetzin, who likes blood and gore, encountered some of these in the women's classes she was actualy shaking because it was the first time she'd seen it because they'd glossed over it in school])

1:28 PM  
Blogger MDmom said...

i learned that rahav, isha zona of the two hidden spies fame, was a donut maker -- as if zona was the feminine root word of "mazon..." it was not until seminary in the middle of a neviim class on yehoshua that that explanation came back to me, and i burst out loud laughing in insane hysterical laughter... and once i caught my breath i had to explain to my teacher and the class just what was so funny!

4:24 PM  
Blogger chuck said...

I looked it up, it says 'vaykach otah (he took her) vayishkav otah (he rested with her) vayanah - whicj was always translated as tortured

I'm not sure what the big deal is
tell the kids shechem KIDNAPPED dinah, put her in his house and when she didn't wanna stay for cookies, tortured her.

Then ask them what they would do if a bad man, chas v'sholom, kidnapped and tortured, a sibling
what would they do? would they be angry? etc..

4:31 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

1. I once spent Shabbas Vayyishlach with a friend of mine, who is the Rov of a Schul. Before the leyning, he gave a summary of the story to his kehillo, and said: "And in the fifth `aliya, we read about how Shechem shamed Dinah" (or disgraced, or something like that).

Afterwards, I said to him: "So, did you choose your language to make sure that no one under 12 years of age would have any idea what you were talking about?"

He said: "Oh, I think most of the adults didn't figure it out, either." (His community is not terribly educated.)

4:44 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

In any event, in this story, at least it's not a lie to say that Shechem wanted to marry Dinah; he really did.

(As opposed to in some other stories; if you said that Potiphar's wife wanted to marry Joseph, that would be, uh, awkward....)

4:45 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Mar Gavriel said...

In any event, in this story, at least it's not a lie to say that Shechem wanted to marry Dinah; he really did.


Agreed. But as I said, if they would at least have explained that a violent act predated his desire for matrimony, maybe the kids would actually understand the story a little bit better.

7:14 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

In a perfect world, yeshiva kids would, lulei demistafina, learn about sex at a much younger age, with a Torah perspective.

I was surprised, yet pleased, to overhear a class on Shabbos given to a group of sixth graders where the rebbe used the term "had sex with" rather than "lived with" in reference to Yehudah and Tamar.

I actually asked my mother at age seven or so what "rape" meant after hearing the word on the car radio. She told me it means to attack a woman. That works.

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It all works until the kid starts reading Rashi. If your kid doesn't know about sex, how do you explain anal sex.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

that a violent act predated his desire for matrimony

But how violent was the act? The text really is vague about the act, so that we can't tell whether "vayyiqach" means "he grabbed her" (implying rape) or "he took her home" (which could mean consensual sex).

I'm not saying that we blame Dinah, and say that "women should just stay imprisoned at home", chas ve-sholem. I'm just saying that the Biblical text leaves open a number of possibilities, and some of them might be more appropriate for five-year-olds than others.

The important thing, though, is that as soon as the kids are old enough to understand (the age can vary with the kid), we teach them the fuller picture. Otherwise, the kids will walk around for the rest of their lives with a five-year-old's understanding of the Bible.

(Sort of like all the adults I meet who think that Ahashvêrôsh had a "beauty contest" to find his new consort. Yes, the text theoreticaly allows this possibility, and it is appropriate for five-year-olds, but it seems to me that peshat is that Ahashvêrôsh tried out sleeping with each of the women, until he decided that Esther was most fun. Oh, and this is how the Gemoro, in Masseches Meghillo, understands the story, as well.)

7:52 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

I was surprised, yet pleased, to overhear a class on Shabbos given to a group of sixth graders where the rebbe used the term "had sex with" rather than "lived with" in reference to Yehudah and Tamar.

I agree. I think 6th graders can handle the term "had relations with".

Mar gavriel:

I hear you, though I think using a watered-down version of the interpretation that we adults generally accept (that she was raped) would make sense. I would be comfortable with the kids being taught, at the least, that she was kidnapped by Shechem, as Chuck suggested above.

8:05 PM  
Anonymous curly said...

In my Bais Yaakov elementary we always learned that Shechem kidnapped dina. That being said, we learned about Yehuda and Tamar in fourth grade (I knew about sex but it still went over my head), the parsha of Isha sota in sixth grade, and other related things through the years. The key was in only using the Hebrew terms to describe things, and never, ever translating them.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Anonymous the Cat said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

I would be comfortable with the kids being taught, at the least, that she was kidnapped by Shechem, as Chuck suggested above.

I guess that works. But it depends on the maturity of the kids-- do we really need to frighten the heck out of them?

(I don't have kids, so I'm not exacly sure what five-year-olds can handle, but I imagine that there are some five-year-olds who shouldn't need to hear about kidnapping. Of course, if it turns into a lesson about don't ever go home with strangers, it could be beneficial. I guess.)

8:13 PM  
Blogger AnonyOne said...

I didn't even know the story of Tamar and Yehuda until high school, because we must've skipped it entirely in elemetary school. I was so confused that there was a "parsha incident" that I never heard of. :)

9:00 PM  
Blogger MDmom said...

we learned that dina had been kidnapped by shechem and in the ensuing rescue by her brothers, they killed him. that made sense to us and i don't remember anyone questioning it. but we were a bit older than 5 (third grade, i think?). granted, we were more innocent then as third graders than third graders are now, but i don't believe a 5-year-old needs to know more than the "marriage" explanation. especially if they are not questioning the explanation as given to them. within the context of a "stranger danger" lesson *might* be ok, but then do they need to make a connection to a spectacular rescue scenario which leads to a violent end? this is still pre-school.

1:50 AM  
Blogger Pragmatician said...

We were just taught thay she was kidnapped.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whether rachav was a "zona" in the sense of a prostitute or the keeper of a hostel is a matter of dispute amongst the commentaries on yehoshua. It is not accurate to say that the obvious peshat is that she was a prostitute.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Kidnapped works for a different reason as well - since the halacha assumes a chazaka of rape during kidnapping.

Regardless, in my kids' yeshiva, they started learning about sex at an early age.

9:40 AM  
Blogger gabe said...

The following conversation took place between me and my son:

Son-Daddy, was it wrong for Shchem to try to marry Dina?
Me-yes
Son-Then Shimon and Levi were right, in what they did, so why didn't Ya'akov include them in the brochos?
Me-Wow, good question, I'll have to look it up, maybe even ask the Rav.
Pretty good question for a six year old. What blew me away was that he recalled what he learned about 'Birchas Yaakov' The previous year, and now when Shimon and Levi were presented as heros, it didn't compute with what he recalled from the previous year, when they were presented as, well, not such great heros.

My son has a temper, so the answer I gave him was that although they were justified in what they did, Yaakov's problem was that they reacted in anger, and one should never act out of anger. It was as if I was presented with the perfect opportunity to drive home a lesson.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

that although they were justified in what they did

Justified in what they did? Can't you teach your son that just because his friend Bobbie does something wrong, he doesn't have the right to kill Bobbie? And that if he does kill Bobbie, you won't give him berokhos?

10:38 AM  
Blogger gabe said...

I'd rather teach him that halachically a gentile that violates a bas yisroel is chayav misa, and that today we are in galus, and therefore it is in fact assur to do so, however at that time the punishment was justified, and that had Shimon and Levi meted out the punishment according to the dictates of halacha they would have been deserving of Brochos.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

I keep coming back because I am very bothered by the explaination that Shechem was killed because "he wanted to get married to Dinah even though she didn't want to."

A punishment must fit the crime, and without actually presenting a crime (even a watered down version of the actual crime), Shimon and Levi come off looking pretty bad.

And, since nobody would dare let their 5 year old wander the neighborhood themselves (which used to be common place, even in big cities), I have to imagine that parents have already explained that there are terrible people out there.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Tam said...

Hm. If I remember correctly, in grade school we learned that Dinah was raped, without going into detail. We skipped Yehudah and Tamar (4th grade) and as far as Rahav (2nd grade), we learned that although she might have been a prostitute, she was probably a fruit-seller.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Just Passing Through said...

My wife was recently reading to me from one of these children parsha book about the story of Yehuda and Tamar. He first asked her if she was Jewish because he wanted to marry her (you obviously can't marry someone who's not Jewish). When she replied she was was, He ashed her to marry her. She responded that if you want to marry me, you need to give me a present....the rest is history.

3:25 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

I'm not saying that we blame Dinah, and say that "women should just stay imprisoned at home",

Actually, we blame Yaakov

http://dovbear.blogspot.com/2005/12/boxed-in.html

I'd rather teach him that halachically a gentile that violates a bas yisroel is chayav misa, and that today we are in galus, and therefore it is in fact assur to do so, however at that time the punishment was justified, and that had Shimon and Levi meted out the punishment according to the dictates of halacha they would have been deserving of Brochos

Ugh. You're not one of those who thinks S and L were yeshiva boys, are you? They were passed over for the rights of the first born after their older brother Reuven was disqualified because what they did in Shchem was WRONG. No two ways about it....

5:48 PM  
Blogger Cardash Curse said...

I can't believe that you people are making this translation into an issue. The kids are FIVE YEARS OLD for g-d's sake. Do you feel the need to explain to your five year old what exactly in precise detail happened? I sure don't.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Halfnutcase said...

but we can't give them an entirely missleading explanation either. that's just as bad as lying

6:51 PM  
Blogger gabe said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:22 PM  
Blogger gabe said...

'Ugh. You're not one of those who thinks S and L were yeshiva boys, are you?'

No, I consider my self 'one of those' whom it is beneath to debate with someone who cannot start off thier commments with anything more civil than UGH.

10:26 PM  
Blogger Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

Without getting very detailed, I think that explaining that Shechem hurt Dinah makes more sense than 'he wanted to get married'.

I have a terrible image of little kids panicking that every time a shidduch doesn't work out, their uncle or big brother may be murdered by a band of upset relatives.

It also creates a base for explaining details later, when they're ready to understand.

12:07 AM  
Anonymous Essie said...

I think that 8 yr olds can be taught using the words "marital relations" without knowing exactly what sex is. All kids kinda start to figure out that something goes on between married people.

10:17 AM  
Blogger YMedad said...

I'm here now in England for the Limmud Conference and, asked to do a Friday night Parshat HaShavua talk, I realized that this week's parsha is a bit over-the-top with matters that you find uneasy with discussing in mixed company, well, in mixed company you don't know. So, I've decided to refer to Potiphar's missus as The First Desperate Wife.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous SephardiLady said...

We need an update for this Shabbat's parsha, Orthomom. What did the parsha questions say?!?!

Last week's parsha sure was tame in comparison.

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