Dinah, Dinah, Dinah.

I have always wondered about Dinah when we come across her in the parsha. Her silence always spoke to me in wake of such tragic events. I always wanted to fill in her stories with a happy ending that would make everything okay. An ending in which she would find her voice, or we would discover it. An ending in which joy would come, flowers would blossom and life would swell. However, none of that is found within the text and it always frustrated me. It still frustrates me to this day, though for a different reason now that I am older. As a survivor of rape, I struggle with finding my voice in the aftermath. At first, I admired her silenced. Her ability to bottle up all that was inside of her. As I went about my life, work, and synagogue I thought of silence. I thought if I was silent, every one else would be silent too. I struggle with when society deems it  "appropriate" to talk about and when I need to be heard. 

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There is no space in conversations to bring it up. People squirm, eyes look away, faces turn red. There is hardly space in the English language to describe what happens to people in these situations. How do you tell family, friends, acquaintances? You run through the list in your head every time you talk to some one. As if you were about to announce good news, you wonder if you told them before they had to read about it through social media or friends. You fear you forgot to tell someone and they will get offended. I think I spend half the time wishing people would talk so I would not forget to tell anyone. Politicians argue until they are winded over stories that are rarely theirs. They use technical language and sterile tones to describe feelings and events that are messy and painful. I understand why some do not speak. For months I have been silent. For months I did not speak to many because there is no room in conversation or because I am afraid of how it will make others feel.


Judaism is a lot about creating. I want to challenge myself and others to create spaces for these conversations. I almost wrote where appropriate but I fear using that word. I fear that if I attach that word then we get to decide for survivors when they can use their voice. As a Jew, I want to be someone who can create places in conversations where people feel safe to share their anger and their pain without expectations. I will look them in the eye, I will not hush their conversation or tell them to what until a more appropriate venue. I feel that appropriate is often the word that we use when we want to say comfortable. By comfortable, I do not mean comfortable for you necessarily, but comfortable for me.

When I come upon Dinah and read, I am angry. I am angry for her, I am angry for me, and am angry for others with no voice. I am angry that there are cases where some survivors do not get a voice in their own narratives, where they are Jane Does. I am frustrated when those who inflict the pain prosper. I am frustrated when survivors are told that the best thing for them is to try and work towards forgiveness as soon as possible because then healing can begin. I am frustrated when survivors are not treated right in the aftermath. When they are not comforted, when they are not given space. When I am not comforted, when I am not given space. I am angry. And that is okay.

It is so freeing to admit and write this words that it is okay to be angry. It is okay to share your voice if you feel comfortable. If you do not feel comfortable, that is okay too. I wonder if Dinah felt angry. Did she struggle when others who hurt her prospered and she had to find a way to reach okay? In Judaism, there is many different teachings on forgiveness. One is that if the person is not truly sorry, you do not have to immediately offer forgiveness. One of the men who raped me did offer an empty apology, a very hollow empty apology. It meant nothing, it still means nothing. An apology thrown out of the mouth as one walks away to go think of their family and happiness is not meaningful or repent. It is automatic. It is what one says when they accidentally bump into you in the aisle of the supermarket or if they are trying to hand you a paper and drop it. Did Dinah get empty apologies? How many women get empty apologies?

I also wonder if Dinah chose her silence. Did Dinah want silence? Did Dinah not want to talk about this pain she felt but rather deal with it and move on? I wonder if she lived her life angry or happy? Did she find her happy ending? I hope that after this happened to her she found a way to live. I hope others find their peace, their out loud and inner voice, and live.
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