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Outgoing Woman

Outgoing Woman


Dinah, the daughter of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the land, saw her; and he abducted her . . .

Genesis 34:1–2

In the thirty-fourth chapter of Genesis we read of Dinah’s abduction, her brothers’ It was Jacob’s isolation of Dinah, not Dinah’s and Leah’s outgoingness, that was the cause of Dinah’s misfortune cunning plot to disable the people of Shechem, her rescue and the destruction of the city.

Our sages note that in the opening verse of its account, the Torah introduces Dinah as Leah’s child. She is not referred to as “the daughter of Jacob,” or “the daughter of Jacob and Leah,” or even as “the daughter of Leah and Jacob,” but as “the daughter of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob.” Rashi explains:

Because of her going out, she is called “the daughter of Leah.” For [Leah,] too, was an “outgoer,” as it is written, “And Leah went out to greet him” (Genesis 30:16). Regarding her it has been said, “Like mother, like daughter.”

At first glance, this seems an indictment of Leah’s and Dinah’s behavior. The hallmark of the Jewish woman is her tzniut, the modesty in dress and demeanor expressed by the verse (Psalms 45:14), “The entire glory of the king’s daughter is within.” A Jewish girl, Rashi seems to be saying, has no business going out to visit with the daughters of a pagan land; when she does, she is not acting as a daughter of Jacob but like her mother, who is known to have—on occasion—embarked on outings of her own. For the king’s daughter to leave her inner sanctum is to expose herself to all sorts of negative encounters, as Dinah’s case tragically demonstrates.1

This, however, cannot be Rashi’s intention, for it runs contrary to what he writes in his commentary on a previous verse. A few chapters back, where Jacob is preparing for his encounter with his wicked brother Esau, we read (Genesis 32:23):

[Jacob] took his two wives, his two handmaidens and his eleven sons, and he crossed the ford of Jabbok.

Asks Rashi: What about his daughter?

Where was Dinah? Jacob had placed her in a chest and locked her in, lest Esau set his eyes on her. For this, Jacob was punished, for had he not withheld her from his brother, perhaps she would have brought [Esau] back to the proper path. [The punishment was] that she fell into the hands of Shechem.

In other words, it was Jacob’s isolation of Dinah, not Dinah’s and Leah’s outgoingness, that was the cause of Dinah’s misfortune. Dinah should not have been hidden from Esau. Her encounter with the big, bad world should not have been avoided; indeed, it should have been welcomed. Jacob feared that she would be corrupted by her wicked uncle; he should have realized that, with her firm moral grounding and unassailable integrity, she was far more likely to influence Esau for the better.Her encounter with the big, bad world should not have been avoided; indeed, it should have been welcomed

Interestingly enough, here, too, there is a mother-daughter connection. The Torah (in Genesis 29:17) tells us that “Leah’s eyes were weak.” Rashi explains that they were weak from weeping:

She wept over the thought that she would fall to the lot of Esau. For everyone was saying: Rebecca has two sons and Laban has two daughters; the elder son (Esau) is destined for the elder daughter (Leah), and the younger son (Jacob) for the younger daughter (Rachel).

This was more than common speculation; according to the Midrash, these were matches ordained in heaven. But Leah’s tearful prayers changed the heavenly decree, and both sisters were married to the righteous younger son. But it was Leah who was Esau’s potential soulmate. If she herself felt unequal to the challenge of dealing with his wickedness, her daughter and spiritual heir, Dinah, could have served as the instrument of Esau’s redemption.

This is the deeper significance of the adage “Like mother, like daughter” quoted by Rashi. Our children inherit not only our actual traits but also our unrealized potentials. Physically, a brown-eyed mother may transmit to her child the potential for blue eyes inherited from her mother but dormant in her genes. Spiritually, a parent may impart to a child the ability to achieve what, for the parent, is no more than a subtle potential buried in the deepest recesses of his or her soul.Our children inherit not only our actual traits but also our unrealized potentials

So Dinah’s going out to make the acquaintance of the daughters of the land was fully in keeping with her and her mother’s unique gifts. Her exposure to an alien environment would not have adversely affected her Jewish femininity, her “king’s daughter’s” inner glory. On the contrary: she was born to the role of the outgoing Jewish woman, who serves as a source of enlightenment to her surroundings without compromising her modesty and innerness. Rather, it was Jacob’s attempt to closet her that invited disaster. In going out to “the daughters of the land,” Dinah was truly the daughter of Leah—in the positive sense. She was not the daughter of Jacob, for Jacob had hesitated to put her outgoing nature to its intended use.2

Within Without

Therein lies a message to women of all generations:

The Torah sees man and woman as having been imbued by their Creator with distinct characteristics and roles. Man is a conqueror, charged to confront and transform a resistant, often hostile, world. To this end, he has been supplied with an extroverted and aggressive nature, a nature he is to apply constructively in the war of life—the war to combat the negative without, and to redeem the positive elements and opportunities held captive in the most spiritually desolate corners of G‑d’s creation.

Woman is his diametric opposite. Her intrinsic nature is non-confrontational, introverted, modest. For while man battles the demons without, woman cultivates the purity within. She is the mainstay of the home, nurturer and educator of the family, guardian of all that is holy in G‑d’s world. The entire glory of the king’s daughter is within.

But within does not necessarily mean indoors. The woman, too, has a role that extends beyond the home, extends also to the most alien of daughters and the most pagan of lands. A woman who has been blessed with the aptitude and talent to influence her sisters can, and must, be an “outgoer,” periodically leaving her haven of holiness to reach out to those who have lost grounding and direction in their lives.

And when she does, she need not, and must not, assume the warrior stance of the man. Confrontation and conquest is not the only way to deal with the outside world; there is also a feminine way, a gentle, modest and compassionate way, to extract goodness from the evil that rages without. Confrontation is often necessary, but it is also often ineffective and even detrimental. Even the fiercest of battles needs the feminine touch of the outgoing woman.3

Indeed, it is in this negative light that the Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 80:1) compares the going out of mother and daughter. But Rashi’s selective quoting of this Midrash, as well as his earlier words on Genesis 32:23 (quoted in this essay) and 30:17 (see next note) imply an entirely different perspective on the matter.
This explains the connection between Leah’s going out to greet Jacob (cited by Rashi) and Dinah’s foray to the pagan daughters of Canaan. Leah, the Torah tells us, had just purchased Rachel’s conjugal rights with Jacob in return for the mandrakes her son, Reuben, had picked in the field. When Jacob came home that evening, “Leah went out to greet him, and said: You shall come to me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes” (Genesis 30:16). At first glance, Leah’s behavior (like Dinah’s) seems unbefitting the modesty of the Jewish woman; but Rashi, in his commentary on the following verse, considers the Torah’s recounting of the incident to be in praise of Leah, lauding the fact that “she desired and sought to increase the tribes [of Israel].” In other words, while Leah’s ability to positively influence others was not actualized in her personal life (as evidenced by her reluctance to marry Esau), she devoted her life to mothering the sons and the daughter who would realize her innately outgoing nature.
Based on the Rebbe’s talks on Shabbat Parshat Vayishlach and Shabbat Parshat Vayeishev, 5747 (December 20 and 27, 1986), published in Likkutei Sichot, vol. 35, pp. 150–155.
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson; adapted by Yanki Tauber.
Originally published in Week in Review.
Republished with the permission of If you wish to republish this article in a periodical, book, or website, please email
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Esther mi June 23, 2014

I always wonder, though, if Yakov (Jacob) is the one who hides her in a box, why is Dina punished? She isn't the one that decided to go in the box and not meet her potential. In fact, we see that she tries to reach her potential by going out to the daughters of the land and, while trying to reach her potential, is abducted! Reply

Avigayil Chana Boston February 12, 2013

Leave it to the Lubavitcher Rebbe... He always takes a passage that appears to degrade a Jew, and explains why it is wonderful. Thanks for passing this on to us! Reply

Carmen December 8, 2011

It is written somewhere in Torah or in Talmud that ...G-d had asked Adam not to eat from the fruit(G-d had said * not to eat from the fruit* ),but eventhough G-d gave only one advice,Adam "reinterpreted"the advice by himself and said to Eve to not only not eat the fruit but to not even touch the Tree.

In my understanding,if Adam had not tried to "protect"Eve by adding that "don't even touch..",maybe Eve would not have sinned .

She denied the appeal of the serpent in the item "do not eat",but she fell in the item "do not touch".It was in the Adam's "lie"that she fell.

What I mean is that honesty is the best policy and that lying,even with the intention of protecting someone,can lead to disaster. Reply

Elizabeth December 7, 2011

Interesting Analysis! Interesting analysis of Leah and Dinah's characteristics. Psychologists might state that it is a learned behavior. Environment plays a role in shaping one's character.

Jacob was a timid person from the beginning and Rebecca, his mother had to intervene on his behalf to receive the blessing from Isaac. Jacob was afraid of Esau, because spiritually, the fear grips as he had knowingly betrayed his brother, Esau regardless of his arrogance.

Jacob was timid once again and did not fight with his uncle Laban when he manipulated with his contract.

Jacob was afraid of Esau. Perhaps, Jacob thought Esau might bargain with the land, cattle, and including Dinah. There is nothing wrong in protecting his offspring. These are natural fears.

Jacob for one, had to be taught how to have faith in G-d and we know that from his dreams and battle with the angel who in fact strengthened him.

Women should not associate with pagans lest they follow their habits. Women need to imitate Deborah, the judge. Reply

Jack Midland Park December 7, 2011

Outgoing Woman, Dinah The story in Gen Chap. 34 makes me upset because of the deception of Dinah's brothers. This may have led to the beginning of anti-semitism. Reply

Carmen December 7, 2011

Adam also tried to ...and by doing so,disaster came.

Men are not the curators of women,let alone their proprietors.

The fact that G-d took Women from inside Men, does not give men the right of possession over women,because that was not men's decision but G-d's, thus women have their role by themselves;their own role.

I agree with the first part of this essay but not with the second-from "Whitin Without".

The first part reasons about the role and freedom of women while the second puts her in an inferior condition,seemingly conditioned by men.

If men have the role to open external paths,so to speak,women have the * active* role to develop them, and not only a passive role( as keepers) ,as is reasoned in the second part.

The first part is a more "pure"Torah's reasoning while the second is more a "pure"men's reasoning and ,in my understanding,it is a core repetition of Adam’s “mistake”. Reply

Anonymous Bethesda, MD December 6, 2011

Beautiful article Thank you, this clarifies very nicely the distinction between a woman being modest and 'within' while not necessarily being only indoors and hidden. Reply

Fruma Delray Beach, FL December 6, 2011

Dinah It should be noted that if Leah had married Esau as she was supposed to, Dinah wouldn't have been Dinah. Half-Dinah, at best. She would have been sired and raised by a very different father and been a very different person. Though Esau wasn't entirely evil--he stayed close to his family even though he had been deceived and betrayed out of his birthright by them. Reply

Catherine NY, NY November 15, 2010

If a woman feels as though "women are browbeaten or defiled or defined by men" then it speaks to that woman's life experience. However, there are those of us who have NEVER felt that way. I was brought up to be just me. I was never afraid of directly confronting evil. (a trait I learned from my grandfather), and I loved to keep a religious house and children (from my grandmother) I got a college degree and had a 30 year career as a teacher in special education (first in my family) and even taught religion for 10 years to children. I am now writing a childrens book on the heroes in Torah. I have been told by many a school psychologist that I am a "woman who runs with the wolves" because of my tenacity in fighting for children abused by parents. So therefore, ladies, its what in your own soul and upbringing, your personal heroes who help shape you. And believe it or not, its the same for men. Reply

Anonymous December 6, 2017
in response to Catherine:

Beautifully spoken and exactly how I’ve felt for a long time. My father's unwavering support in whatever my adventurous mind wanted to do and my mothers watchful eyes helped to shape me in ways I couldn’t have known them but am very grateful for now.
I learned my value through my father and I learned to value everyone through my mother. Reply

miriam zippor coeur d'' alene, idaho September 5, 2010

Someone once told me that darkness is always attracted to light .... that wolves always prey upon sheep .... that the unholy will always attempt to defile the most holy .... starting with Eve .... I'll let you all figure out what I'm saying Reply

Dvorah Lakeville, PA August 18, 2010

Stop! You're both right! I think the article is talking about archetypes, not actual men and women. Individuals of either sex have a measure of both energies within them, with the most common tendency for women to be stronger in the "feminine" energies and men to be stronger in the "masculine" energies. I, myself, an outgoing Jewish mother, homemaker, writer, and warrior, am clearly a mix of the two, and richer for it.
Each level of creation was higher than the last, which would make woman the highest being of all on earth. Alone, men could not be proper stewards of this earth.
But.... that first human being, Adam Kadmon, contained both male and female within. That was not good. When G-d divided that being into two distinct persons it was good. Plenty of people live fulfilled lives being single, but there is no greater sense of wholeness than when a man and woman who are soul mates find one another. After a few tries, thank G-d, I found mine. Reply

raziela August 15, 2010

Women role Thank you Lirit for your fighting comments. It's really hard to stand up to all this idealogical bashing from those who just want to see bad in Judaism and Torah so big thank you for standing up for Torah :)

I think Judaism teaches women how to live more fulfilling lives AS WOMEN. are we not most fulfilled when we are raising kids, loving our husbands and making Torah homes? Women are great and what better way to channel that greatness than through creating a Torah home and Torah children?

Somehow the modern world has made us feel that being a mom and wife and homemaker is just not good enough.

However, education and opportunities is not something which women should be denied. Just as long as we know that as women firstly we are most fulfilled being women and if after that we have time to study, write, go out into the world, etc then all the strength to you. Reply

Savannah Nicole December 21, 2009

Thank you for this- I had been doubting my ability to help heal the world when I considered the different methods that a dear male friend had been making. This makes me consider that perhaps it is not that I cannot do the work, but that G-d has granted me a different set of gifts and thus a different part in the work, but one that is no less important. Reply

Anonymous Calgary, AB December 3, 2009

I don't think Jacob did wrong in hiding Dinah from Esau. He knew his brother was evil. He knew evil men beat, rape and make lives hell for their wives.
Why sould Leah or Dinah have to deal with his wickedness? Where's the men?
If the males find it too tough, why expect a women to do it. Reply

Nechama Stamford, CT December 3, 2009

Back to the first comment I want to repeat the question about why Yaakov wasn't punished directly for keeping Dinah from Esau. The box story itself used to bother me but If my father told me to get into a box to be saved from death, I would do it. But why does Dinah suffer at the hands of Shechem? And if it was Yaakov's fault why didn't he go after Shechem to redeem himself and his daugher? Why doesn't Yaakov suffer? If I had to guess, I would say that watching harm come to your children (lo alainu) IS a punishment and causes great suffering but I've never seen that written anywhere. I am grappling with this story. I want to understand. And if there aren't answers to my specific questions in any Midrashim I guess I'll have to wait to ask Moshiach! Reply

Anonymous milwaukee, wi October 26, 2009

Go Lirit!! Very good points! And i totally agree, in judaism women are honored immensely! and we are honored in being who we are, instead of trying to be the same as men. we are different, and we are extremely holy and special and have our own gifts. i think it is a lack of self recognition to think we need to be duplicates of men to have worth! We have immense worth already!! Reply

Lirit Cincinnati, OH September 3, 2009

Try not at all Reading with your own personal bias is, to a point, unavoidable, but that's not quite the same as rewriting the story.

Lot offers his daughters to angry mob as a desperate attempt to protect his guests. One is left to weigh his choice against the alternative and he is lauded for it because it was the lesser of two evils (and, as you'll recall, he saw no favor from the townsmen for trying to appease them at all).

And you've conveniently rewritten the story to say Lot raped his own daughters. The last time I read that passage, it said that his daughters got him drunk, laid with him, and he never knew it. In other words, Lot's daughters raped him.

Beyond that, and to your first point - what exactly is wrong with being created AFTER man. Man was created after the animals, after the insects, after the land and water and light. How does next or after equal less or "women are only good to warm the bed at night after doing the dishes"? Your assumption is logically inconsistent. Reply

Arden Atlanta, GA August 28, 2009

not specifically You're right that it doesn't specifically say "women were an afterthought", but the entire story is very indicative of just that.
You said that "its not good for man to be alone, therefore women were created for men". All I can say to that is- Exactly. It says women were created *after*, NOT at the same time or for the same purpose, and apparently they were only created so that men wouldn't have to be alone. Its kinda like, what? My gender was created just because the first man was lonely and needed someone to do the dishes for them? I'll have to refuse to believe that.

We also know that the torah doesn't actually say "browbeat women into submission". But then you have all these stories where women ARE being beaten into submission, either psychologically or physically, and its not being condemned or anything.
Take the story of Lot for example, he offers his OWN daughters up to some crazy would-be angel raping mob, later on rapes them himself, yet this person is considered righteous. Reply

Lirit Cincinnati, OH August 27, 2009

Where does it say women were an afterthought? I've never found that particular belief, wording in any of the scripture. Instead it says that woman was created because it's not good for man to be alone - they need women.

Nothing in the Torah says that women should be browbeaten into submission for men. Nothing in the Torah says all women are dainty, complacent, or subservient. In fact, the Torah tends to show great honor to women who were anything but.

And I'll tell you as a tomboy who is anything but introverted, non-confrontational, and modest, I still appreciate that no matter what else, I'm still a woman, and a feminist, and very different from even the most effiinate man. There's a world of difference there, and I am offended at the notion that recognizing that is miscontrued as feeding misogynist stereotypes.

It's only a pity people have such a difficult time removing their modern bias from their readings and intepretations of an anciet and divine text. Reply

Candide Birmingham, AL July 19, 2009

It is insulting I agree with Arden 100%, women were never non-confrontational and introverted. Women have always been social and curious. Men just beat them into submission because they were larger and when the beatings stopped working 2000 years or so ago they made up religion to frighten women into being what they wanted them to be. They tell you lies about what life was like for women before religion but if you spent half the time on history as this nonsense, you would see that women had started to fight back against the misogyny and patriarchal rule. It would have only taken them a few hundred more years to emancipate themselves completely because the men were all so busy, off fighting all the time. Why do you think it starts out saying that God made everything for his man but woman was just an after thought thrown in there later? Because that is the way men think, not an omnipotent being who would have known he made male and female animals, not self replicating ones. Reply

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