There is only one incident of sexual abuse that is recorded explicitly in the Torah. (Sarah was abducted by Pharaoh and again by Abimelech, but remained safely untouched in those kings’ palaces until she was liberated.) It is quite a tragic read, and the repercussions are curiously significant.

Jacob had 12 sons and one daughter, Dinah. As can be imagined, this daughter was well-protected under the watchful eyes of her holy brothers. Sarah was abducted by Pharaoh and again by AbimelechFor many years, Jacob lived in Charan and worked for his father-in-law, Laban. Eventually, he decided to live independently from Laban, and he and his family packed up and traveled to the land of Canaan. In Canaan, they stopped in the city of Shechem with the thought of settling there. It was in Shechem that Jacob’s worst nightmare transpired.

Dinah, the daughter of Leah whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the land, saw her; and he abducted her, lay with her and afflicted her. (Genesis 34:1–2)

When Dinah left her family’s camp to meet the local women, she was abducted and raped by Shechem (a prince with the same name as the city). The Torah describes Shechem’s calculated steps: He saw her, he abducted her, he lay with her, and he afflicted her. What is the difference between “lying with her” and “afflicting her”? Rashi quotes the Midrash and explains that he abused her in both a conventional way (“lying”) and an unconventional way (“affliction”). But perhaps the Torah is also describing the physical and emotional abuse that Dinah experienced with Shechem.

Any woman who has experienced sexual abuse understands the depth of affliction unleashed from one mere act of violation. It rips apart the very fabric of our feminine dignity, and it requires a lot of concentrated healing to restore our sense of self-respect. Dinah, a princess in the house of Jacob, was violated and afflicted.

In the beginning of this frightening story, Dinah is introduced to us as the daughter of Leah, a fact we already know. And the fact that Jacob is her father seems almost incidental: “Dinah, the daughter of Leah whom she bore to Jacob.” It sounds like her primary tie is to her mother. The Torah also gives us a context for her abduction: “[She] went out to see the daughters of the land.”

Rashi sees a significant connection between the description of Dinah as “the daughter of Leah” (and not Jacob) and the mention of her “going out to see the daughters of the land.” He explains:

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

How do you understand this Rashi? Is he suggesting that she was too outgoing, and that’s what got her into trouble? Is he somehow implicating Dinah in her own abduction?

But Rashi doesn’t just say she was outgoing; he says she was outgoing like her mother. When was Leah outgoing? Rashi highlights a particular incident to prove Leah’s extroversion: “Leah went out to greet him.” Leah’s son Reuben had found plants called dudaim in the field and brought them to his mother. Rachel asked her sister to give her the dudaim that Reuben had just brought her. It is possible that the dudaim had potent medicinal qualities that increased a woman’s fertility, and Rachel was eager to conceive a child. Leah agreed to give her the dudaim in exchange for the opportunity to spend the night with Jacob—a night that Jacob had reserved for Rachel. Rachel agreed. Now they needed to tell Jacob of their deal in the most tactful and honorable manner. Leah was the one who told him.

And this is the verse that Rashi quotes to display Leah’s outgoing nature: “When Jacob came from the field in the evening, Leah went out toward him, and she said, ‘You shall come to me, because I have hired you with my son’s dudaim’; and he slept with her on that night” (Genesis 30:16). She didn’t wait for him to come home and possibly feel rejected by Rachel. She walked out to meet him, and explained to him what she and Rachel had arranged before he arrived at home. She was proactive in her consideration of her husband.

And that night she conceived her fifth son: “G‑d hearkened to Leah, and she conceived She was proactive in her consideration of her husbandand bore Jacob a fifth son” (Genesis 30:17). Rashi takes note of the words “G‑d hearkened to Leah” and explains why G‑d was so impressed with her: “She desired and was seeking means to increase the number of tribes.”

She went out to Jacob not only to be considerate of his dignity, but also because she was eager for the opportunity to conceive another child and increase the number of the Israelite tribes. G‑d was so pleased with Leah’s action that He blessed her with another son.

Clearly, Leah was outgoing in the most noble way. To compare Dinah’s extroverted nature to Leah’s is a complimentary description of Dinah, and certainly not an implication of her guilt. “Like mother, like daughter!”

Dinah was “the daughter of Leah whom she bore to Jacob.” Why is her relationship with Jacob mentioned as a mere byproduct of her being her mother’s daughter? There is an interesting story that sheds light on this question.

When Jacob first left the land of Charan, he prepared to meet his wicked brother, Esau. We read that “[Jacob] took his two wives, his two handmaidens and his eleven sons, and he crossed the ford of the Jabbok” (Genesis 32:23). Rashi asks,

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.

When it comes to the story of Dinah’s abduction, Jacob is mentioned minimally because he precipitated her misfortune by insulating her before he met his brother. Now, it’s completely understandable that Jacob didn’t want his pure and beautiful daughter to marry his evil brother. He would have had to be crazy to marry her off to Esau. In fact, the Talmud tells us that Leah herself averted her original fate of marrying Esau through her prayers:

Because she expected to fall into Esau’s lot, she wept. Because everyone was saying, “Rebecca has two sons, and Laban has two daughters. The older [daughter] for the older [son], and the younger [daughter] for the younger [son].” (Talmud, Bava Batra 123a)

And yet we don’t find Leah punished for her prayers.

What is quite evident from this story is that Dinah in all probability would have influenced Esau to live an upstanding life. If not, why would Jacob have been so criticized for robbing Esau of this opportunity? Perhaps Leah accurately assessed her capabilities and knew that she wouldn’t have been able to influence him, and therefore there was no negative consequence to her prayers.

But Dinah was different. She was even more outgoing and efficacious than her mother. G‑d was disappointed that she didn’t have the opportunity to work her magic on Esau.

Both her positive, outgoing nature and her potential to influence one of the most corrupt men of her time are contained in the phrase that introduces us to her terrible encounter with Shechem: “Dinah, the daughter of Leah whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.”

Dinah, like her mother, was an outgoing and charismatic girl. It was only natural that after her family set up shop in the village of Shechem, she ventured out to see “the daughters of the land.” Perhaps she wanted to enlighten them about the monotheistic beliefs that her father and grandfather had been propagating throughout the Middle East. Unfortunately, she was badly hurt in the process.

And yet, despite the abuse that she endured, she still managed to profoundly impact her environment. Shechem himself seemed to be transformed by his short encounter with her. Shechem was a spoiled prince and a vile rapist. Shechem had no respect for women; he used them and disposed of them. And yet, after he was intimate with her, he began to develop tender feelings toward her:

His soul cleaved to Dinah, the daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl and spoke to the girl’s heart. And Shechem spoke to his father, Hamor, saying, “Take this girl for me as a wife.” (Genesis 34:3–4)

Why did he feel so connected to her? How could he have loved her? What did he say to her? Perhaps he was apologizing for what he had done and was trying to win her approval. Instead of using her and trashing her, he suddenly wanted to marry her and humbly sought Why did he feel so connected to her? How could he have loved her?the consent of her father, Jacob. In fact, he was willing to pay top dollar just to have Dinah’s hand in marriage:

Hamor spoke with them, saying: “My son, Shechem, his soul has a liking for your daughter. Please give her to him for a wife. . . . Shechem said to her father and to her brothers, “May I find favor in your eyes. Whatever you tell me, I will give.” (Genesis 34:8–11)

Of course, Dinah would never consent to marry her abuser; but nonetheless, the shift in Shechem cannot be ignored.

Dinah’s brothers pretended to agree to Shechem’s request on the condition that Hamor (Shechem’s father), Shechem and all of the people of their village circumcise themselves. Not only did Hamor and Shechem agree to this condition, but they persuaded all of the townsfolk to agree. At face value, this was all a ploy to weaken the inhabitants of the town so that the brothers could safely rescue Dinah. Yes, the circumcision was strategic, but it was also a rectification for the people of Shechem. Circumcision represents the mitigation of sexual impulsivity and self-centered lust. Perhaps it was through Shechem’s commitment to undergo a circumcision that he rectified his aggressive and dominant actions. The circumcision was also part of a conversion process to the Jewish religion. Both the men and the women willingly converted to Jacob’s monotheistic beliefs.

Yet, in the most zealous act of chivalry, two of Dinah’s brothers conspired not only to rescue Dinah, but to repay Shechem for the terrible travesty of violating their sister. Simeon and Levi decided to kill Shechem and all the men of the village, who had stood silently by while Shechem committed this injustice.

Jacob did not know that his sons had planned to mete out judgement on the whole town. When he found out they they had wiped out the entire city to avenge their sister’s violation, he rebuked them:

“You have troubled me, to discredit me among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and among the Perizzites. I am few in number, and they will gather against me, and I and my household will be destroyed.” (Genesis 34:30)

The story ends with the brothers’ response to Jacob. They ask him a rhetorical question that embodies the high price they were willing to pay for their sister’s protection: “Shall he make our sister like a harlot?”

And yet, amidst the tragic circumstances, Dinah still managed to be quite influential. She was a born leader, like her mother, outgoing and influential. The women of the town of Shechem retained a relationship with Dinah’s family. Both Dinah and Leah are praised for “going out.”

The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni 134) tells us that Dinah conceived a child from her union with Shechem, a daughter named Asenath. Asenath eventually moved to Egypt and worked in the house of Potiphar. Joseph, who was already a viceroy to the king, met her and was impressed by her commitment to her faith, even in Egypt. He married Asenath (his niece), and they had two children together, Manasseh and Ephraim. Although these sons were born outside of the Holy Land and grew up in the lap of luxury, they were so spiritually centered that they surpassed even their cousins who were raised in Canaan. Jacob gave Joseph’s sons special treatment, blessing them in the same way that he blessed his sons. Eventually, Joseph’s sons merited to head their own tribes, something that was reserved for the sons of Jacob and not his grandchildren. It was Asenath, the daughter of Dinah and Shechem, who raised these two child prodigies all alone in Egypt.

Despite the pain that Dinah endured, the Torah prefaces the story with the message that Dinah, like Leah, was outgoing and influential. The Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory—sees Dinah as the Torah’s first prototype of female leadership.

Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah were opinionated and decisive. On numerous occasions, they powerfully influenced their husbands and children. They were paradigms of the akeret habyit, the woman who builds her On numerous occasions, they powerfully influenced their husbands and childrenhome and lays the foundation for the next generation. But the Torah gives us no indication that they were influential outside of their home.1 Their lives were in sync with King David’s description of the Jewish woman, the daughter of the king: “The entire glory of the daughter of the king is her inwardness” (Psalms 45:13). She is glorified because of her inwardness—her first priority is her inner circle. This regal woman is dedicated to cultivating her marriage and investing in her children’s wellbeing. Like a true princess, her regality stems from her focus on what is important, not on what is popular. She doesn’t need to extend beyond her home life and promote herself publicly in order to validate her worth.

So, what would King David say about some of today’s “out there” women, many of whom are making a significant mark on society? Have they lost their opportunity for regal living?

Dinah was unique. She was gifted with a potent sphere of influence. Her charisma naturally attracted other people to take her lead. Dinah was drawn towards other women, and even in a new environment she was naturally social. Ultimately, she always influenced other people to become more spiritually sensitive.

Dinah is every woman who is naturally influential. For her, it would be a loss to hide in a box. She’s got her work cut out for her, and with conscious effort she can become an inspirational leader.

What about modesty? What about the inwardness that generates feminine glory? Yes, she has a higher calling for greater exposure, but at what personal cost? Does she have to relinquish the glory that comes from living a more private life?

The Rebbe advises female leaders to utilize their influence and still retain their modesty. That’s a difficult balance to maintain. Personal attention can become addictive. A more provocative way of dress and a flirtatious conversation can open doors for influential women. Modesty can feel like an unfair inhibition for female leaders.

But perhaps along with the loss of modesty comes the loss of focused influence: Does my exposure make people think more about G‑d or more about me? A woman is most effective at making an inspirational mark on the world when she carries the allure of dignity. It’s an allure that modest dress and behavior naturally breeds. For her, King David’s “inwardness” doesn’t mean staying inside the house as much as it means staying true to herself. Modest leadership, in essence, is saying, “I have an authentic message to share, but I’m not prepared to compromise any boundaries to hook you in.” Instead, the female leader sets a tone of warmth and sincerity that speak for itself.

The Rebbe argues that the feminine model of leadership is even more effective than the typical masculine model of leadership, which tends to be more domineering and authoritarian. The feminine influence is predicated upon sincerity, selflessness and nurturing.