Adar I (אֲדָר א) is Dinah’s (דִּינָה) month, at least as far as I’m concerned. Rabbinical tradition equates Naphtali with both Adar I & Adar II in a leap year, but many modern feminists have argued well that the extra month should belong to Jacob’s daughter, the 13th tribe.
To be honest, I’ve really struggled with whether or not Dinah should be Adar I or Adar II. I’ve gone back and forth dozens of times. Even while writing this, I struggled. Right or wrong, I needed to choose, but I choose Dinah as the “tribe” for the first month of Adar in a leap year.
Dinah is the seventh child of Leah and Jacob, and the only named daughter, although Genesis 37:35 indicates there were others. Dinah’s name means judgement, but I’ve also seen it as “vindicated.” Her story is one that few women like to read, at least as it is traditionally interpreted. In Genesis 34, we read of the “rape” of Dinah. It’s an ugly story with very little redeeming value anywhere.
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But what if we look at this through another lens? The ancient rabbis were famous for finding ways to turn stories to meet their needs. The interpretations of the stories never seem to let the women be seen in a good light. Sorry, but it’s true for the most part. Deborah and Hulda are called “conceited and overbearing” and we’re told they are cursed with ugly names. Really? Bee and Cat are ugly names? What about the tradition of giving children “ugly” names to protect them from the evil eye? But, I digress a touch…
Adar (both I & II) are months of the moon and lunacy. Adar I is the month of the Kesilah (כְּסִילה), the clown or trickster, who in leap years steals all our holidays away and hides them in Adar II. The letter of the month is Kuf (ק), which can be a symbol of and literally means monkey (קוף) — the foolishness we generally associate with Purim. But in this month, the monkey has hidden our holidays and left us standing in a void. What if the monkey, the trickster, is asking us stand in the center and take a second look at the story of Dinah?
An amazing article in the Jewish Women Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia points out that the language of rape does not fit the original Hebrew in the story. As we stand in the void of Adar I in this leap year, I believe the lesson of Dinah is to teach us to read the words anew and look at how those who came before us — and ourselves are influenced by others to interpret situations. Dinah challenges us to vindicate the women of the Torah by reading their stories with fresh eyes and not layering ancient ideas of women on them. Dinah challenges to allow the people of Shechem to be the wronged victims here. Is Dinah a victim by just about any reading? Probably. But was she a victim of rape or over-zealous violent brothers who did not like the man she chose to marry?
Dinah reminds us that there are at least two sides to every story, and two-thousand interpretations. She challenges us to stand in the void and center ourselves, and not just take the trickster at her word.
What do you think?