Why was Yaacov punished for hiding Dinah from Esav? Isn't this an expected attitude from a loving and protective father?

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    Please source your premise. The Torah makes no mention of either part of this - either that he hid Dinah or that he was punished for doing so. I gather that this is mentioned in some Midrash, but this is not obvious at all. As a general answer, much more is expected from our forefathers than you or I. Ya'akov was expected to have absolute faith in G-d that no harm would come to him or his family from Esav.
    – DanF
    Dec 14, 2016 at 14:26
  • @DanF Ya'akov was expected to have absolute faith in G-d that no harm would come to him or his family from Esav Why would you think that?
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:05
  • @mevaqesh we can infer this from the blessing / promise that G-d gave Ya'akov in his dream. G-d says that he will return him to this land and will not leave him until I have done what I have just said to you. This clearly indicates G-d's constant protection of Ya'akov. We can assume, then, that someone of Ya'akov's stature should have trusted G-d's direct promise to him.
    – DanF
    Dec 14, 2016 at 21:35
  • @DanF I fail to see evidence that no harm would come to any of his family.
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 14, 2016 at 21:43

7 Answers 7


Chiddushei Halev Esther 4:1

והנה אמרו חז"ל שיעקב נענש בעונש חמור שנאנסה דינה משום שמנע חסד מעשו ולא השיא את דינה לעשו והקשו בעלי המוסר מהדורות הקודמים למה נענש יעקב והרי בודאי שיעקב הי' מחוייב לעשות כן להשתדל בכל כוחו למנוע את בתו הצדיקה להנשא לעשו הרשע

ותירצו שהגם שיעקב הי' מחוייב להתנהג כן כדי למצוא את השידוך הטוב ביותר בעד דינה מ"מ הוא נענש משום שלא הצטער על זה שהוא אנוס ואין בידו לגמול חסד לעשו

And behold the Sages say that Jacob was punished with a harsh punishment, that Dinah was raped, because he withheld kindness from Esau and did not marry Dinah to Esau. And the Mussar Masters of the previous generations asked: why was Jacob punished? Certainly Jacob was obligated to do this, to try with all his might to prevent his righteous daughter from being married to Esau the wicked.

And they answered that notwithstanding that Jacob was obligated to act this way, in order to find the best match for Dinah, he was nevertheless punished because he was not pained about this that he was forced and he had no ability to provide kindness to Esau.


The Torah Temimah (to v. 15 § 9) has, to be honest, a quite surprising answer to this question:

ומה שכתב רש"י שנענש יעקב על שמנע את דינה מעשו שמא תחזירנו למוטב, צריך באור, היכן מצינו כהאי גונא, שיהא חובה על אדם למסור את בתו לרשע שמא תחזירנו למוטב, והלא כנגד זה יש חשש שמא יחזירנה הוא לרשעה, ואפשר לומר דבזה לא הי' יעקב מסופק שהיא תחזירנו למוטב, אך מפני זה גופא לא רצה להשיאה אותה לו כדי שלא תחזירנו למוטב, כלומר שמשנאתו אותו לא הי' רוצה זה גופא שיחזור למוטב, ויהי' לפי"ז באור הלשון ברש"י שמא תחזירנו למוטב, כלומר שעל כן לא השיאה אותה לו שמא תחזירנו למוטב, ובזה לא הי' חפץ, ולכן נענש. –

That which Rashi writes that Yaakov was punished for preventing Dina from marrying Eisav, lest she help him improve his ways, requires clarification. Where have we seen such a thing, that a person would be obligated to give over his daughter to a wicked person, lest she help him improve his ways? Behold, opposite this, is the concern that he might make her wicked!

Perhaps we can say that Yaakov had no doubt that she would turn him around. However, this was the exact reason why he didn't want her to marry him, so that she will not help him improve. Meaning, due to his hatred of him, this itself he didn't want, that he'd improve his ways. According to this, this will be the explanation of Rashi, who wrote "perhaps she will help him improve", meaning this is why Yaakov didn't marry her to him, lest she help him improve. This is something he didn't want, which is why he was punished.

I honestly find it hard to believe this is even permissible for someone to say. But what can I do, it's in print and in almost every Beis Midrash.


another source in Mesilat Yesharim ch.4

And expounding on "it is very stormy round about Him" (Ps.50:3) - "this teaches that the Holy One blessed be He scrutinizes judgment on His pious ones to the degree of a hair's breadth" (Yevamos 121a)...

Yaakov, for replying angrily to Rachel when she said to him "give me children", the Midrash reports (Genesis Raba 71:10): "the Holy One blessed be He, said to him: 'is this how one answers a distressed person? By your life, your sons will stand before her son'.

And for hiding his daughter Dina in a box so that his brother Esav would not take her as a wife, even though his intent was certainly good, but nevertheless for merely witholding kindness from his brother the Midrash reports: "the Holy One blessed be He said to him: 'He who withholds kindness from his fellow..' (Job 6:14). You did not seek to marry her to a circumcised? Behold she will be married to an uncircumcised. You did not seek to marry her in a permitted way? She will be married in a forbidden way".

this says that

  1. his fault was extremely fine (to a "hair's breadth")

  2. his intent was certainly good

nevertheless, since he withheld good from his brother, he was punished for that.

could be he was fully justified but nevertheless was punished as we find Yaakov was punished for not doing the mitzva of honoring his parents for the 22 years he was in Charan (Yosef disappeared for 22 years) even though he was commanded by his own parents to go there.

  • This seems to avoid the crux of the question? Why was he punished for being a protective father? Why should someone risk his daughter in the hope of helping someone else?
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 14, 2016 at 19:32
  • @mevaqesh apparently he erred in the exercise of judgment between helping his brother versus protecting his daughter. it is not understandable to us, but apparently the truth in this case was that the former outweighed the latter.
    – ray
    Dec 14, 2016 at 19:41
  • apparently he erred in the exercise of judgment between helping his brother versus protecting his daughter. Interesting idea. Do you have a source for that? If so, consider editing it into the answer itself. The closest thing I see t the moment is your claim in the last sentence which seems unrelated to the text you posted, and a reference to an unquoted passage in MY.
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 14, 2016 at 19:44
  • @mevaqesh no source. its how i learned that MY. it was an error in the mishkal hachasidut. dont see how else you can learn it. you have an alternative interpretation?
    – ray
    Dec 14, 2016 at 19:45
  • In that case I fail to see how the answer has anything to do with the MY. The quote is just a distraction. The OP asked about Rashi who says that he should have given Dina to improve Esav, that that would be a risk to Dina. The answer, according to you, is that it was an error in "mishkal hachasidut", a term you unfortunately dont define in your post, but which you clarify in the comment to mean "erred in the exercise of judgment between helping his brother versus protecting his daughter."
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 14, 2016 at 19:50

It's a reasonable question. How could Yaakov Avinu do that to his daughter, giving her to an unworthy brother? But - we have an explicit gemara where someone did exactly the same thing. https://www.sefaria.org/Bava_Metzia.84a.12?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

Rabbi Yoḥanan said to [Reish Lakish, who was at that time an armed robber and apparently a rapist]: If you return to the pursuit of Torah, I will give you my sister in marriage, who is more beautiful than I am. Reish Lakish accepted upon himself to study Torah.

How could he do such a thing? Well, I guess Rabbi Yochanon thought that he was able to handle the situation, and make sure that Reish Lakish would progress properly to the point where he would be a worthy mate for R' Yochanon's sister. And his sister was so beautiful that it would motivate Reish Lakish to do it.
Perhaps Yaakov Avinu could have done the same. His daughter Dinah was extraordinarily beautiful. All by herself she eventually got the ruler of a city to get the entire city to circumcize themselves! She had power, and perhaps Yaakov could have used that power to help his brother come back. If not as a brother, then perhaps in a subordinate position as son-in-law. It would have been difficult, but it was his brother. Maybe he could have saved him.
He chose not to risk it, and Chazal are suggesting that he made the wrong choice.


Reb Tzadok says that he was criticized for not realizing how high of a medreiga he and his entire family were on - Dina would in fact have been able to turn Esav around. I forget where he says this - it's not pri tzadik or tzidkas hatzadik.

  • Not sure what this adds to what Rashi says, that he was punished for not letting her marry him, as she could have improved him.
    – robev
    Dec 10, 2022 at 18:26

Yaakov locked Dinah inside a chest to keep Eisav from setting eyes on her and wanting to marry her. However, Yaakov was punished for this because had he let Eisav marry Dinah, perhaps Eisav would have become a tzaddik.

(Rashi on Bereishis 32:23 quoting Bereishis Rabbah 76:9)

  • 3
    @mevaqesh it directly answers the question. "because had he let Eisav marry Dinah, Eisav would have become a tzaddik" And is sourced, too. +1.
    – msh210
    Dec 14, 2016 at 18:06
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    How would Ya'akov have known this? We don't purposefully put ourselves in difficult situations. Why should he be punished?
    – Double AA
    Dec 14, 2016 at 18:18
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    Rashi there - and his eleven children: But where was Dinah? [Benjamin was not yet born, but Dinah should have been counted.] He put her into a chest and locked her in, so that Esau should not set eyes on her. Therefore, Jacob was punished for withholding her from his brother- [because had he married her,] perhaps she would cause him to improve his ways-and she fell into the hands of Shechem. — [from Gen. Rabbah 75:9] chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/8227/jewish/…
    – ray
    Dec 14, 2016 at 18:19
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    @DoubleAA - Do I look like Rashi to you? ;) Ask him, not me
    – ezra
    Dec 14, 2016 at 18:19
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    @msh210 Thats simply what the Midrash says. The OP presumably already knows this, as its all in that short Rashi. The question is that he was being protective of his daughter. Why should one risk ones daughter in order to help someone else. This was the question, and it remains unanswered.
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 14, 2016 at 19:30

The Tolna Rebbe comments on the fact that Yaakov Avinu locked the box. What was the purpose of the lock? Surely Eisav wasn't expected to rummage through all the boxes?

He explains that the lock was to keep Dinah in against her will if need be. Dinah took this as an insult that she was also not to be trusted. That feeling burned within her. Therefore, she accustomed herself to go out and explore out of resentment that she was not trusted by her father. This resulted in Shechem being able to take her.

I have also heard, that others in Yeshivah explain (no specific source) that Yaakov Avinu's attitude was judged to be a bit too extreme. It was for this extra "nose in the air" assumption that his brother was unsalvagable, that he was held accountable by Hashem.

However, the general idea that he wanted to protect Dinah from Eisav was a proper idea of course.

I hope this helps. :)

  • The Tolna Rebbe which one?
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 18, 2016 at 21:28
  • R' Yitzchak Menachem Weinberg of Jerusalem gives out a parshah drashah. Dec 22, 2016 at 1:40

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