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B'resheet/Genesis 34:1 And Dinah, the daughter of Leah, went out ... to see the daughters of the land
The verb , here a Qal infinitive from the root , is most often translated either as "to see" or "to look (at)". Here, followed by the prefix, "in", it takes on an overtone of "inspect" or "look over" (Artscroll), so telling us that Dinah had not necessarily gone simply to socialise, but to assess, to evaluate, to weigh up, the local girls. Given the narrative that follows, of Dinah being taken and raped by the son of a local prince or leader, she must have been without male escort, spending time with the Hivvite girls and women, probably on a repeated basis, so that her behaviour and conduct could be noticed by Shechem and her habits of coming and going mapped in order to make the assault possible.
Rashi asks why the verse refers to Dinah as the daughter of Leah and not the daughter of Ya'akov. He answers his own question: "because of her 'going out' she is called 'the daughter of Leah', for Leah too was one who would go out, as it says: 'Leah went out to meet him' (B'resheet 30:16). Of her they coined the aphorism: 'Like mother, like daughter'." The saying is a quote from Ezekiel 16:44 and it is used in an extensive discussion of this episode in B'resheet Rabbah 80:1ff. The rabbis disapproved of Leah going out to meet Ya'akov on his way home from the field and telling him that he was to sleep with her that night, deeming it forward and inappropriate conduct, although Leah - being a matriarch - is elsewhere generally praised and held up as perfect in almost every way. However, Dinah's behaviour is taken as inheriting this lamentable trait and the rabbis portray it as a family failing that leads directly to Dinah's undoing, which could not have occurred if she had not learnt this flawed behaviour from her mother.
Another notable example of the inheritance of bad characteristics is found in John 8 where we observe Yeshua in a heated exchange with some of the Jewish leaders. Calling on the well-known fact that many sons resemble their fathers - if not in appearance, then in manner, speech and behaviour - Yeshua told them, "I say what My Father has shown Me; you do what your father has told you" (John 8:38, CJB). The leaders retort that their father is Avraham, but Yeshua says, Not so - "You belong to your father, Satan, and you want to carry out your father's desires" (v. 8:44, CJB). What can have provoked this level of acrimony? Yeshua knew that those Jewish leaders hated the things that He was saying and were seeking an opportunity to kill Him (or have Him killed); this, of course, is contrary to the Torah - they are not obeying G-d, so must be obeying Satan. By following the behaviour patterns of the enemy - Yeshua tells them, "from the start he was a murderer ... a liar, indeed, the inventor of the lie!" (v. 45, CJB) - as a son models the behaviour of his father, they are demonstrating their spiritual inheritance.
Like those Jewish leaders in Yeshua's time, we too inherit learned behaviour and attitudes from our physical parents, from our society and environment, from father figures or mentors in our lives and even from our peer group around us every day. Some of the influences can be very good and positive: being brought up in a strong believing home; godly teachers at school, church or synagogue; a caring and challenging mentor or older people who encourage us. For other people, sadly, those same figures can be a source of discouragement, bad attitudes and habits, leading us into trouble. All too frequently we can be swayed by our peer-group - those around us at work, college, camp or leisure - and we find ourselves rejecting our real values in order to identify with our peers and be considered part of the crowd. And bad habits, once learned, can be almost impossible to break.
How can we break the power and control of the past, those inherited and learned behaviours that sometimes seem to dog our path? The key is to recognise the truth that G-d speaks to us; Rav Sha'ul writes: "If anyone is united with the Messiah, he is a new creation - the old has passed; look, what has come is fresh and new!" (2 Corinthians 5:17, CJB). Once we know Yeshua and have truly given our lives to Him, we are new; the old has ceased to exist and have any legitimate hold over us; we are new, fresh and clean. Certainly old habits may take time to stop but they have no right to hold us, there is no legal ownership that allows them tenure - they have to go. As we walk in and declare the truth that the enemy has no claim over us, unless we choose to invite him back, we can and will experience freedom from "the sin which doth so easily beset us" (Hebrews 12:1, KJV). Let it no more be said of us, "Like mother, like daughter", but that we are the children of the King!
Further Study: 1 Kings 21:25-26; Romans 6:4-7
Application: Do you struggle with inherited behaviour or expectations that drag you down? Stand firm today in the knowledge that you are a new creation. Talking with someone who understands these issues may be a good thing, but start today to experience the freedom that G-d has for you!
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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