Dina Went Out
Who were these women? Why did Dina go to meet them? And what part do they play in her story?
Dina, daughter of Leah, whose father was also Yaakov, heard from her servant about the monthly meetings of the desert women. Dina longed to go, because B'elilah spoke intensely of the powers that were revealed during the gatherings. However, Dina was still a young girl and her bride price had not been negotiated. It was too dangerous for her to be out among the Canaanite neighbors. They were resentful of the proud Hebrews. So although Dina's twelve brothers were allowed to roam, she was forbidden. Her mother bade her be patient, for all too soon she would be married off, with the responsibility for her own tent.
Dina, however was a strong-willed young woman. She took after her mother, who had bargained boldly for her father's attentions. But she wanted to see the world in ways her mother never had. She wanted to explore the desert and go beyond the confines of their settlement, like her brothers did. She begged B'elilah time and time again to take her just once. B'elilah knew it wasn't allowed, yet she recognized Dina's creative urge and knew she must be trained soon. Her brothers were needed to guard the camp, tend the animals, and trade. Dina needed to develop her own talents.
Finally, late one moonless night, Dina and B'elilah slipped out of the camp. Dina went out to meet the women of the land. They traveled silently, listening to the sound of desert animals along the way. The sky, brilliantly spangled with stars, provided the neccessary light for the journey.
The women were gathering in the dark of the moon, using the time of transition to rejuvenate their energies. The darkness inspired their creations. The fallow space of time between light and light gave their internal rhythm time for balancing. It was a time for moving with the tides as the sand whirled silently across the desert. It was precious time when the RUACH visited the unconsciousness of the women.
The camels moved slowly through the palm trees carrying provisions for the days to come. They had traveled from the distance, carrying flat breads, their handiworks, their children. They were singing to the strains of sweet wind instruments carried through the blackened sky. Drums sounded steadily, keeping all the heartbeats of the desert in motion. The laughter echoed across the night.
The first tents were struck. Dried wood and camel dung were piled in the center of the circle of tents. The keepers of the fire came forth. The fire women chanted the ancient formula and a blaze arose. The tall torches were cast around the edge of the camp. Foodstuffs were arranged in a special area of the circle. The young priestesses, already familiar with their assigned roles, divided the nourishment and set aside special grains for the nursing mothers. The magic bowls were filled with ritual water from the sacred wells. Colorful cloth and woven rugs were placed in the large central space. The women hurried to put their belongings in order. Others would be arriving and preparations must be completed before the rites could begin.
The babes were discharged to their own tent. They cooed, they howled, they played with their bone and pottery toys. Women would share the responsibility of wet nurse. Other responsibilties were also divided. Some would guard the camp from intruders, others would stand in service to the priestesses.
Men were not allowed in the camp, for the initiation rites of the women must be protected. After all, it was through the teachings of the female cycle that all life was conceived. Young women had to learn the rhythms of their bodies as they tuned to the lunar light. A woman must know when her scents were ripe to seduce men and when her time of fertility had arrived. Oils were perfumed with the flowers of the desert, herbs were brewed to lengthen the time for conception, and potions prepared to induce the dreams of sacred vision. These secrets had been taught from mother to daughter for many years and must be maintained. These were the ways of women.
Dina and B'elilah arrived at the camp at dawn. From the top of the ridge, Dina gasped at the huge ring of tents nestled among the dunes. As they descended the side of the great valley, many voices greeted them. "Welcome, sisters of the Mother!" "Our friend B'elilah brings a young woman." "Come feast and prepare with us!" "Welcome!"
Dina and B'elilah were soon escorted to a tent where they cleansed themselves from the journey and annointed their bodies with perfumes of wild sage. Dressed in ceremonial robes brought by B'elilah, they joined the other women seated in a large circular spiral. Some were chanting, some offering silent prayers, some wailing the names of G!d into the starry night. Some had been meditating for three days in preparation for the moon's first visibilty. Slowly, the dawn broke and the soft murmurings grew louder. The chanting intensified and the drums began to pound insistently.
As Dina watched in amazement, some of the women slowly rose to their feet and began to dance to the drums. The rhythm became faster as more bodies rose to weave in and out to the music. Dina, watching them move, began to feel the vibrations of the beat through her body, too. As if an uncontrollable force possessed her, she rose to lose herself in the maze of dancing, sweating, ecstatic energy. After what seemed like hours, she felt a strange sweating. Looking down, she noticed her darkly stained gown. "I have finally begun my bleeding," Dina noted to herself, "So this is the power of the ritual."
Suddenly, a cry was heard from one of the corner guards. "Men in the camp!" The camels came flying into the midst of the women. The men had been watching from the top of the dunes! They had seen the sacred circle! The women were left to frantically dodge the racing camels as they trampled through the camp.
Dina was confused. She stood rooted in fear as a camel charged in her direction. The young rider in regal robes locked eyes with her, stopping directly in front of her. She returned his gaze boldly, noticing his striking features. Suddenly, he grabbed her arm and swung her up behind him, and rode off with her! When this happened, the other men fled quickly.
The women were shocked, bruised and bewildered. It was not the first time the men had raided the camp, but it was the first time they had captured someone so young! B'elilah was beside herself in fear of her own worthless life. A plan was needed to get Dina back! They called for the most able women to set out after her. They gathered stones and pots and pans and water for the journey. The men had been recognized as Hivites, where Hamor was king. Shechem, his son, had captured Dina. The women would bring her back.
Soon enough, they arrived at the tent of Shechem, prince of the land. The thirsty, tired and angry women surrounded his tent and began to beat their pots and pans. They screamed and cursed and called the coward to come out. They sang and chanted and began to challenge and taunt his guards. "Your prince is a weak man that he must steal women. Come out Shechem, or not one woman will lay peacefully with a man in your city again!" They rattled their utensils and spit on the ground.
The door to the tent opened and Dina emerged. Her dress was torn, and her hair matted, but she appeared unhurt. "Why do you assume I was stolen against my will? I saw this man and chose freely. Now that I am a woman I may make my own choice."
B'elilah was scornful, "That's what you think! Wait til your brothers hear about this. You are still my responsibility. I took you away from your family, and cannot face them without fear of my life. How can I tell your brothers you willingly went with a Canaanite? Listen to me now, Dina, if you don't return with me I will go back there and say he took you by force. How else can I explain your sudden absence? Not to mention the loss of your virginity? I am sorry, I see you have made your choice, but I cannot face my masters without telling them thus."
And Dina said, "Do what you must do."
And so it was so that the story came down to us that Dina went out to meet the women of the land, and was raped at the hands of Shechem, who loved her.
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