Esau’s out-of-reach repentance

Dear Rabbi Fried,
I have a question about Leah and Dina. When Leah heard she was to marry Esau, she prayed and cried to Hashem that she not be forced to marry a wicked man. As a result, she married Jacob. However, Jacob is blamed for concealing his daughter Dina from Esau because Dina might have influenced Esau toward repentance. If a woman’s influence on her husband is so powerful, why did Leah not understand that she could encourage Esau toward teshuva (repentance), rather than refuse to marry him?
Phyllis L.
Dear Phyllis,
What you are referring to is a rabbinical teaching, based upon the Midrash, that Jacob hid his daughter Dina in a large wooden box when he had contact with Esau, lest his evil brother lay his eyes upon her and ask for her hand in marriage. As you mentioned, Jacob was taken to task for doing so, and not placing his daughter in a position to influence Esau as his wife.
The obvious question is, why should Jacob be censured for what he did? What self-respecting father would allow his daughter to enter a home filled with evil and marry an evil man, with the hopes that her piety will trump his evil? Although it’s possible, it’s unlikely Esau would change, especially given his power and influence; he attempted to wage a war against his own brother and family. His evil wasn’t sudden; it had been quite some time since he’d sold his birthright — his future — for the sake of the instant pleasure of a bowl of beans at the moment of his hunger. It would be more appropriate to censure Jacob if he had allowed Dina to marry Esau.
A novel explanation of the above episode is offered by the Baalei haMussar (masters of the Mussar Movement of self-perfection through Torah). They maintain the meaning of the Midrash was not that Jacob was expected to allow Dina to marry Esau, for the reasons we mentioned above. In their words, the claim against Jacob was “that he didn’t hide her with a ‘kreptz,’ ” or with a sorrowful sigh. Mussar leaders later explained: “Of course he did it with a sigh; the sigh just wasn’t loud enough.”
According to these rabbis, the Midrash teaching is as follows: Although Dina rightfully needed to be protected from this evil, we still need to feel terrible that the person in question, Esau, is, in fact, so evil that his brother’s daughter must be protected from him. It is one of the greatest tragedies of world history that Esau sank so low, he was out of bounds to a righteous woman who might have been his last chance of ever reaching his potential for greatness and piety.
This fact deeply troubled Jacob, leading him to sigh out of sorrow for this tragedy when hiding Dina in the box, but perhaps not loudly enough. He was censured for not feeling sorrow for his brother deeply enough in his heart.
This packs a profound message for us all. We all need to feel the sorrow deeply in our hearts for all those Jews who have distanced themselves from our Torah and its teachings. We all need to kreptz and express it loudly enough to do something about it, and help all those who might desire to do so to reconnect with their rich and glorious heritage.

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