Crooked Dealing, Dealing with Crooks

Parshas Vayishlach

After Shechem violated Dina, he tried to regain favor in the eyes of her family by promising to give them anything they demand. The sons of Yaakov proposed to Shechem, “if you will be like us and circumcise every male; then will we give you our daughters, and take your daughters for ourselves”. Shimon and Levi slayed the Shechemites, in their weakened state post circumcision . It is obvious though that this proposition was only a ruse to set Shechem up for the ensuing massacre.

Question One

What is their justification for lying and tricking the Shechemites?

Answer One

The true Torah method to deal with crooked person, is with subtlety. We derive this from Yaakov himself. Yaakov on meeting Rochel indicated that he wished to marry her. Rochel responded that she has an older sister eligible for marriage and my father Laban will trick you into marrying Leah. Yaakov, not to be outdone, said he will act subtly and outsmart Laban. Rochel was taken aback, and questioned; Is that how righteous people act? To which Yaakov informed her in the words of the Psalmist: “With the pure show yourself pure, and with a crook show yourself subtle”.

Yaakov’s sons realized that Shechem was an obsessive despot used to having his own way. They were aware that Shechem was not averse to lying to obtain his desires. Shechem was a crook and therefore the correct way to deal with him is in a seemingly bent fashion.

Question Two

This brings us to the following question where do we see that Shechem is a crook. Lustful – definitely, Getting his own way – certainly, but where do we discern crookedness.

Answer Two

The answer is inferred from a later statement of the Parsha. After wiping out Shechem the verse says “They killed Shechem by the sword, and took Dina from Shechem’s house, then they left”. Implying, that Dina was held captive up until now, securely in the clutches of Shechem. This is not the way of honest bargaining. Shechem was trying to compel the House of Yaakov into a position they wouldn’t have chosen themselves. The fact he was willing to make huge concessions going so far as to circumcise his whole nation doesn’t justify forcing people into descions. That is crooked.


Indirect coercion is also coercion.


Three – second century scholars – Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yose stayed at a certain inn one weekend. Before the onset of Shabbos two of the party – Rabbis Yehuda and Yose – deposited their money purses with Kidor the innkeeper for safekeeping. Rabbi Meir did not leave his money with the innkeeper, as he was suspicious of Kidor. Rabbi Meir attached much importance to people’s name, and the name Kidor brought to mind the verse “Ki dor tapuchos heima” – they are a generation which reverses itself.

When Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yose came to retrieve their money after Shabbos, Kidor denied ever being entrusted with the purses. Rabbi Meir’s fears had been well-founded. Rabbi Meir asked Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yose “Why they did not investigate Kidor name first”. “Why didn’t you warn us?” reponded Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Yehuda. Replied Rabbi Meir “It was only conjecture, with no evidence I could not besmirch Kidor’s reputation with no surety.”

The Sages persuaded Kidor to join them for a drink, hoping that the alcohol would make him talk and he would reveal where he had stowed their money. While they were drinking together, the sages noticed that there were lentils on Kidor’s mustache. They hurried to Kidor’s home to talk to his wife. When they met her, they said: “Your husband instructed that you should return our purses, and so you know we are telling the truth, he told us to mention that the two of you ate lentils today.” Their ploy worked: Indeed, the couple had eaten lentils, and based on this proof, Kidor’s wife returned the money purses. When Kidor found out that his wife had returned the money, he murdered his wife.

Weekly Halacha

One may open a folding table or a play-yard on Shabbos.


  1. A similar case of seeming subterfuge is when Jacob tells Esau that he will meet up with him in Seir. Esau was under the impression that Seir was his current destination. Jacob scared of an attack from Esau only intended to arrive at Seir in the distant future.

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