There is a midrash that casts some blame on Yaakov Avinu for Shechem’s violation of Dina. This source (Bereishit Rabbah 76) notices that Dina’s name is missing from the list of family members who are introduced to Eisav in the previous chapter.
The midrash asks:
וְדִינָה הֵיכָן הִיא, נְתָנָהּ בְּתֵבָה וְנָעַל בְּפָנֶיהָ, אָמַר הָרָשָׁע הַזֶּה עֵינוֹ רָמָה הִיא, שֶׁלֹא יִתְלֶה עֵינָיו וְיִרְאֶה אוֹתָהּ וְיִקַּח אוֹתָהּ מִמֶּנִּי.
And where was Dina? [Yaakov] had put her in a case and locked her in. [He] said, ‘This wicked one… shouldn’t put his eyes on her, see her and take her from me.’
This could be read as Yaakov being a responsible father, and protecting Dina from Eisav and his men. Surprisingly, the midrash then goes on to say that Hashem punished Yaakov for this! It establishes the concealment of Dina as the reason for her violation by Shechem. Why would the midrash claim that Yaakov was punished in such a harsh way for trying to protect Dina from the wicked ways of the world?
Perhaps the midrash wants us to understand a profound idea about education. Although Yaakov’s motives were reasonable, his solution was extreme. The image of forcing Dina into a box and locking her in does strike the reader as harsh. In particular, the locking seems to indicate that Dina didn’t agree to this process. Perhaps she didn’t even really understand what was happening. It is possible that this over sheltering left Dina with the curiosity that prompted her to wander into Shechem. The pasuk describes her as wanting to see the young women of Shechem. Was she naive to think she could do that safely in such an environment? In trying to protect her, Yaakov had left her more vulnerable.
It is possible that the midrash wants us to understand that a proper Jewish education does not hide the harsh realities of the world from our students. That would only leave them unprepared to face the challenges that life presents. Of course, educators must not overwhelm students by presenting too much too soon to their young charges. But education should be seen as a collaborative effort. The teacher’s insight and wisdom must be in dialogue with the student’s wonder and curiosity.
Perhaps instead of a locked box metaphor, an open book approach would be preferred. We can be confident of the Jewish future if more young Jews follow the inquisitive, searching model of learning exhibited by students and alumna of dedicated programs in Israel.