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The Red Tent

Anita Diamant

Part Three, Chapter 5

Part Three, Chapter 4

Important Quotations Explained

Summary

Dinah happily returns home and tells Meryt her entire story. After hearing her story, Meryt tells Dinah that no daughter could have made her more proud. Several months later, Dinah finally tells Benia her history. Soon after, Meryt dies and Dinah helps to bury her. Over the next few nights, Dinah dreams of each of her mothers—first Meryt, then Bilhah, Zilpah, and Rachel. She waits to dream of Leah, but the dream does not come. When the new moon arrives, Dinah does not bleed and that night she dreams of Leah. Her mother bows her head in her dream and asks for forgiveness. Dinah gathers Leah in her arms and forgives her. In the meantime, Meryt’s daughter-in-law and granddaughter begin attending births with Dinah and soon begin delivering babies on their own.

Years later, Joseph appears at her door. Jacob lies dying, and they must go to him, for he wishes to give Joseph’s sons his blessing. Joseph orders Dinah to come with him, but she flinches at his demand and throws him a look of disgust. In response, Joseph gets down on the floor in shame and apologizes, telling her that he will bring both Dinah and Benia as his guests. Joseph talks all night and finally convinces them to go.

Dinah and Benia set off the next morning with Joseph’s caravan, which includes his two sons and his slaves. Dinah travels as the carpenter’s wife, not Joseph’s sister. They set up camp by a river for several nights, and by the light of the moon Benia teaches Dinah to swim. Finally they arrive at Jacob’s camp, and Dinah is surprised by how much it has grown, though the familiar smells bring tears to her eyes. Dinah sees her brothers and is shocked to realize that they are now old men, for she is barely able to recognize them. Joseph visits his father in his tent and does not speak to Dinah or Benia again that night. Dinah lies in her tent remembering some of the good qualities of her brothers and at last rises to go speak with Joseph. Joseph tells her that Jacob did not recognize him immediately, but then grabbed him and begged for forgiveness, cursing the memories of Reuben, Levi, and Simon. Jacob blessed his grandsons and wept for Rachel and Leah. Joseph tells her that he did not mention Dinah or the murders, and Dinah realizes that she has been forgotten in the house of Jacob.

Dinah and Benia remain at the camp with Joseph and wait for Jacob to die. Dinah sees evidence of her mothers’ faces everywhere. Gera, a daughter of Benjamin, comes to her one day and sits down to talk. Assuming that Dinah is the nurse to Joseph’s sons, she tells her about her family. Dinah learns that Reuben, Levi, and Simon have died and Judah has taken leadership of the clan. Eventually the girl begins to tell the legend of Dinah. Gera says that she does not believe the story, but that it is often recounted by members of the clan, who assume that Dinah died from grief. Gera swears that she will name her daughter Dinah.

Jacob dies that night. Dinah feels peace with the knowledge that her story is too terrible to be forgotten. As they depart from the camp, a hand stops her. Judah hands her Rachel’s lapis ring, which had been a gift from Jacob. On her deathbed, Leah requested that it be given to Dinah. Judah says that Leah spoke of her every day of her life. Dinah wonders why Leah would give her a token of Jacob’s love for her aunt. Benia believes that it means Leah forgave Rachel, indicating she died with forgiveness in her heart and that she wished the same for Dinah.

When they return home, Joseph and Dinah bid goodbye to one another. Dinah knows she will never see him again, and they say farewell fondly. Dinah stops attending births and spends her time playing with Kiya’s children. When her time arrives, she wakes in the night to a pain in her chest. As she is dying, she sees shining lights and the faces of all of her mothers. The narrative ends with Dinah thanking the reader for listening to her story and remembering her name. She closes with a blessing.

Analysis

When Dinah tells the story of her old family to her new family, she is released from her burden. Re-mose, Meryt, and Benia have become Dinah’s new family, though none of them know the story of her past. When she is forced to tell Re-mose about his father, she realizes that she must then tell everyone she loves in order to find closure and release. Driven by her confession and farewell to Re-mose, she arrives home from Joseph’s palace and tells Meryt her story. Meryt, ever accepting, comforts her. Later, when Benia questions Dinah about Joseph, she discovers that her defenses are too worn down to hide the truth anymore and she tells him her story. When she tells Benia, she discovers that she has come to terms with her past, for her heart does not race and her eyes do not fill up with tears. By telling her story to the three most important people in her life, Dinah finally lets go of the sorrow and anger from her past and embraces the life she has made for herself in Egypt.

Meryt functions as a mother figure to the adult Dinah. When she arrives in Egypt, alone and frightened, Dinah has nobody to trust. Meryt, a kind midwife with two adult sons, sees Dinah’s loneliness and reaches out to her, recognizing that she needs a mother and a friend. They find common ground through their shared experience as midwives, and Dinah slowly begins to open up to Meryt. Over time, Meryt convinces Dinah to attend births with her, drawing Dinah out of her garden shed and showing that there is a life to be had in Egypt. Meryt brings Dinah to the market, where she meets Benia, and urges her to move to the Valley of the Kings, where Dinah and Benia reunite and marry. Not only does Meryt act as a surrogate mother to Dinah, but her granddaughter Kiya becomes a substitute daughter for Dinah. When Dinah finally tells Meryt her tragic history, Meryt tells Dinah that no daughter could have made her happier or more proud. Through Meryt’s steadfast love, Dinah becomes a beloved daughter once more.

Dinah finds a surrogate mother in Meryt, and when she dies, Dinah finds that she needs closure with her other mothers. Immediately after Meryt dies, Dinah begins to dream of each of her mothers in turn. When she finally dreams of Leah, her mother asks her for forgiveness and Dinah gladly gives it. In her dream, she apologizes for doubting her love and feels her pardon in her heart. The next day, Dinah goes to Meryt’s grave and pours an offering in thanks for sending her mothers back to her. Dinah’s long-awaited goodbyes with Leah, Rachael, Zilpah, and Bilhah release her. Though she has known in her heart that they were all dead, she could not be at peace with herself or their deaths until she said goodbye to them. Meryt’s love and her confessions of her story have enabled her to honor her mothers one last time.

Dinah’s meeting with her niece Gera gives her the knowledge that her name lives on, which finally brings closure to Dinah’s story. Before she meets Gera, Joseph has told her that her story is no longer told in the house of Jacob and that what happened to her is no longer considered important. Dinah believes that her story has been forgotten. Gera carefully recounts Dinah’s tale and assures her that the name Dinah is remembered, which gives her the reassurance that she needs. Shalem’s death and the murder of the men of Shechem did not happen in vain, for their story will survive along with Dinah’s. She says that this knowledge gives her peace, for her own history is too terrible to be forgotten. As long as Jacob’s name lives on, so will Dinah’s. Though the past has wronged Dinah, she has nothing to fear of the future. Gera tells her that she will name her daughter Dinah, and with this information Dinah feels free at last.

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I disagree. Leah and Rachel were polytheistic.

by sman613, April 29, 2014

Nobody can change their customs fast. These two grew up as polytheists, so it is improbable that they would have been, at least during the time frame of the story, monotheists. That is why in Genesis 35:2, Jacob needs to say: "Remove the foreign gods which are in your midst..."

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