Outlaw In-Laws: Vayeshev 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do we best advocate for the mistreated in our society? What does it take to make those in power change their pattern of mistreatment?

Tamar had married two of Judah’s sons in the hopes of having a child, only to see each of them die; so after Judah refuses to allow her to marry his other son, Tamar takes matters into her own hands:

The Pitch: “When Judah saw [Tamar], he took her for a harlot; for she had covered her face. So he turned aside to her by the road and said, ‘Here, let me sleep with you’ — for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. ‘What,’ she asked, ‘will you pay for sleeping with me?’ He replied, ‘I will send a kid from my flock.’ But she said, ‘you must leave a pledge until you have sent it.’” – Genesis 38:15-17

Swing #1: “So, sitting at ‘the eye-opening,’ Tamar is playing a dangerous game. She must close Judah’s eyes in the present, or else he won’t sleep with her, but she must provide a way to open them in the future, or she will be in serious trouble. So when he propositions her, she acts like a prostitute.” – Tikva Frymer-Kensky, Reading the Women of the Bible: A New Interpretation of Their Stories

Swing #2: “[Judah’s] commerce in this fashion was reported without any moral judgment.” – William Graham Cole, Sex & Love in the Bible

Swing #3: “The young lion [Judah] sinned with Tamar at Enaim; when he confessed his sin, You inclined the scale to justify him. Cause us to return to You, Adonai, and we shall return.” – Selichot Nusach Ashkenaz Lita for the Fast of Gedaliah

Late-Inning Questions: How are Tamar’s actions far riskier for her than they are for Judah? How should we characterize the courage that she shows? How much rule-breaking is necessary to tip the scales of justice properly?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: You don’t need to light your Hanukkah candles alone — join us on Zoom each night to light with your TBT friends! Tonight, since we need to light our Hanukkah candles prior to lighting Shabbat candles, tune into our “Shabbat Is Here!” program on our Temple livestream at 4:00 pm so we can lead you in the blessings.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of “proper” rule-breaking, here’s what you shouldn’t do: When Bobby Valentine managed the New York Mets, he once was ejected from a game, only to return to the dugout a bit later sporting sunglasses and a mustache, in the hopes that the umpires wouldn’t notice. It didn’t work, and just made him look silly.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!