Vayeshev 5772 – Gilayon #729

Shabbat Shalom The weekly parsha commentary

(link to original page)

Click here to
receive the weekly parsha by email each week.

Parshat Vayeshev


she took off her widow's garb and covered herself


a veil and wrapped herself and sat by petach

Enaim which is on the road to timna

(Bereishit 38:14)


(The meaning of "Petach

Enayim" is not clear. "Petach"

means opening or entrance. "Ayin", singular

of "Enaim" may mean "eye" or "spring".

'Ayin' appears in many Hebrew idioms; its exact

meaning is contextually determined and therefore subject to varying

interpretations – Translator).


She sat by

Petach Enaim

– 10a_33#10a_33 R. Alexander said: It teaches that she [Tamar] went and sat

at the entrance [of the hospice] of our father Abraham, to see which place all

eyes ['enaim] look. R. Hanin

said in the name of Rab: It is a place named Enaim, as it states: Tappuah and Enam. R. Samuel b. Nahmani said:

[It is so called] because she gave eyes to her words. When [Judah]

solicited her, he asked her, 'Art thou perhaps a Gentile?' She replied: 'I am a

proselyte'. 'Art thou perhaps a married woman?' She replied: 'I am unmarried'.

'Perhaps thy father has accepted on thy behalf betrothals?' She replied: 'I am

an orphan'. 'Perhaps thou art unclean?' She replied: 'I am clean'.

(Bavli, Sotah

10a, Soncino Edition)


"…and covered herself with a veil and

wrapped herself and sat by Petach EnaimSaid Rabbi Ami: We have reviewed the entire

Bible, but found no location named Petach Enaim; what, then, is Petach Enaim? It comes to teach that she raised her eyes towards

that entrance which all eyes look, and said, "May it be your will, my Lord

God, that I not leave this house empty". An alternative explanation: "Petach Enaim" – She

opened her spring to him, saying to him, "I am (ritually) clean, and I am


(Bereishit Raba 85;7)


She sat

by Petach EnaimAll she did was for the sake of Heaven, as my father

and master [Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib

Alter of Gur, author of the "S'fat

Emmet") said: By Petach Enaim is written in order to teach us that her

intentions were for the sake of Heaven, She sat by Petach

Enaim, because no sinner sins unless a spirit of

foolishness enters him and blinds him, whereas she was at the Opening of

Eyes. The Talmud relates that she went and sat at our Father Abraham's

entrance, etc., Father Abraham had a good eye ['was generous], as is written

[in the Mishnah] "the disciples of our Father

Abraham are distinguished by 'a good eye' etc., and this is the explanation of 'she

sat at our Father Abraham's entrance', and also it is similarly written of King

David, o"h, who was her descendent, that he was "bright-eyed

and handsome", and this is the meaning of "by Petach Enaim".

(Rabbi Abraham Mordecai Alter of Gur;

Imrei Emet on Parashat Vayeshev)



The distinction of a princess is also from outside

Dalia Marx

Not all of a princess's distinction is "inside" – in private1 ,

not every problem can be solved in the innermost rooms. Tamar can teach us that

there are times when the greatest of sins are executed in inner sanctums, and

seemingly unknowingly. To achieve justice, we must air them out, bring them

into the open, and raise a loud voice, without fear.

After Yehuda's two sons, whom he had married

to Tamar, died because of their sins, he feared to give her his third son. He

orders: "Sit as a widow in your father's house until Shelah

my son grows up" (Bereishit 38:11). It is clear, however, that he has no

intention of giving him to her "for he said lest he also die like his

brothers" (ibid.). Yehuda is playing

for time. And although his fatherly concern is understandable, it is difficult

to justify his decision to leave Tamar chained to her blood-family (because of the

levirate laws) and at the same time prevent her from realizing motherhood. It

is also difficult to overlook the trace of Yehuda's

veiled accusation of Tamar; it is easier for him to consider her a "femme

fatale" than to muse on his sons' sins and perhaps also about the

education they received. Tamar's desires are not taken into consideration, and throughout

the tragic events, we never get to hear at all about her actions and her


Tamar's sentence is decided upon inside the shadows of tents, far from

the public eye. She is sentenced to the life of a living widow; her hair will

turn grey, her teeth will fall out, her skin will wrinkle, and she will never

be privileged to love a man or hug a baby. This is how the story could have

ended, and who knows how many of such stories, unknown to us, could be told by

the curtains of tents and the walls of houses through the generations.

But not so Tamar. When she sees that Yehudah refuses to give her his third son, yet leaves her

in chains, she decides to act. When she understands that "For Shelah had grown, yet she was not given to him as wife"

(ibid., 14), she

knows that unless she takes extreme initiatives, she will have no salvation. Tamar

refuses to be unseen; she leaves her widowhood and the clothes of her widowhood

and waits for Yehuda in a public open place, at "Petach

Enaim" ["At the entrance to Einaim" or "two wells" but literally "Opening

of eyes"] – dressed as a harlot – the complete opposite of the living widowhood,

incarcerated in loneliness, in her home. Tamar moves from the closed space of

the home and goes out to public realm and, for a short moment, transforms

herself into this very space. Later in the narrative, she will return to public

space, this time to plead for her life and that of the fruit of her womb. She

discards the rules of propriety and disrupts accepted solely to achieve her

worthy goal – to conceive and bring progeny into the world.

When Yehudah discovers that Tamar is

pregnant, he proclaims "Take her out to be burned" (ibid.,24). At this

point, Tamar shows her resourcefulness and reveals her plan. She does not seek

to solve the crisis inside the privacy of closed rooms. On the contrary, she

confronts Yehuda with the fact of his paternity only when "Out she was

taken" (ibid.,

25), when she is taken to the public space, there to find true justice.

Indeed, she finds justice, but not as expected by spectators present. Forefend

that we suspect the fathers of the nation, but who knows what the dénouement

might have been had not Tamar decided to cease being "a princess".

She knows that in her case, her honor is not to be found "inside".

Were she to have confronted Yehudah with his

paternity in private, he might have shrugged off his responsibility, or even

worse. The public confrontation, from Tamar's point of view, is not always

pleasant or complimentary, but it is essential!

When Tamar publically shows Yehuda his identifying items, the seal, the

cord, and the staff, he realizes what has happened and reacts quickly (as he

will – to his credit – in crises relating to Joseph). He understands that Tamar

is the woman he met at Petach Enaim, he digests the fact

that he is the father of Tamar's baby. Yet more, he shows understanding of the

irregular tactic which Tamar chose. "She is more in the right than I"

he says, and explains to the surprised public, just has he explains to himself:

"For have I not failed to give her to Shelah, my

son?" (ibid. 26).

Yehudah's touching confession "She is

more in the right than I" may be understood in different ways: "She

was more right than I" (Rashbam), "She is

right; she is impregnated by me" (Rashi), or "She

is right, I testify that it is so". Each of these interpretations evinces

the justice of a clear and strong voice of a woman who fearlessly remonstrates

against the father of the tribe.

Following a statement by our Sages, Rashi

adds another explanation, according to which the truth was revealed to Yehudah by supernatural means. Rashi

writes: "She is right in her words; 'from Me'

…a bat kol [literally, 'a daughter of a voice']

issued forth saying: from Me did these events evolve."2 According to this explanation, it was

cooperation between divine and mortal which led to Tamar's exoneration, Yehudah admitting the justice of her action, and the

heaven-sent voice supplying Yehudah's admission with

verification3. Yet more, two

clear female voices – the voice of Tamar and that of the 'daughter of a voice'

from above – joined to protest the injustice done to the alien woman.

In the story of Tamar and Yehudah, the voice

of the woman is explicitly 'ervah" – of

a sexual nature – but in the pure sense of the word. Biblical tradition does

not censure Tamar for her irregular sexual behavior. On the contrary, her

actions receive silent approval; it is Yehudah's

reputation which is sullied. Tamar, who longed to be a mother, becomes mother

to a dynasty which will produced Ruth the Moabite (also an alien who joined the

Jewish people), and therefore, according to the tradition, she is also the ancient

mother of King David and of the Messiah son of David. Perhaps even Peretz and Zerach, the names

given Tamar's sons, indicate her z'chut ['virtue',

'privilege'] – she who opened a breach [translation of Peretz] was privileged that from her shone [Zarach] forth the light of the Jewish

kingdom and in the future will shine the light of redemption.

We also learn from Parashat "Vayeshev" that not only is the presence of women in

the public sphere essential, beneficial and often life-saving; imprisonment of

women is deleterious. We read in our parasha about

the wife of Potiphar who attempted to rape Joseph

inside her house. She damaged his reputation and subsequently his freedom was

denied him, all without taking a step outside her house. The inequity was

perpetrated within her four cubits. From this we may conclude that not only is

the exclusion of women improper, it is also not necessarily effective.

Today, as many conspire to exclude the voice, the image, and the presence

of woman from public domain, when community leaders publically desecrate God's

name with demands to distance women from public podiums, from ceremonies, from cemeteries,

and even from city streets, we must remember the lesson taught by Tamar to the

father of the tribe after whom we are named, and to resist vigorously. Were

today not Shabbat I would suggest that we recite viduy

– confession – to not having done enough to prevent the exclusion of women from

Israeli society, and that we commit ourselves to resist it: For the sin we

have sinned before you openly and in secret, for the sin we have sinned before

you openly in secret, for the sin we have sinned before you secretly in the


1. At least not according to the accepted and

inaccurate interpretation of the Biblical phrase (Psalm 35:14)

2. ""She is more in the right than I".

How did he know? A bat kol issued forth down

and said: From me have come "kvushim"

(Bavli 10b). The meaning of 'kvushim"

is not sufficiently clear. Perhaps it the reference is to the fact that Tamar's

pregnancy was secret (Rashi). RaDaK

quotes a commentary to the effect that from this pregnancy ussued

forth 'conquerers' ['secrets' and 'conquerers' share a common root), the conquerers

of the Land. Steinzaltz quotes a Gaonic

tradition, that "kvushim" means 'twins'".

3. See Nechama Leibowitz, "Parashat Hashavula Sheets" 5723. Regarding homiletical,

explicatory, and poetic traditions relevant to the passage under study, see: Yair Zakowitz and Avigdor Shinan, The story of Yehudah and

Tamar, Jerusalem

5752, pp.170-189.



"An ill report of them" – of whom?

"And Yosef brought and ill report of them to their father." What

did he say? Rabbi Meir says: They are suspect of eating flesh of a living

animal. Rabbi Yehuda says: They are contemptuous of the sons of the maids,

treating them as slaves. And Rabbi Shimon says: They are eyeing the local


(Yerushalmi, Peah 1:1)


"And Yosef brought an ill report of them to their father." Certainly

all the brothers, sons of the wives, disdained the sons of the maids, calling

their others concubines and maids, and calling their sons slaves, and

Yosef alone was friendly with the sons of Bilha and Zilpa, for he said that

they were true wives of his father, and this is the reason that Reuven was disrespectful of Bilha,

considering her to be a concubine rather than a wife, and therefore he lay with

her. From he we clearly derive that all the sons of the wives reported ill of

the sons of the maids, calling them slaves, and this is the meaning of "And

Yosef brought an ill report of them to their

father" – that same slander which the brothers spoke against the sons of

the maids, Yosef brought to their father – father of

the sons of Bilha and Zilpa.

They should have considered their fathers' honor and not call his sons slaves.

He thought that their father would defend their honor… and even though he too

reported ill of them, "firm remained his bow", for he drew his

bow and aimed it firmly in justice, for it is permissible to slander

contentious persons (Yerushalmi,

Peah, 1:1), and it was the brothers who had

begun this quarrel by scorning the sons of the maids.

(Kli Yakar, ibid.)



Do We Gain? Pragmatic Considerations vs. Ethical Considerations

Rabbi Meir

said: The word botzeiya (grasping)

was used only in reference to Judah,

for it says: Then Judah

said to his brothers, "What do we gain (ma betza)

by killing our brother?" Anyone who blesses Judah reviles and scorns [God], and

regarding this it is said, The grasping

man reviles and scorns the Lord (Psalms

10: 3).

(B. Sanhedrin 6b)



reference to Judah":

For he should have said, "let us return him to our father", since his

brothers hearkened to his words.

(Rashi loc cit)


What do

we gain: Anyone who blesses Judah

reviles and scorns, for he saved Joseph with the words what do we gain,

which imply that if there is something to be gained, we will kill him, and

regarding this it says The grasping man

reviles and scorns the Lord.

(HizkuniBereishit 37: 26)



Leader Must Not Have Delusions of Perfection: King David (and, subsequently,

the Messiah), Descendent of Peretz and of Ruth the


Said Rav Yehuda in the name of Shmuel:

Why was the kingship of Shaul's family discontinued?

Because they were without blemish, for Rabbi Yohanan

said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotsadak: One is not appointed leader over the public

unless he has a basket of impurities hanging behind him, so that should he

become self-satisfied, he can be told: ' Look behind you.'

(Bavli, Yoma



"Amram took himself Yokheved, his

aunt, for a wife." The Holy One acquiesced that a great person such

as Moshe should descend from a relationship which was destined to be

prohibited, because one is not appointed leader over the public unless he has a

basket of impurities hanging from his neck, lest he be arrogant towards the

people, as we found in the case of David.

(Hizkuni, Shemot 6:20)


It is proper

to appoint as public official only one who is known to be modest, humble, and

patient. This is because he must deal with different people in different and

changing ways. He must love each according to his character. If such (leaders)

are not to found, but in any case brave and arrogant persons must be appointed,

they should be careful not to appoint people so authoritarian as to feel that

the appointment is theirs forever, that they are more deserving than their

neighbors because of their might; their realization that they are assisted by

their father's qualities causes their conceit and arrogance to increase.

(Rather chose) people who know that in their society are persons more

deserving. If they deny this, there should be found someone to tell them the

truth and to recall the past. As is said, in light and exaggerated vein,

"One is not appointed leader over the public unless there is a sack of impurities

hanging behind him." This means, that even though he himself is decent,

should he become light-headed and behave haughtily towards the public not for

the sake of Heaven, we tell him, "Return and judge yourself, and look

behind you." So did they say, "Why was the kingship of Shaul's family discontinued? Because it

was without blemish." – meaning a family blemish, and because of

this they would behave toward the public arrogantly – not necessarily for the

sake of Heaven.

(From Beit

HaBehira of Rabeinu Menahem Hameiri, 1249-1315, on Yoma 22b).


To all our readers and supporters:

We need your support in order that the voice of a

religious Zionism committed to peace and justice will continue to be heard

through the uninterrupted distribution of Shabbat Shalom in hundreds of

synagogues, on the Internet and via email in both Hebrew and English.


Please send your checks made out to "Oz VeShalom" to Oz VeShalom-Netivot

Shalom POB 4433 Jerusalem




specify on the back of the check that the contribution is for the funding of Shabbat




contributions to either the NIF or PEF should be marked as donor-advised to Oz ve'Shalom, the Shabbat Shalom project. For Donations

to NIF, please mention that Oz veShalom is registered

as no. 5708.



you wish to subscribe to the email English editions of Shabbat Shalom, to print

copies of it for distribution in your synagogue, to inquire regarding the

dedication of an edition in someone's honor or memory, to find out how to make

tax-exempt donations, or to suggest additional helpful ideas, please call Miriam

Fine at +972-52-3920206 or at


If you enjoy

Shabbat Shalom, please consider contributing towards its publication and



Hebrew edition distributed in Israel $700


English edition distributed via

email $ 100

Issues may

be dedicated in honor of an event, person, simcha,

etc. Requests must be made 3-4 weeks in advance to appear in the Hebrew, 10

days in advance to appear in the English email.


About us

Oz Veshalom-Netivot Shalom is a movement dedicated to the

advancement of a civil society in Israel. It is committed to

promoting the ideals of tolerance, pluralism, and justice, concepts that have

always been central to Jewish tradition and law.

Oz Veshalom-Netivot Shalom shares a deep attachment to the land of Israel and it no less views peace as a

central religious value. It believes that Jews have both the religious and the

national obligation to support the pursuit of peace. It maintains that Jewish

law clearly requires us to create a fair and just society, and that co-existence

between Jews and Arabs is not an option but an imperative.

4,500 copies

of a 4-page peace oriented commentary on the weekly Torah reading are written

and published by Oz VeShalom/Netivot Shalom and they

are distributed to over 350 synagogues in Israel and are sent overseas via

email. Our web site is


Shalom is available on our website:

For responses and arranging to

write for Shabbat Shalom: