Vayeshev 5772 – Gilayon #729
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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
(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 – http://www.halakhah.com/sotah/sotah_10.html
– 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 [
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'.
10a, Soncino Edition)
"…and covered herself with a veil and
wrapped herself and sat by Petach Enaim – Said 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)
by Petach Enaim – All 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
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
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
"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
said: The word botzeiya (grasping)
was used only in reference to
for it says: Then
said to his brothers, "What do we gain (ma betza)
by killing our brother?" Anyone who blesses
regarding this it is said, The grasping
man reviles and scorns the Lord (Psalms
(B. Sanhedrin 6b)
For he should have said, "let us return him to our father", since his
brothers hearkened to his words.
(Rashi loc cit)
we gain: Anyone who blesses
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.
(Hizkuni – Bereishit 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.'
"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.
HaBehira of Rabeinu Menahem Hameiri, 1249-1315, on Yoma 22b).
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