Recognition and Redemption: The strange story of Tamar and Judah
The Obstacle
1א
(א) וַֽיְהִי֙ בָּעֵ֣ת הַהִ֔וא וַיֵּ֥רֶד יְהוּדָ֖ה מֵאֵ֣ת אֶחָ֑יו וַיֵּ֛ט עַד־אִ֥ישׁ עֲדֻלָּמִ֖י וּשְׁמ֥וֹ חִירָֽה׃ (ב) וַיַּרְא־שָׁ֧ם יְהוּדָ֛ה בַּת־אִ֥ישׁ כְּנַעֲנִ֖י וּשְׁמ֣וֹ שׁ֑וּעַ וַיִּקָּחֶ֖הָ וַיָּבֹ֥א אֵלֶֽיהָ׃ (ג) וַתַּ֖הַר וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֑ן וַיִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ עֵֽר׃ (ד) וַתַּ֥הַר ע֖וֹד וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֑ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ אוֹנָֽן׃ (ה) וַתֹּ֤סֶף עוֹד֙ וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֔ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ שֵׁלָ֑ה וְהָיָ֥ה בִכְזִ֖יב בְּלִדְתָּ֥הּ אֹתֽוֹ׃ (ו) וַיִּקַּ֧ח יְהוּדָ֛ה אִשָּׁ֖ה לְעֵ֣ר בְּכוֹר֑וֹ וּשְׁמָ֖הּ תָּמָֽר׃ (ז) וַיְהִ֗י עֵ֚ר בְּכ֣וֹר יְהוּדָ֔ה רַ֖ע בְּעֵינֵ֣י יקוק וַיְמִתֵ֖הוּ יקוק׃ (ח) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוּדָה֙ לְאוֹנָ֔ן בֹּ֛א אֶל־אֵ֥שֶׁת אָחִ֖יךָ וְיַבֵּ֣ם אֹתָ֑הּ וְהָקֵ֥ם זֶ֖רַע לְאָחִֽיךָ׃ (ט) וַיֵּ֣דַע אוֹנָ֔ן כִּ֛י לֹּ֥א ל֖וֹ יִהְיֶ֣ה הַזָּ֑רַע וְהָיָ֞ה אִם־בָּ֨א אֶל־אֵ֤שֶׁת אָחִיו֙ וְשִׁחֵ֣ת אַ֔רְצָה לְבִלְתִּ֥י נְתׇן־זֶ֖רַע לְאָחִֽיו׃ (י) וַיֵּ֛רַע בְּעֵינֵ֥י יקוק אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה וַיָּ֖מֶת גַּם־אֹתֽוֹ׃ (יא) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוּדָה֩ לְתָמָ֨ר כַּלָּת֜וֹ שְׁבִ֧י אַלְמָנָ֣ה בֵית־אָבִ֗יךְ עַד־יִגְדַּל֙ שֵׁלָ֣ה בְנִ֔י כִּ֣י אָמַ֔ר פֶּן־יָמ֥וּת גַּם־ה֖וּא כְּאֶחָ֑יו וַתֵּ֣לֶךְ תָּמָ֔ר וַתֵּ֖שֶׁב בֵּ֥ית אָבִֽיהָ׃
(1) About that time Judah left his brothers and camped near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. (2) There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua, and he married her and cohabited with her. (3) She conceived and bore a son, and he named him Er. (4) She conceived again and bore a son, and named him Onan. (5) Once again she bore a son, and named him Shelah; he was at Chezib when she bore him. (6) Judah got a wife for Er his first-born; her name was Tamar. (7) But Er, Judah’s first-born, was displeasing to the LORD, and the LORD took his life. (8) Then Judah said to Onan, “Join with your brother’s wife and do your duty by her as a brother-in-law, and provide offspring for your brother.” (9) But Onan, knowing that the seed would not count as his, let it go to waste whenever he joined with his brother’s wife, so as not to provide offspring for his brother. (10) What he did was displeasing to the LORD, and He took his life also. (11) Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Stay as a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”—for he thought, “He too might die like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.
Tamar Meets the Challenge
2ב
(יב) וַיִּרְבּוּ֙ הַיָּמִ֔ים וַתָּ֖מׇת בַּת־שׁ֣וּעַ אֵֽשֶׁת־יְהוּדָ֑ה וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם יְהוּדָ֗ה וַיַּ֜עַל עַל־גֹּֽזְזֵ֤י צֹאנוֹ֙ ה֗וּא וְחִירָ֛ה רֵעֵ֥הוּ הָעֲדֻלָּמִ֖י תִּמְנָֽתָה׃ (יג) וַיֻּגַּ֥ד לְתָמָ֖ר לֵאמֹ֑ר הִנֵּ֥ה חָמִ֛יךְ עֹלֶ֥ה תִמְנָ֖תָה לָגֹ֥ז צֹאנֽוֹ׃ (יד) וַתָּ֩סַר֩ בִּגְדֵ֨י אַלְמְנוּתָ֜הּ מֵֽעָלֶ֗יהָ וַתְּכַ֤ס בַּצָּעִיף֙ וַתִּתְעַלָּ֔ף וַתֵּ֙שֶׁב֙ בְּפֶ֣תַח עֵינַ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־דֶּ֣רֶךְ תִּמְנָ֑תָה כִּ֤י רָאֲתָה֙ כִּֽי־גָדַ֣ל שֵׁלָ֔ה וְהִ֕וא לֹֽא־נִתְּנָ֥ה ל֖וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה׃ (טו) וַיִּרְאֶ֣הָ יְהוּדָ֔ה וַֽיַּחְשְׁבֶ֖הָ לְזוֹנָ֑ה כִּ֥י כִסְּתָ֖ה פָּנֶֽיהָ׃ (טז) וַיֵּ֨ט אֵלֶ֜יהָ אֶל־הַדֶּ֗רֶךְ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הָֽבָה־נָּא֙ אָב֣וֹא אֵלַ֔יִךְ כִּ֚י לֹ֣א יָדַ֔ע כִּ֥י כַלָּת֖וֹ הִ֑וא וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ מַה־תִּתֶּן־לִ֔י כִּ֥י תָב֖וֹא אֵלָֽי׃ (יז) וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אָנֹכִ֛י אֲשַׁלַּ֥ח גְּדִֽי־עִזִּ֖ים מִן־הַצֹּ֑אן וַתֹּ֕אמֶר אִם־תִּתֵּ֥ן עֵרָב֖וֹן עַ֥ד שָׁלְחֶֽךָ׃ (יח) וַיֹּ֗אמֶר מָ֣ה הָעֵֽרָבוֹן֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶתֶּן־לָךְ֒ וַתֹּ֗אמֶר חֹתָֽמְךָ֙ וּפְתִילֶ֔ךָ וּמַטְּךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּיָדֶ֑ךָ וַיִּתֶּן־לָ֛הּ וַיָּבֹ֥א אֵלֶ֖יהָ וַתַּ֥הַר לֽוֹ׃ (יט) וַתָּ֣קׇם וַתֵּ֔לֶךְ וַתָּ֥סַר צְעִיפָ֖הּ מֵעָלֶ֑יהָ וַתִּלְבַּ֖שׁ בִּגְדֵ֥י אַלְמְנוּתָֽהּ׃ (כ) וַיִּשְׁלַ֨ח יְהוּדָ֜ה אֶת־גְּדִ֣י הָֽעִזִּ֗ים בְּיַד֙ רֵעֵ֣הוּ הָֽעֲדֻלָּמִ֔י לָקַ֥חַת הָעֵרָב֖וֹן מִיַּ֣ד הָאִשָּׁ֑ה וְלֹ֖א מְצָאָֽהּ׃ (כא) וַיִּשְׁאַ֞ל אֶת־אַנְשֵׁ֤י מְקֹמָהּ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר אַיֵּ֧ה הַקְּדֵשָׁ֛ה הִ֥וא בָעֵינַ֖יִם עַל־הַדָּ֑רֶךְ וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ לֹא־הָיְתָ֥ה בָזֶ֖ה קְדֵשָֽׁה׃ (כב) וַיָּ֙שׇׁב֙ אֶל־יְהוּדָ֔ה וַיֹּ֖אמֶר לֹ֣א מְצָאתִ֑יהָ וְגַ֨ם אַנְשֵׁ֤י הַמָּקוֹם֙ אָֽמְר֔וּ לֹא־הָיְתָ֥ה בָזֶ֖ה קְדֵשָֽׁה׃ (כג) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוּדָה֙ תִּֽקַּֽח־לָ֔הּ פֶּ֖ן נִהְיֶ֣ה לָב֑וּז הִנֵּ֤ה שָׁלַ֙חְתִּי֙ הַגְּדִ֣י הַזֶּ֔ה וְאַתָּ֖ה לֹ֥א מְצָאתָֽהּ׃
(12) A long time afterward, Shua’s daughter, the wife of Judah, died. When his period of mourning was over, Judah went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, together with his friend Hirah the Adullamite. (13) And Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is coming up to Timnah for the sheepshearing.” (14) So she took off her widow’s garb, covered her face with a veil, and, wrapping herself up, sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him as wife. (15) When Judah saw her, he took her for a harlot; for she had covered her face. (16) 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?” (17) He replied, “I will send a kid from my flock.” But she said, “You must leave a pledge until you have sent it.” (18) And he said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your seal and cord, and the staff which you carry.” So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she conceived by him. (19) Then she went on her way. She took off her veil and again put on her widow’s garb. (20) Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to redeem the pledge from the woman; but he could not find her. (21) He inquired of the people of that town, “Where is the cult prostitute, the one at Enaim, by the road?” But they said, “There has been no prostitute here.” (22) So he returned to Judah and said, “I could not find her; moreover, the townspeople said: There has been no prostitute here.” (23) Judah said, “Let her keep them, lest we become a laughingstock. I did send her this kid, but you did not find her.”
The Moment of Truth
3ג
(כג) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוּדָה֙ תִּֽקַּֽח־לָ֔הּ פֶּ֖ן נִהְיֶ֣ה לָב֑וּז הִנֵּ֤ה שָׁלַ֙חְתִּי֙ הַגְּדִ֣י הַזֶּ֔ה וְאַתָּ֖ה לֹ֥א מְצָאתָֽהּ׃ (כד) וַיְהִ֣י ׀ כְּמִשְׁלֹ֣שׁ חֳדָשִׁ֗ים וַיֻּגַּ֨ד לִֽיהוּדָ֤ה לֵֽאמֹר֙ זָֽנְתָה֙ תָּמָ֣ר כַּלָּתֶ֔ךָ וְגַ֛ם הִנֵּ֥ה הָרָ֖ה לִזְנוּנִ֑ים וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוּדָ֔ה הוֹצִיא֖וּהָ וְתִשָּׂרֵֽף׃ (כה) הִ֣וא מוּצֵ֗את וְהִ֨יא שָׁלְחָ֤ה אֶל־חָמִ֙יהָ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר לְאִישׁ֙ אֲשֶׁר־אֵ֣לֶּה לּ֔וֹ אָנֹכִ֖י הָרָ֑ה וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הַכֶּר־נָ֔א לְמִ֞י הַחֹתֶ֧מֶת וְהַפְּתִילִ֛ים וְהַמַּטֶּ֖ה הָאֵֽלֶּה׃ (כו) וַיַּכֵּ֣ר יְהוּדָ֗ה וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ צָֽדְקָ֣ה מִמֶּ֔נִּי כִּֽי־עַל־כֵּ֥ן לֹא־נְתַתִּ֖יהָ לְשֵׁלָ֣ה בְנִ֑י וְלֹֽא־יָסַ֥ף ע֖וֹד לְדַעְתָּֽהּ׃ (כז) וַיְהִ֖י בְּעֵ֣ת לִדְתָּ֑הּ וְהִנֵּ֥ה תְאוֹמִ֖ים בְּבִטְנָֽהּ׃ (כח) וַיְהִ֥י בְלִדְתָּ֖הּ וַיִּתֶּן־יָ֑ד וַתִּקַּ֣ח הַמְיַלֶּ֗דֶת וַתִּקְשֹׁ֨ר עַל־יָד֤וֹ שָׁנִי֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר זֶ֖ה יָצָ֥א רִאשֹׁנָֽה׃ (כט) וַיְהִ֣י ׀ כְּמֵשִׁ֣יב יָד֗וֹ וְהִנֵּה֙ יָצָ֣א אָחִ֔יו וַתֹּ֕אמֶר מַה־פָּרַ֖צְתָּ עָלֶ֣יךָ פָּ֑רֶץ וַיִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ פָּֽרֶץ׃ (ל) וְאַחַר֙ יָצָ֣א אָחִ֔יו אֲשֶׁ֥ר עַל־יָד֖וֹ הַשָּׁנִ֑י וַיִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ זָֽרַח׃ {ס}
(23) Judah said, “Let her keep them, lest we become a laughingstock. I did send her this kid, but you did not find her.” (24) About three months later, Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot; in fact, she is with child by harlotry.” “Bring her out,” said Judah, “and let her be burned.” (25) As she was being brought out, she sent this message to her father-in-law, “I am with child by the man to whom these belong.” And she added, “Examine these: whose seal and cord and staff are these?” (26) Judah recognized them, and said, “She is more in the right than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he was not intimate with her again. (27) When the time came for her to give birth, there were twins in her womb! (28) While she was in labor, one of them put out his hand, and the midwife tied a crimson thread on that hand, to signify: This one came out first. (29) But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was named Perez. (30) Afterward his brother came out, on whose hand was the crimson thread; he was named Zerah.
4ד

רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָן פָּתַח (ירמיה כט, יא): כִּי אָנֹכִי יָדַעְתִּי אֶת הַמַּחֲשָׁבֹת, שְׁבָטִים הָיוּ עֲסוּקִין בִּמְכִירָתוֹ שֶׁל יוֹסֵף, וְיוֹסֵף הָיָה עָסוּק בְּשַׂקּוֹ וּבְתַעֲנִיתוֹ, רְאוּבֵן הָיָה עָסוּק בְּשַׂקּוֹ וְתַעֲנִיתוֹ, וְיַעֲקֹב הָיָה עָסוּק בְּשַׂקּוֹ וּבְתַעֲנִיתוֹ, וִיהוּדָה הָיָה עָסוּק לִקַּח לוֹ אִשָּׁה, וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הָיָה עוֹסֵק בּוֹרֵא אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל מֶלֶךְ הַמָּשִׁיחַ

Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachman explained the verse ‘For I [G-d] know the thoughts’ [as follows], The brothers were occupied with the sale of Joseph, Joseph and Reuben were occupied with sackcloth and fasting, Jacob was mourning Joseph with sackcloth and fasting, and [a disgraced] Judah was engaged in finding a woman for himself. In the meantime, G-d was busy readying the light of the Messiah… – Midrash Rabbah Bereishit 85:1

5ה

(ג) וַיֵּבְךְִ אֹתוֹ אָבִיו, מַה כְּתִיב אַחֲרָיו, וְהַמְּדָנִים מָכְרוּ וְגוֹ'. אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לִיהוּדָה, אֵין לְךָ בָּנִים עַד עַכְשָׁו וְאֵין אַתָּה יוֹדֵעַ צַעַר בָּנִים. אַתָּה טִגַּנְתָּ אֶת אָבִיךָ וְהִטְעֵיתָ אוֹתוֹ בְּטָרֹף טֹרַף יוֹסֵף, חַיֶּיךָ, תִּשָּׂא אִשָּׁה וְתִקְבֹּר אֶת בָּנֶיךָ וְתֵדַע צַעַר בָּנִים. מַה כְּתִיב אַחֲרָיו, וַיְהִי בָּעֵת הַהִוא וַיֵּרֶד יְהוּדָה מֵאֵת אֶחָיו, מְלַמֵּד שֶׁנִּתְנַדָּה מֵאֶחָיו. שֶׁבְּשָׁעָה שֶׁאָמַר לָהֶם לְכוּ וְנִמְכְּרֶנּוּ, אִם אָמַר לָהֶם לְכוּ וְנַחֲזִירֶנּוּ, הָיוּ שׁוֹמְעִין לוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ וַיֵּרֶד יְהוּדָה וְגוֹ', שֶׁהוֹרִידוּהוּ מִגְּדֻלָּתוֹ.

(3) And his father wept for him. After that Scripture states: The Midianites sold him into Egypt (Gen. 37:36). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Judah: Until now you had no sons, and did not experience the grief caused by sons, but since you tormented your father, and deceived him with the words Joseph is without doubts torn to pieces (ibid., v. 33), by your life, you shall wed, bury your children, and suffer the grief that comes with children.” What is written after this verse? Judah went down from his brethren … and he took her … and bore a son (ibid. 38:1–2). This teaches us that Judah became separated from his brothers. If at the time he had said to them: Come, let us sell him (ibid. 37:27), he had said instead: “Come, let us return him (to father),” they would have listened to him. Therefore, Judah went down. That is, he was deposed from his role as leader.

6ו

The patient cannot remember the whole of what is repressed in him, and what he cannot remember may be precisely the essential part of it. .. . He is obliged to repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience instead of remembering it as something in the past. (p. 18)

Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principal

7ז

Hevrutah Questions:

Read sources 4 and 5.

1. How would you articulate the meaning of the midrashic texts (sources #4 and #5)? How might these meanings be relevant to you? How might they not be relevant to you?

2. How might the quote from Freud relate to the midrashic sources and Tamar and Judah's story? (source #6)