The story of Tamar sheds light on a few very important and deep concepts
that help us navigate our lives. As we are all acquainted, Tamar could aptly be
called the “matriarch” of the Davidic lineage. In her desire to marry into the
Jewish people, she pretended to be a harlot in order for Yehuda to, forced by the
angel Gavriel, consort with her.
At first glance this seems like a very twisted way to bring about the lineage
that would be the progenitor of king Mashiach. Why, and how could Hashem
choose to bring the final rectification of the world through such a suspicious
union? What does this story teach us?
The depths of wisdom
Part of the difficulty of understanding this conundrum is that Hashem’s
wisdom is infinite and unknowable. As we know, there are many degrees of
understanding which shed more and more light over any given question.
Most of us find it difficult to make sense of even 1% of the events in our
lives. Some even think that Hashem has forgotten about us, and that’s a perfectly
reasonable feeling. Very few have their lives so well-off they feel they don’t even
need to pray for themselves.
Yet, our free will is maintained in a very delicate spiritual balance which
must constantly be maintained. At one end of the scale we find Hashem, at the
other, we find the accusing angel, often called the “inciter” (Ha-Satan). If too
much goodness comes into the world or if people are not deserving, the accusing
angel steps in to halt it. If there’s too much evil, Hashem must push the scale back
so that we can always make a choice.
Tamar was an incredible Tzadeket, and knew through Ruach HaKodesh
(divine spirit) that she had a spark of the Davidic dynasty. As written in Maggid
Meisharim by R’ Yosef Karo (author of the Shulchan Aruch), she was barren and
could not conceive. Moreover, she desperately wanted to marry into the Jewish
People to bring this very special soul through holiness.
However, given that this soul was very precious, the accusing angel would
do everything to prevent it from coming to the world. That’s why one of the
reasons why she had to “fool” Yehuda was so that the accusing angel would not
prosecute Peretz’s soul (King David’s great grandfather). Amazingly, this
happened even though it wasn’t halachically permissible! And no one would
suspect the ruse, since Hashem brought it through such contorted ways.
The Incredible Goodness
Sometimes, we can’t understand Hashem’s plans even in hindsight. The
right result often comes through twisted ways, and that’s totally fine, provided
we are genuinely connecting to Hashem. In fact, the greatest acts of kindness
from Hashem happen without our knowledge or without our consent. Women
who went through childbirth know how painful it is. Yet, it is precisely because we
aren’t in control of it (and only afterward), that we realize what a tremendous
kindness a baby is from Hashem.
Tamar, the unlikely heroine, teaches us the power of women to bypass the
rules in order to bring about the greater good. Her foresight enabled her to see
thousands of years ahead, and risk her life. Obviously, we should realize she was
acting entirely in Hashem’s interest and guided by her holiness. The same
happened to the wife of On son of Pelet in Parshat Korach we just read. As the
fires of rebellion raged from Korach’s mutiny against Moshe, On’s wife realized
her husband was in danger. She questioned him “what different does it make if
Moshe or Korach lead? You will anyway be a follower!”. Therefore, she made him
drunk and kept him in his tent sleeping until everything was over. When Korach’s
followers came to get him, she uncovered her hair and sat at the entrance of the
tent. As they spotted this breach of modesty, they shuddered and ran away.
Sometimes we need to take destiny by its reigns and do drastic things. Like
On who owed his life to his wife, Tamar is credited for her bravery, even risking
being burned alive, for what she perceived was her mission. We learn from these
women that bravery is not necessarily going to war, but sacrificing oneself for
something greater. Sometimes, rules need to be broken (at least temporarily) in
order to bring a greater good. And that’s something women are empowered to do
thanks to their innate perception, nurturing nature, and foresight.
May we derive inspiration from Tamar, her memory be for a blessing, and
merit to see her final descendent, King Mashiach speedily in our days!