Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Parshat Vayeshev, 5773/2012 thoughts

You can read the basics here.

New thought for this year:  Methinks the story of Potiphar's wife's attempted seduction of Yosef (Joseph)--see B'resht/Genesis, chapter 39, verses 10-20--was probably the origin of the issur (prohibition) of yichud (literally, "togetherness"?), which forbids a man and a woman who are neither married to one another nor members of the same family to be alone together.

My oldies:
"In the case of both Tamar and Ruth (and her fearless leader, Naomi), the women sought and got justice by the only means available to them at the time. Tamar, for lack of an alternative, used the sexual act itself as a means to secure a child bearing her late husband’s name. Ruth, through Naomi’s strategem, used the fear of exposure as either the (possible) seducer of a respected widow and/or a man who refused to perform a levirate marriage for his relative’s widow.

Some agunot (women whose husbands refuse to give them a religious divorce) of our day have gone public with their complaints about the callous indifference to their plight shown to them by some in the rabbinical courts. They should be lauded and supported in their efforts, not condemned. These brave women are following in the footsteps of our ancestors Tamar and Ruth. They are using the only weapons available to them to secure the consideration to which Jewish law should entitle them, as it is said in Psalm 145, “ . . . v'rachamav al kol maasav, and His compassion is over all His works.”

"In those days, before rabbis even existed, much less had forbidden polygamy, what was to prevent Onan from marrying other women, having children with them, and leaving Tamar chained to him in marriage and with no opportunity ever to have a child for the rest of her life, just to spite his deceased older brother? Alternatively, he could have "accused" Tamar of infertility and divorced her, which could have reduced both her financial circumstances and her possibilities for remarriage. Either course of action would have been abusive, and it could be argued, from a traditional perspective, that HaShem took Onan's life to prevent him from pursuing either one."

  • So much for "yeridat ha-dorot" (Monday, December 14, 2009)

    "I don't know whether the concept of "the decline of the generations" applies to the Torah shehBi-Ch'tav/Written Torah (Pentateuch) itself or just to the rabbinic writings, but it certainly won't help us with the story of Yosef/Joseph. First, Yaakov/Jacob gives Yosef, his second-youngest child, the multicolored cloak indicating future family leadership. Then, he doesn't stop the young braggart from mouthing off to his brothers about his dreams. Yaakov has no more common sense as a parent than we modern parents have."

"Yosef was an egocentric brat. His parents are responsible for not having taught him that being a braggart is obnoxious and creates hostility.

[ ¶ ]
Personally, I think that both Reuven and Yehudah (Judah) were trying to save Yosef’s life. . . . "
. . .

"Tamar was a smart strategist with nerves of steel—the stunt she pulled could have gotten her killed. But she got what she was entitled to."

"Update, Thursday, December 15, 2011:

I forgot to mention the devious brothers--not only did they sell Yosef into slavery, they politely "forgot" to mention this to their brother Reuven, who had hoped to rescue him, leaving poor Reuven to believe that Yosef was dead, or, at best, kidnapped. Presumably, that was deliberate, since Reuven might very well have felt obligated, as the oldest son, to tell their father Yaakov/Jacob the truth, if he'd know it."

"I've been thinking that the story of Tamar is the "antidote" to the story of the rape of Dinah. In that story, we never once hear from Dinah herself. Everything is done to her, or, allegedly, for her, but nothing whatsover is done by her. Tamar, on the other hand, takes matters into her own hands, risking death in the process. Hmm, maybe I should read Subversive Sequels in the Bible again. "

See also:

  • Tamar, A Model of Female Leadership (Irit Koren, Jewish Daily Forward, December 15, 2011)

    "It is Tamar, though, who is the true heroine of this story. She takes a huge risk by acting the way she did. It is her life, not just her pride, which is at stake. A woman in a patriarchal system, she has no power. A liminal figure, she belongs nowhere. She has no father, no husband, no sons to protect her. She is powerless, alone. Yet unlike other women in the bible, Tamar is not defeated by the system. Rather, she takes action and works with the only resources she has at her disposal –her sexuality and femininity.

    In a world where too many women remain restrained, limited, stuck in a patriarchal system (such as mesuravot get, and I can think of many other such women), Tamar can be an inspiring role model and leader for both women and men. Small wonder, then, that the lineage of King David traces its way backs to Tamar."

"I must admit that I never thought of Joseph/Yosef as a gifted child, just a show-off who happened to be articulate."


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