December 29, 2004

The story of Tamar

Today is Tamarís birthday. I remember vividly the day she was born. There was a little snow on the ground in Georgetown, D.C. After six months of craving peaches and cucumber sandwiches, I was about to give birth. My contractions were pretty intense and getting from the house to the car was difficult. I was only in the hospital for two hours before she was born. Not bad for a first child. It was an intense labor, an easy delivery. We had picked three names for a girl: Rachel, Shoshana and Tamar. I had to see her before I could decide but I knew that I wanted my children to have biblical names, some reference to their heritage, because I didnít think I could give them more than that, what was contained in their name. With my first look at her, I knew she was Tamar. And indeed, she has lived up to her name.

The story of Tamar is about a woman of great strength and a strong ethical sensibility. It begins with Jacob and three of his sons. The most important of the sons was Judah, the son of Leah, because, before he died, Jacob said that Judah would become the leader of his people and, indeed, the Jews of today have that name because they are of the Tribe of Judah.

Judah first had three sons: Er, Onan and Shelah. Judah took a wife for Er named Tamar. However, Er was wicked and, according to the story, God killed him. In those days, there was a custom that when a man dies and leaves a widow, his next surviving brother is supposed to marry the widow and become her husband. Accordingly, Onan was obliged to marry Tamar, the widow of Er. However, Onan did not want Tamar to become pregnant because she was his brotherís wife. Onan disobeyed the will of God and spilled his seed on the ground. Therefore, God struck Onan dead, too. This made Tamar a widow a second time.

The third son was Shelah. However, Shelah was still a young boy, too young to be married. Judah was afraid that his third son Shelah would die, too. Therefore, he told Tamar to go back to her father's house and wait there and when Shelah became old enough, Judah would marry Tamar to him. She went back to her father's house and waited. Nevertheless, when Shelah was grown, Tamar had not been given to Shelah as a wife. Judah had not kept his promise.

Tamar then took off her widow's garment and instead put on a veil to cover her face. She went and sat by the road to Timnath. When Judah came walking by, because the face of Tamar was covered, he believed that she was a prostitute and he asked her what was her price for sex. She asked him how much he would give her. He said that he would send her a kid from his flock of sheep. She then asked him to give her his signet, his bracelets and his staff as security for this promise. Judah gave these to Tamar and then had sex with her. Tamar became pregnant. Three months later, word came to Judah that his daughter-in-law had been like a prostitute and was now pregnant. Judah ordered that Tamar be brought before him to be burned up.

When Tamar was brought, she said to Judah, "The man who has made me pregnant is the owner of these things." Then Tamar produced the signet, the bracelets and the staff which belonged to Judah. With that, Judah acknowledged that these things were his and said that she was more righteous than he because he had not kept his promise to her by not giving Tamar to Shelah as a wife. Therefore, Tamar was spared.

And I am so glad to have Tamar in my life. A person of great integrity, wisdom, intelligence and compassion. Iím a very lucky mother. She's a peach! Happy Birthday, Kid!

Posted by leya at December 29, 2004 08:11 PM

She is a peach, and lucky to have a mom like you!

Posted by: Dreama at December 29, 2004 11:11 PM

Thanks for sharing the story of Tamar. I have another friend with the same name and never knew the full origin.

I think it's wonderful that she's shared this blogging gift with you. My mom doesn't quite get them, but it's a really neat way to share a part of one's self that you might not necessarily share with your mom or daughter.

Posted by: Rachel at December 30, 2004 12:03 PM

Thank you Dreama and Rachel. It has been great sharing blogs with Tamar, definitely enriching and deepening our relationship. Unfortunately a lot of people in my generation don't understand blogs at all.

Posted by: Leya at January 1, 2005 12:14 PM