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Parashat Vayeshev: Tamar - There's Always Another Option

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

Genesis tells the story of Judah and Tamar. Tamar was married to Judah’s eldest son who died without having children. She then married Judah’s second son who also died without children. Judah told Tamar to, “Stay as a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up.” But when Shela did grow up, there was no indication from Judah that he would allow a third marriage. Tamar found herself in a very confining situation. Some might even call it a dead end. No Way Out. In the time of the Bible, women did not have many choices. There were no women’s advocacy groups, no women’s shelters, no sisterhoods of friends encouraging women to “Live your life.” There were no places that Tamar could escape to start a new life. Tamar’s choices, ostensibly, were limited to one: Wait until her father-in-law enabled her to continue her life.

What other options did she have? Perhaps she could confront Judah. Perhaps plead for sympathy? Ask her father to intercede? I would guess she tried to do all those, and to make the best of the situation, but still she finds herself trapped. She cannot marry Judah’s third son because of Judah’s authority, and she cannot marry anyone else because of the laws of the culture.

NLP has a presupposition: There is always another choice. No matter how bleak the situation, no matter how trapped we feel, there always is another choice. Sometimes we need to take a step back to see it - sometimes we need to take a step forward. Sometimes we can figure it out ourselves, and sometimes we need some help. Whatever the situation, there is always another option.

On the surface, it seemed like Tamar had no choices other than stay widowed in her father’s home. So Tamar displayed amazing resourcefulness, creativity, courage and intelligence. She did something highly unconvetional. Tamar dressed up as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law, without him recognizing her. She had twins, one of whom would be the ancestor of King David. This probably would not have been our thought process. And yet, the Bible and Judah both view her actions as worthy and exemplary. Judah says, “She is more in the right than I.” and the Bible rewards her with descendants who will be kings and leaders. Furthermore, after this story Judah, becomes a hero as he rescues Benjamin from Egypt. The same Judah who sold Joseph to slavery risks his own freedom to save Joseph’s brother. I like to think that Tamar’s bold vision and ability to find creative options for her own predicament influenced Judah to be brave and resourceful when his own options seemed limited. Thinking unconventionally opens options and is a great resource for all leaders whether stay at home moms, sports coaches or kings .

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