Wednesday, March 27, 2019

#Me Too in the Bible: Final Session, Women with Autonomy

#Me Too in the Bible: 
Final Session, Widows, Prostitutes and Prophetesses - Women with Autonomy:

Joshua 2:  1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So, they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.  2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”
4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.)7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
12 “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”
14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”
15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”
17 Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”
21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”  So, she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
22 When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them.23 Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”

Zevachim 116a-b: “And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, heard... And even Rahab the prostitute said to Joshua’s messengers: “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you” (Joshua 2:10)….And how did Rahab know this? The Gemara replies: As the Master said: You do not have any prince or ruler at that time who did not engage in intercourse with Rahab the prostitute. The Gemara adds that the Sages said about Rahab: She was ten years old when the Jewish people left Egypt, and she engaged in prostitution all forty years that the Jewish people were in the wilderness. After that, when she was fifty years old, she converted when the two spies visited her. She said: May all of my sins of prostitution be forgiven as a reward for having endangered myself with the rope, window, and flax, by means of which I saved Joshua’s two spies.

Meg 15a: the Sages taught: There were four women of extraordinary beauty in the world: Sarah, and Abigail, Rahab, and Esther….The Sages taught in a baraita: Rahab aroused impure thoughts by her name, i.e., the mere mention of her name would inspire lust for her; Yael, by her voice; Abigail, by remembering her; Michal, the daughter of Saul, by her appearance. Similarly, Rabbi Yitzḥak said: Anyone who says “Rahab, Rahab,” immediately experiences an emission due to the arousal of desire caused by Rahab’s great beauty. Rav Naḥman said to him: I say “Rahab, Rahab,” and it does not affect me. Rabbi Yitzchak said to Rav Naḥman: When I said this, I was specifically referring to one who knows her personally and recognizes her beauty.

Ex. Rabbah 27:4:  When Rahab heard of the miracles that God had performed for Israel when He parted the Red Sea for them, she wanted to cleave to Israel, as it says in Jer. 16:19: “O Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in a day of trouble, to You nations shall come from the ends of the earth.” When the Lord performs miracles for Israel, the non-Jewish nations shall come to adhere to Him.

Meg 14b:   Eight prophets, who were also priests, descended from Rahab the prostitute, and they are: Neriah; his son Baruch; Seraiah; Mahseiah; Jeremiah; his father, Hilkiah; Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel; and Hanamel’s father, Shallum. Rabbi Yehuda said: So too, Huldah the prophetess was a descendant of Rahab the prostitute, as it is written herewith regard to Huldah: “The son of Tikvah,” and it is written elsewhere in reference to Rahab’s escape from the destruction of Jericho: “This cord of [tikvat] scarlet thread” (Jos. 2:18).

Seder Eliyahu Zuta 22:  The Rabbis deduced from the story of Rahab the superiority of repentance over prayer, for Moses prayed exceedingly, but God did not accept his entreaty to enter Israel, while the repentance of Rahab the harlot was accepted, and seven kings and eight prophets issued forth from her.

Judges 4 1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead.2 So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim.3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.
4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time.5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”
8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”9 “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So, Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him…
12 When they told Sisera that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor,13 Sisera summoned from Harosheth Haggoyim to the Kishon River all his men and his nine hundred chariots fitted with iron.
14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the Lord has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the Lord gone ahead of you?” So, Barak went down Mount Tabor, with ten thousand men following him. 15 At Barak’s advance, the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera got down from his chariot and fled on foot… 5 1 On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song: 2 “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves— praise the Lord! 3 “Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers!   I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song…

Meg 14b:  The Gemara asks with regard to the prophetesses recorded in the baraita: Who were the seven prophetesses? The Gemara answers: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther. 

Meg 14b:  Deborah was a prophetess, as it is written explicitly: “And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth” The Gemara asks: What isthe meaning of “the wife of Lappidoth”? The Gemara answers: For she used to make wicks for the Sanctuary, and due to the flames [lappidot] on these wicks she was called the wife of Lappidoth, literally, a woman of flames. 

Elijah Rabbah 10:  Deborah’s husband had three names: Barak, Michael and Lappidoth: Barak, because his face was like lightning; Michael, because he would lower (memikh) himself, or after the angel by this name; Lappidoth, because of the wicks that he would bring to the Tabernacle at Shiloh. Deborah caused Lappidoth to be one of the fit individuals who would merit the life of the World to Come.

Meg. 14b:  With regard to Deborah, it says: “And she sat under a palm tree”. The Gemara asks: What is different and unique about her sitting “under a palm tree” that there is a need for it to be written? Rabbi Shimon ben Avshalom said: It is due to the prohibition against being alone together with a man. Since men would come before her for judgment, she established for herself a place out in the open and visible to all, in order to avoid a situation in which she would be secluded with a man behind closed doors. Alternatively, the verse means: Just as a palm tree has only one heart, as a palm tree does not send out separate branches, but rather has only one main trunk, so too, the Jewish people in that generation had only one heart, directed to their Father in Heaven.

Pesachim 117a:  The Sages taught: This hallel, who initially recited it?... Rabbi Elazar HaModa’i says Deborah and Barak recited it when Sisera stood against them. They said: Not to us, and the Divine Spirit responded and said to them: For My own sake, for My own sake, will I do it. 

Meg. 14b:  Rav Naḥman said:  Haughtiness is not befitting a woman. And a proof to this is that there were two haughty women, whose names were identical to the names of loathsome creatures. One, Deborah, was called a hornet, as her Hebrew name, Devorah, means hornet; and one, Huldah, was called a marten, as her name is the Hebrew term for that creature. From where is it known that they were haughty? About Deborah, the hornet, it is written: “And she sent and called Barak” but she herself did not go to him. And about Huldah, the marten, it is written: “Say to the man that sent you to me” (II Kings 22:15), but she did not say: “Say to the king.”

Genesis 38:  6 Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.
8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.
11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.
12 After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.
13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.
15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”
“And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.  17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said.  “Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.  18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?”
“Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. 19 After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.
20 Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. 21 He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?”
“There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.
22 So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’”
23 Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.”
24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”
Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”
25 As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”
26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.
27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez. 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.

Sotah 10b:  When Judah solicited her to engage in sexual intercourse with him, he first attempted to verify her status and said to her: Are you perhaps are a gentile? She said to him: I am a convert. He asked: Perhaps you are a married woman? She said to him: I am an unmarried woman. He asked: Perhaps your father accepted betrothal for you and you are unaware of it? She said to him: I am an orphan. He asked: Maybe you are impure? She said to him: I am pure.
“When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face” (Genesis 38:15). The Gemara asks: Because she had covered her face, he thought her to be a prostitute? Prostitutes usually uncover their faces in order to attract men.
Rabbi Elazar says: The verse means that Tamar covered her face in the home of her father-in-law, Judah. Therefore, he did not recognize her when her face was uncovered. As Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani says that Rabbi Yonatan says: Any daughter-in-law who is modest in the house of her father-in-law merits that kings and prophets emerge from her. 
The verse concerning Tamar then states: “She sent to her father-in-law, saying: By the man whose these are, am I with child” (Genesis 38:25). The Gemara comments: And let her say to him explicitly that she was impregnated by him. Rav Zutra bar Tuviyya says that Rav says, and some say Rav Ḥana bar Bizna says that Rabbi Shimon Ḥasida says, and some say that Rabbi Yoḥanan says in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai: It is more amenable for a person to throw himself into a fiery furnace if faced with the choice of publicly embarrassing another or remaining silent even if it leads to being burned, and not humiliate another in public. From where do we derive this? From Tamar, as she was prepared to be burned if Judah did not confess, rather than humiliate him in public.
Rabbi Elazar says: After her signs, which she was using to prove that she was impregnated by Judah, were brought out, the evil angel Samael came and distanced them from each other in an attempt to prevent Judah’s admission and Tamar’s survival, which would enable the birth of King David. The angel Gabriel then came and moved the signs closer again.

Sotah 7b:  For example, Judah admitted that he sinned with Tamar and was not embarrassed to do so, and what was his end? He inherited the life of the World-to-Come. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Shabbat Zachor - Sharing a Link

As we prepare for Purim next week, please learn from this d'var torah by one of my teacher, Reb Mimi Feigelson, on the importance of Shabbat this weekend, Shabbat Zachor:

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

#Me Too in the Bible: Session Five - Dina and Tamar

#Me Too in the Bible:  Session Five - Dina and Tamar
Image result for image tamar and amnon


Genesis 34:  Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the region. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region, saw her, he seized her and lay with her by force. And his soul was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the girl and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl to be my wife.”
Now Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter Dinah; but his sons were with his cattle in the field, so Jacob held his peace until they came. And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him, just as the sons of Jacob came in from the field. When they heard of it, the men were indignant and very angry, because he had committed an outrage in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing ought not to be done.
But Hamor spoke with them, saying, “The heart of my son Shechem longs for your daughter; please give her to him in marriage. Make marriages with us; give your daughters to us and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You shall live with us; and the land shall be open to you; live and trade in it, and get property in it.” 11 Shechem also said to her father and to her brothers, “Let me find favor with you, and whatever you say to me I will give. 12 Put the marriage present and gift as high as you like, and I will give whatever you ask me; only give me the girl to be my wife.”
13 The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah. 14 They said to them, “We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one who is uncircumcised, for that would be a disgrace to us. 15 Only on this condition will we consent to you: that you will become as we are and every male among you be circumcised. 16 Then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters for ourselves, and we will live among you and become one people. 17 But if you will not listen to us and be circumcised, then we will take our daughter and be gone.”
18 Their words pleased Hamor and Hamor’s son Shechem. 19 And the young man did not delay doing the thing, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. Now he was the most honored of all his family. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem came to the gate of their city and spoke to the men of their city, saying, 21 “These people are friendly with us; let them live in the land and trade in it, for the land is large enough for them; let us take their daughters in marriage, and let us give them our daughters. 22 Only on this condition will they agree to live among us, to become one people: that every male among us be circumcised as they are circumcised. 23 Will not their livestock, their property, and all their animals be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will live among us.” 24 And all who went out of the city gate heeded Hamor and his son Shechem; and every male was circumcised, all who went out of the gate of his city.
25 On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males. 26 They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away. 27 And the other sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. 28 They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. 29 All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and made their prey. 30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites; my numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” 31 But they said, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?”

The Evil of Shechem - Sanhedrin 102a:  The verse states: “And Rehoboam went to Shechem; for all Israel came to Shechem, to make him king” (I Kings 12:1). It was taught in the name of Rabbi Yosei: Shechem is a place ordained for calamity. In Shechem, they tormented and raped Dinah, in the outskirts of Shechem the brothers sold Joseph, in Shechem the kingdom of the house of David was divided.
Jacob’s Punishment? – Gen. R. 79:8:  Jacob “set up an altar there, and called it El, God of Israel.” (Gen. 33:20) Jacob called himself el [god].” He said: You are God in the heavens, and I am God on earth; since he usurped authority for himself, he was punished by the rape of his daughter.

Gen. R. 73:9: Jacob was punished for what he said to Laban when they divided the flock between themselves (Gen. 30:33): “In the future when you go over my wages, let my honesty toward you testify for me.” He boasted that his honesty would later come to light, which was not at all certain. Instead, Jacob should have acted as in Prov. 27:1: “Do not boast of tomorrow, for you do not know what the day will bring.” He accordingly was punished “tomorrow” (in the future). Instead of “let my honesty toward you testify [ve-antah] for me,” his daughter was abused [va-yeaneha]; and his honesty was not acknowledged.

Lev. R. 37:1:  When he was in Bethel, during his flight from Laban, he vowed that if God favored him, he would return to Bethel and there erect an altar to the Lord (Gen. 28: 20–22). Jacob, however, procrastinated in fulfilling his pledge: first he lived in Laban’s house for twenty years, and even after returning to Canaan, he first dwelled in Shechem. He therefore was punished by experiencing all three of the cardinal sins of idolatry, forbidden sexual relations and bloodshed: forbidden sexual relations—by Shechem’s rape of Dinah; bloodshed—the ensuing slaughter of the inhabitants of Shechem by Simeon and Levi; and idolatry—following this massacre, Jacob commands all the members of his household to rid themselves of foreign gods.
Leah’s Punishment? – Gen. R. 80:1:  Reuben found mandrakes (an aphrodisiac) in the field and brought them to his mother Leah. Rachel, who was barren, asked Leah to sell them to her, in return for forgoing her right to be with Jacob that night. Gen. 30:16 tells that upon Jacob’s return from the field, Leah came out to greet him and called him to come to her tent. Leah was bedecked as a harlot when she went to meet her husband. For acting in such an immodest manner, she was punished by her daughter behaving in the same fashion when she went out to visit the daughters of the land.

Dinah’s Sin? Gen. R. 18:2 - Regarding why God made Eve from Adam’s side - And not from the leg, and yet she is a run-about, as it says: "And Dinah went out..." (Genesis 34:1).

Dinah’s Later Story – As Simeon’s Wife, Gen. R. 80:11:   The brothers were forced to drag Dinah out, because she was too ashamed to leave Shechem’s house. Finally, Simeon vowed to her that he would marry her. They wed, and a son was born from this union, “Saul the son of a Canaanite woman” (Gen. 46:10); Dinah was the “Canaanite woman,” because her behavior was like that of the Canaanites. According to another explanation of this appellation, when she died, Simeon buried her in Canaan.
As Job’s Wife – Gen. R. 19:12:  Dinah was married to Job, basing this on Job’s telling his wife: “You talk as any shameless woman [ha-nevalot] might talk!” (Job 2:10), and on the episode of Dinah in Gen. 34:7: “because he had committed an outrage [nevalah] in Israel.”

In Egypt - Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, chap. 37:  Dinah was impregnated by Shechem and gave birth to Asenath. Jacob’s sons wanted to kill the baby, so it would not be said that there was harlotry in Jacob’s tents. Jacob brought a gold plate and wrote on it the name of the Holy One, blessed be He; according to another tradition, he recorded on it the episode with Shechem. Jacob hung the plate around Asenath’s neck and sent her away. God dispatched the angel Michael to bring her to the house of Potiphar in Egypt; according to another exegetical tradition, Dinah cast Asenath on the wall of Egypt (i.e., the wall surrounding the palace). That day Potiphar went out for a walk with his servants next to the wall and heard the infant’s crying. When they brought the baby to him, he saw the plate and the record of the episode. Potiphar told his servants, “This girl is the daughter of great ones.” He brought her to his home and gave her a wet nurse. Potiphar’s wife was barren, and she raised Asenath as her own daughter. Consequently, she was called “Asenath daughter of Poti-phera,” for she was raised in the home of Potiphar and his wife, as if she were their own daughter.

II Samuel 13:  In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.
Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.
Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”
Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”
“Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”
So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”
David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.
“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So, everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”
12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.
15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”
But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate[a] robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.
20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.
21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.
23 Two years later, when Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king’s sons to come there. 24 Absalom went to the king and said, “Your servant has had shearers come. Will the king and his attendants please join me?”
25 “No, my son,” the king replied. “All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” Although Absalom urged him, he still refused to go but gave him his blessing.
26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon come with us.”
The king asked him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Absalom urged him, so he sent with him Amnon and the rest of the king’s sons.
28 Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave.” 29 So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.
30 While they were on their way, the report came to David: “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons; not one of them is left.” 31 The king stood up, tore his clothes and lay down on the ground; and all his attendants stood by with their clothes torn.
32 But Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “My lord should not think that they killed all the princes; only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s express intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33 My lord the king should not be concerned about the report that all the king’s sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead.”
34 Meanwhile, Absalom had fled.

Sanhedrin 21a-b (And to David sons were born in Hebron; and his firstborn was Amnon, from Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; and his second, Chileab, from Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom, son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur.)
And Rav Yehuda says that Rav says David’s daughter Tamar was the daughter of a beautiful woman taken captive in war and was born before her mother converted. Therefore, Tamar was not considered the daughter of David according to halakha. The proof of this is in what she said to Amnon, son of David, as it is stated: “Now, therefore, speak, please, to the king, for he will not withhold me from you” (II Samuel 13:13). And if it enters your mind to say that she was the daughter of a woman David married, would David have permitted Amnon’s sister to him as a wife? Rather, learn from this verse that she was the daughter of a beautiful woman who converted after Tamar was born, so halakhically Tamar was not a daughter of David.
The Gemara continues to interpret the story of Amnon and Tamar. The verse states: “And Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, son of Shimeah, David’s brother, and Jonadab was a very wise man” (II Samuel 13:3). Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: A wise man for wickedness.
At the end of the story, the verse states: “Then Amnon hated her with exceeding, great hatred, for greater was the hatred with which he hated her than the love with which he had loved her” (II Samuel 13:15). The Gemara asks: What is the reason for Amnon’s intense hatred? Rabbi Yitzḥak says: While he raped her, a hair [nima] of hers became tied around his penis and caused him to be one whose penis has been severed. The Gemara asks: But if the hair became tied around his penis, what did she do? Why would Amnon hold this against her? Rather, say that she intentionally tied a hair around his penis during intercourse, and she made him one whose penis has been severed in order to take revenge on him, and for this he hated her.
The Gemara challenges this: Is that so? But didn’t Rava interpret a verse homiletically: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And your renown went forth among the nations about your beauty” (Ezekiel 16:14)? This teaches that Jewish women do not have armpit hair or pubic hair. Therefore, Tamar would have had no hair to injure Amnon in that way. The Gemara responds Tamar is different, as she was the daughter of a beautiful woman, who was a gentile.
The verse relates that after Amnon raped her: “And Tamar put ashes on her head and rent her garment of many colors that was on her” (II Samuel 13:19). The Sages taught in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korḥa: Tamar established a great fence at that time by way of her public outcry, as people said: If such an occurrence could happen to the daughters of kings, how much the more so could it happen to the daughters of ordinary people. If such an occurrence could happen to modest women like Tamar, who resisted, all the more so could it happen to licentious women. Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: At that time, they decreed about seclusion, that a man should not be secluded with women who are forbidden to him, and about a single woman.
Yoma 22b:  Rav Huna said: How little does a person who has the support of his Lord have to worry or be concerned. The proof for this assertion is a comparison between Saul and David. Saul failed with one single sin and it was counted against him, costing him the throne. David, however, failed with two sins and they were not counted against him, as he retained his position…Rav Huna stated above that David failed with two sins. What were they? One was the incident in which he had Uriah killed. The other was the matter of the incitement of David to conduct a census of the Jewish people (see II Samuel 24:1), which led to many deaths in a plague. The Gemara asks: But were these his only two sins? There is also the incident of Bathsheba, in which he took another man’s wife as his own. The Gemara answers: There, in that case, punishment was exacted from him separately, so the matter is no longer listed among his sins, as it is written with regard to this incident: “And he shall restore the lamb fourfold” (II Samuel 12:6). The lamb was a metaphor for Bathsheba, and ultimately David was indeed given a fourfold punishment for taking Bathsheba: The first child born to Bathsheba and David died (see II Samuel 12:13–23); David’s son Amnon was killed; Tamar, his daughter, was raped by Amnon (see II Samuel 13); and his son Avshalom rebelled against him and was ultimately killed (see II Samuel 15–18).

Avot 5:16:  Any love that is dependent on something, when that thing perishes, the love perishes. But [a love] that is not dependent on something, does not ever perish. What's [an example of] a love that is dependent on something? That's the love of Amnon and Tamar. And [a love] that is not dependent on something? That's the love of David and Jonathan.
Megillah 4:10: The blessing of the priests, and the occurrence of David and Amnon, are neither to be read nor interpreted.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

#MeToo in the Bible Session Four - Bad Queens?

Image result for jezebel#ME TOO IN THE BIBLE - Session 4: Bad Queens? Jezebel, Athaliah & Vashti

 “Also, Queen Vashti made a feast for the women” (Est. 1:9): “Four women have borne sovereignty, namely, Jezebel and Athaliah in Israel and Semiramis and Vashti among the Gentiles.”  (Midrash Esther Rabbah 3:2).

Semiramis is a semi-historical figure who was at least regent if not ruler of the Assyrian Empire in the 9th century BCE.  The others we know from the Bible and will be the focus for our talk tonight.  How are these women, one Jew and two (probably?) not, portrayed in their stories and in Rabbinic tradition?  Are there reasons to suspect the biases of those reporting on them?  How might we understand them today? 
In the Bible:  Her story is found in I and II Kings.  She is a Phoenician princess who is married to King Ahab, the ruler of the Kingdom of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) from about 870BCE to 850BCE.  Ahab’s existence is testified to in historical records from outside of the Bible. 
Within the Bible, he is known like all the other Northern Israel kings as being what we might call a heretic; he worships God, but incorrectly, and on top of this, he allows his wife Jezebel to introduce worship of Baal into Israel.  The two of them are often at odds with the prophets of God including Elijah and Elisha. 
Despite the criticism of his religious beliefs, the Bible’s account of Ahab’s reign cannot help but reveal he was an effective, cosmopolitan king who expanded his borders, married his daughter Athaliah (see below) to the king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and maintained international relations with the various peoples around him. 
After Ahab’s death, two of his sons succeed him while Jezebel retains influence as Queen Mother.  Finally, a revolt against her son Joram is successful.  He is killed and Jezebel, almost like Cleopatra, dresses in her finery to meet Jehu, the new king, but he orders her thrown from a window and trampled by horses with the all but her skull and hands being fed to the dogs, in fulfillment of a prophecy made about her demise by Elijah.
Rabbinic Accounts: 
Idolatry was Jezebel’s most grievous sin. She would fatten the prophets of Baal and Asherah, thus vexing God (Cant. Rabbah 1:6:4).
Jezebel, who was the daughter of Ethbaal of the Phoenicians, came into Ahab’s home she taught him pagan practices, and thus he fell into the web of idolatry (Seder Eliyahu Rabbah, para. 10).
 Ahab [Aḥ-av], although he was a brother [a] to Heaven, he was a father [av] for idol worship. He was a brother to Heaven, as it is written: “And a brother is born for adversity” (Pr. 17:17), and in desperate times, he turned to Heaven. He was a father for idolatry. This is the highest level of attachment, as it is written: “As a father has compassion for his children” (Ps. 103:13). (BT Sanhedrin 102b).
The midrash continues that Jezebel was the cause of the downfall of Ahab’s dynasty by exerting a negative influence on her family and by destroying her house with her own hands. Prov. 14:1: “but folly tears it down with its own hands” aptly describes Jezebel and other women of her ilk (Seder Eliyahu Rabbah 10).
R. Levi would expound I Kings 21:25: “Indeed, there never was anyone like Ahab, who committed himself to doing what was displeasing to the Lord,” he would censure Ahab’s conduct, since this verse attests that none of all the kings of Israel had committed acts as notorious as those of Ahab. At night Ahab came to R. Levi and asked him: “How have I sinned against you, and what crimes have I committed against you? Why do you read only the beginning of the verse, and not its end, that says: ‘at the instigation of his wife Jezebel’?” From that day forth R. Levi portrayed Ahab in a positive light when he expounded the verse, for of all the kings of Israel who had irked the Lord, Ahab was the only one whose wife had provoked him to do so. (JT Sanhedrin 10:2, 28b).
Despite their negative description of Jezebel, the Rabbis did not refrain from enumerating her merits when she was worthy of praise. When Elijah forecasts Jezebel’s end he prophesies (I Kings 21:23): “The dogs shall devour Jezebel in the field of Jezreel.” This prophecy is only partially fulfilled, for when her body is eaten by the dogs, they leave her feet and hands (II Kings 9:35). The midrash explains that these parts remained because of the acts of kindness that Jezebel performed with them. Jezebel’s home was close to the marketplace, and whenever a funeral procession passed by, she would come forth from her house, strike with her hands, lament with her mouth, and walk ten paces. When a bridegroom passed through the marketplace, she would come out, clap her hands, call out with her mouth, and walk ten steps after him (Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer 17).  Similarly, the Rabbis teach Ahab ruled 22 years because despite all the bad he did, he revered the scrolls of the Torah (San. 102b).
Bible Account:  Queen Athaliah is the only woman in the Hebrew Bible reported as having reigned as a monarch within Israel/Judah.  Her story is in II Kings and II Chronicles.  She is most probably the daughter of Ahab, but there is some confusion about this.  Athaliah married Jehoram (reigned 851–843 b.c.e.) of Judah. After Jehoram’s death, their son Ahaziah reigned for one year, and “his mother was his counselor in doing wickedly.”  After Ahaziah is killed in a dynastic struggle, Athaliah sets out to kill the rest of the royal dynasty and seizes the throne of Judah.  She manages to remain sole monarch for six years (842–836 BCE). In the seventh year a revolution puts on the throne the seven-year-old Joash, her grandson.  Athaliah shouts out “Treason! Treason!” before she is taken to the horse stables and killed so her blood shouldn’t stain the Temple. 
The biblical evaluation of her rule is negative. Both Kings and Chronicles connect Athaliah with Baal worship. The priestly objection to her could also be motivated by hatred for a non-Davidic ruler and, particularly, a woman ruler. However, that she managed to sustain her reign for six years can be attributed to her successful use of various sources of power: her royal origins and connections, involvement in her husband’s and son’s reigns, economic independence, personal ability, and political knowledge—all of which are not mentioned, apart from notes on her wicked influence on her husband and son.
Her story parallels that of her (possible) mother, Jezebel.  They are both outsiders who introduce foreign ideas into the courts they enter and are successful to one degree or another creating power-bases and retaining power, for a while anyway, even against numerous men who seek to defeat them
According to the Rabbis:   Because of her malicious actions, Jehoash was compelled to repair the Temple as soon as he ascended the throne (Seder Olam Rabbah 24). During the reign of Athaliah, the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, left people’s mouths, and they ceased greeting one another in the name of the Lord— “The Lord be with you”—as had been customary since the time of Boaz (Ruth Rabbah 4:4:5). Athaliah almost eliminated the Davidic line, except for Joash, who was saved from her sword, thanks to the blessing of the women to Naomi: “Blessed be the Lord, who has not withheld a redeemer from you today!” (Ruth 4:14). The Rabbis understood this blessing to mean that, just as Naomi has a redeemer today, so, too, there will always be a monarch in Israel from among the descendants of King David. Athaliah’s plot to extirpate the Davidic dynasty failed, by merit of the blessing given it by other women (Ruth Rabbah 4:14:15).
Biblical Account:  Esther 1:9 Queen Vashti, too, made a feast for the women in the royal palace of King Achashveirosh.  10 On the seventh day, when the king's heart was merry with wine, he ordered Mehuman, Bizzeta, Charvona, Bigta, Avagta, Zeitar and Charkas, the seven chamberlains who attended King Achashverosh, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king wearing the royal crown, to show her beauty to the nations and ministers, for she was indeed beautiful.  12 But Queen Vashti refused to appear by the king's order brought by the chamberlains, and the king grew furious and his wrath seethed within him.
13 So the king conferred with the wise men… 15 [He asked them:] "By law, what should be done with Queen Vashti for failing to obey the order of King Achashverosh, brought by the chamberlains?"  16 Memuchan declared before the king and the ministers: "It is not against the King alone that Queen Vashti has sinned, but against all the ministers and all the nations in all the provinces of King Achashverosh… 17 "For word of the queen's deed will reach all the women and it will belittle their husbands in their eyes…  19 "If it please the King, let a royal edict be issued by him, and let it be written into the laws of Persia and Media and let it not be revoked, that Queen Vashti may never again appear before King Achashverosh, and let the King confer her royal title upon another woman who is better. 

Vashti: Midrash and Aggadah:  The midrash conveys that Vashti was the orphaned daughter of Belshazzar, the last king of the Babylonians, who was overthrown by the Persians (the Biblical and Rabbinic accounts get this all sort of right)  On the night that Belshazzar was killed, Cyrus the Persian and Darius the Mede were guests at his table. The candelabrum fell and dashed out Belshazzar’s brains. Darius was crowned in his stead and sat in Belshazzar’s customary place.  Vashti, Belshazzar’s daughter, was a young girl. She saw the tumult in the castle and ran among the guests. Thinking that her father was still alive, she mistakenly sat in Darius’s lap, in the belief that he was her father. Darius took pity on her and married her to his son Ahasuerus. (Midrash Panim Aherim version B, para. 1).
According to another midrashic tradition, Vashti was a princess and Ahasuerus was her father’s steward, in charge of the royal stables. He acquired regal status by marrying her (Esth. Rabbah 3:14; BT Megillah 12b). The difference in their stations was reflected in Ahasuerus’s behavior at the banquet, when he summoned Vashti to appear before the men at their revelry (see below). - (BT Megillah loc. cit.).
Vashti’s feast is portrayed various ways in the midrash including that she hosted them in an inner chamber of the king’s palace so the women might be kept as hostages to make their husbands loyal and in other tellings her banquet is depicted as shallow and materialistic.  (Midrash Panim Aherim, version B, para. 1).
The Talmud says Vashti had licentious intent when she organized her banquet, just like her husband Ahasuerus (who later summoned her to appear before the men). The Rabbis cite the immoral intent of each as an example of the popular saying, “He with gourds and his wife with cucumbers,” in other words, the husband and the wife are alike, and both act in the same manner (BT Megillah 12a–b).
Esth. 1:10 records: “On the seventh day, when the king was merry with wine,” on which the Rabbis observe that the seventh day of Ahasuerus’s banquet was also the seventh day of the week, that is, the Sabbath. When the Israelites eat and drink on the Sabbath, they utter words of Torah and praises to God. But when the non-Jewish peoples eat and drink on this day, they begin with indecent talk as happened at the banquet of Ahasuerus, where an argument erupted among the men over who was the most beautiful woman, leading Ahasuerus to call for Vashti to appear naked.  This demand is derived from Esth. 1:11: “to bring Queen Vashti before the king wearing a royal diadem”—wearing only a royal diadem, without any other clothes on her body (BT Megillah 12b).
These Rabbis maintain that Vashti wanted to appear at Ahasuerus’ lewd party. Her plans were upset when leprosy erupted over her entire body, so that she could not make an appearance. According to another tradition, the angel Gabriel came and fixed a tail to her (BT Megillah loc. cit.). God intervened in order to prevent Vashti from heeding Ahasuerus so that Vashti would be deposed, and Esther would reign in her stead.
Elsewhere the Rabbis see her in a positive light, suggesting she tried putting off the king’s decree three times, telling him: “If they see me and think me beautiful, they will want to lie with me, and they will kill you. And if they see me and think me ugly, you will be disgraced because of me.” She hinted to him, but he did not take the hint; she aimed her barb at him, but he was not stung. She sent a message to him: “You were my father’s steward, and you were accustomed to have naked harlots come before you. Now that you have become king, you have not mended your degraded ways!” She hinted to him, but he did not take the hint; she aimed her barb at him, but he was not stung. She sent a message to him: “You want me to come naked—even my father, when he judged litigants in a trial, would not judge them when they were naked” Esth. Rabbah 3:14.
The midrash tells us that Ahasuerus acted improperly when he issued the decree (Esth. 1:22): “that every man should wield authority in his home.” This is not the way of the world: if a man wants to eat lentils, and his wife desires peas, he cannot force his will upon her. Rather, she acts as she wishes. Similarly, Ahasuerus acted inappropriately when he attempted to compel Vashti to obey him (Esth. Rabbah 4:12).
The Book of Esther is not explicit regarding Vashti’s fate. Esth. 2:1 relates: “Sometime afterward, when the anger of King Ahasuerus subsided, he thought of Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her,” but without specifying what had befallen her.  The Rabbis seem to believe she was executed. 
When Ahasuerus grew sober, he regretted what he had done. He recalled Vashti and her proper behavior, and he also remembered how he had improperly condemned her (Esth. Rabbah 5:2). Another tradition has Ahasuerus wanting his wife when the effects of his intoxication wore off. He was told: “You killed her!” He asked: “Why?” They replied: “You said for her to come before you naked and she did not come.” He admitted to them: “I did not act nicely. And who counseled me to kill her?” They told him: “The seven ministers of Persia and Media.” He immediately killed them. Consequently, the seven eunuchs are not mentioned again in the Book of Esther.