Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Vayeshev 2021: A Place Called Timnah

Raboyseyee and Ladies

A Place Called Timnah

A place called what? What is it? What went down there and who? We shall address these questions further below, but first, a very Happy Thanksgiving and warm welcome to Parshas Vayeshev where the Yaakov Oveenu family is in distress mamish and where the action -as real as it gets- if you chap, is front, center, and also roadside!

We begin here. In a jealous rage, and also angry with brother Yoisef over his dreams and loshoin horo, Yoisef’s tunic is ripped off his chest, dipped into blood and presented to their father Yaakov who is led to believe that his favorite son Yoisef is dead. The perpetrators: his own brothers; say it’s not so but it was. Oy vey! And these boys were selected to become our holy shvotim?! Was this behavior a qualifier or a condition precedent to selection? Makes one think. The bottom line: if you’ve never kidnapped your brother, or sold him into slavery and then lied to your dad for over twenty years, you are not qualified to lead a tribe of your own. Why not? Because you are overqualified! Ober, how did we get here? How could this happen? When did this family become so dysfunctional? Let’s chazir.

Just last week, Yaakov’s only daughter was raped and taken by Shechem who then wanted to marry her. It’s a rare occasion -as mentioned in the past- when the rapist wants to marry his victim; Yaakov and his boys were intrigued but didn’t bite. Neither did Shimon and Levi who took matters into their own hands and slaughtered all the males in the city. Shoin. You know what happened next. On the other hand, Reuvain did not take matters into his hands, if you chap – he should have- and decided instead to mount his step-mother’s bed, whatever that means, and say it’s not so.

As an aside, one medrish will tell us that each of Yaakov’s sons was born with a twin sister and that the boys and girls intermarried meaning by way of example that Shimon’s sister married Levi. And so on.  Amazing if true. It appears that at least one brother opted out, make that two. Yehudah seemingly decided against incest – seemingly not yet forbidden- and that none of his Jewish sisters-in-law were good enough. In this week’s parsha, the heylige Toirah interrupts itself from the Yoisef drama and tells us that Yehudah married an unnamed Canaanite shiksa. Still, his father loved and accepted him. Veyter. Let’s read the pisukim.

Bereishis 38:2 There Yehudah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua, and he married her and lay with her. The couple had three sons, Er, Oynon, and Shelah, and when the oldest was of age, Yehudah found him a wife by the name of Tamar:

בראשית לח:ו וַיִּקַּח יְהוּדָה אִשָּׁה לְעֵר בְּכוֹרוֹ וּשְׁמָהּ תָּמָר.

More on them soon. Next week, Yoisef will marry Osnas, another shiksa, she the daughter Potifera. Our parsha features kidnapping, attempted murder, a huge conspiracy and cover-up, forced enslavement, Canaanite shiksas, hot roadside sex, instant pregnancy, onanism, seduction and much more. We will be jumping back and forth between stories ober not to worry: each contains its own salacious and tantalizing details. This week, it’s the heylige Toirah providing them; the storied and colorful details are found in the text itself.  As you can only imagine, our sages of the heylige Gemora and medrish were mamish shocked beyond belief and excitement trying to figure out the good from the bad, the innocent from the devious. They had their work cut out for them.

Let’s recall that a few weeks back they told us that Loit’s two daughters were performing a mitzvah when they took turns mounting their father. They spilled ink trying to convince us that Reuvain’s bed-mounting incident was innocent. When is mounting a family member abhorrent and sexual in nature and when is it a mitzvah mamish? When the heylige Gemora and medrish tells you so! If they like you, all good. Grada the medrish loves Tamar and praise her mightily for her behavior. How does one justify and even praise roadside sex with one’s father-in-law? Let’s find out. Although her behavior could be interpreted as an act of sexual licentiousness and wantonness -one would think- the midroshim (many) defend Tamar and praise her. They describe her as a woman with sterling qualities who maintained the strictures of modesty and faithfully observed the laws of niddah. It’s taka emes she was dressed up as a harlot to hide her identity, pshat being that she was fully covered up. Nice. Moreover, they tell us that Tamar had been intended for Yehudah from the outset, his bashert, and that she was a virgin when he engaged in relations with her. She was what? A virgin? After two marriages?  If that’s emes, we taka have to question whether or not she was a real shiksa. Mayla (perhaps) one can understand this claim of virginity were she from a nice frum home, ober she was a “bas K’nani!” What’s pshat?  On the other hand, let us recall that Er and Oynon came and went, ober medrish could be telling us that Tamar wasn’t involved in their arrival, if you chap.  Moreover, the RBSO was not at all happy that Oynon spilled his seed on the ground instead of depositing it where it belonged. And even more moreover, you know how angry the wives get when we leave stuff on the floor. The RBSO killed him. Accordingly, medrish could argue that she was still a virgin! Shoin, it’s only a medrish and if you don’t find it credible, there’s always another one with a different view.  But wait: There’s more. Their encounter on the way to Timnah was significant and decisive in the annals of the Israelite nation. Divine intervention was active throughout the entire incident: it was all Yad Hashem, the hand of the RBSO directed Yehudah to the tent, and it revealed the pledge and thereby saved Tamar and her unborn children from the stake. There goes that hand again. Shoin! The bottom line: only through her actions, did Peretz and Zerach come into the world. Dovid Hamelech descended from Peretz, and the Moshiach will eventually be born from this line. Gishmak! Bottom line: medrish, written some 1200 years after the Toirah and Novee. They looked back at historical events and loved Tamar. Fartig and veyter!

What’s up this week? What does the RBSO want us to know? Why? Yet another story involving rape and or incest? Not! But the parsha does not disappoint: this week’s parsha features two sexually charged stories. The parsha will recount the story of two women, both shiksas, who seduce nice Jewish boys, both sons of Yaakov Oveenu, and both destined to become outstanding tribal leaders. Well, blow me down.

Let’s first meet Tamar who famously and cleverly seduced her former father-in-law Yehudah into a roadside sexual encounter. A bit deeper into the parsha, we will read how Mrs. Potiphar had designs on Yoisef and did all she could to have him bed her.  Yikes! Yehuda fell for the trick and thankfully so. The heylige Gemora and many others will tell us that the Moshiach will one day trace his lineage back to that encounter. The bottom line: if you’re stam azoy an observant Jew who davens daily, learns the daf, is always on his best behavior, and has never partaken or been involved in a questionable or even forbidden relationship, you are not Moshiach worthy!

Let’s continue. Yoisef was able to withstand the temptation, ober Mrs. Potiphar did yell rape and had Yoisef falsely charged with sexual harassment. Ironically, she too grabbed onto and removed his shirt. At least he kept his pants on! Yoisef will be incarcerated a total of 12 years. What is happening?

Shoin, speaking of Yehudah, and as mentioned above, mamish in the middle of the tragic Yoisef kidnapping tragedy where he was left for dead before being sold into slavery by his very righteous compassionate brothers, the heylige Toirah interrupts itself with the most incredible myseh of Yehudah, his marriage, the three children they had together, how two of them married the same woman, how each came and went, if you chap, and how the behavior of one (Oynon) gave birth the term onanism.

The bottom line: the RBSO did not like the way the boys treated their wife Tamar and shoin. In but a few pisukim, they disappeared forever from the Toirah stage.  The good news: Yehuda had a third son, this one named Sheylo (or Shelah) who does not have a speaking role in the heylige Toirah but turns out to efsher be the most significant of the brothers. Azoy? Tamar, the wife of Yehuda’s first two sons is still childless, wants to marry Sheylo and have children.  She wants seed! The heylige Toirah specifically told us why the RBSO disposed of Er and Oynon: at least one of them refused to seed her. Ober an unsuspecting Yehudah believed Tamar was to blame. He considered her a “fatal woman” (אשה קטלנית), a man killer! The heylige Gemora (Yevomis 64b) discusses this designation; that for another time. He therefore sent her back to her father’s house (wherever that was), ostensibly until his third child was grown, though in reality he has no intention of allowing the marriage to proceed. Sheylo does not marry Tamar but does indirectly cause her to dress up as a hooker and seduce Yehuda into roadside sex. Ironically, she got her man and seed without having to remove too much clothing. Say this is all not so, but that’s what the heylige Toirah tells us.

What’s pshat here? Why did the RBSO provide every detail of the encounter? We are zicher more accustomed to a narrative with many lacunas but in these racy incidents, the RBSO provides details and color? We must therefore conclude that there must be a good reason the RBSO wants us to know how Yehuda’s passivity in withholding Sheylo, induced Tamar to take matters into her own hands, if you chap. Tamar may have been the first, but zicher not the last to take matters into their own hands as a result of passivity, calendar issues, headaches, fights, not in the mood, or whatever; if you chap. Grada, Yehuda’s plan of withholding Sheylo was quite clever, ober he was outwitted by Tamar whose own plan was even more brilliant. Only on a rare occasion can a man withstand seductive advances. Moreover, Tamar was also efsher the first to trick her sex-mate into depositing some sperm to make a baby; many wives have followed suit. You go girl! Whatever happened to Sheylo? Ver veyst as he too disappears from the text kimat instantly. Did he ever get married? To whom? Over in Divrei Hayomim (Chronicles 4:21-23) we find the following:

בְּנֵי שֵׁלָה בֶן יְהוּדָה: עֵר אֲבִי לֵכָה (לכיש) לַעְדָּה אֲבִי מָרֵשָׁה מִשְׁפְּחוֹת בֵּית-עֲבֹדַת הַבֻּץ לְבֵית אַשְׁבֵּעַ. וְיוֹקִים וְאַנְשֵׁי כֹזֵבָא יוֹאָשׁ וְשָׂרָף אֲשֶׁר בָּעֲלוּ לְמוֹאָב וְיָשֻׁבִי לָחֶם (לחמס)  וְהַדְּבָרִים עַתִּיקִים  הֵמָּה הַיּוֹצְרִים וְיֹשְׁבֵי נְטָעִים וּגְדֵרָה עִם-הַמֶּלֶךְ בִּמְלַאכְתּוֹ יָשְׁבוּ שָׁם. 

The sons of Shelah son of Yehudah: Er father of Lecah, Laadah father of Mareshah, and the families of the linen factory at Beth-ashbea;  22 and Jokim, and the men of Cozeba, and Joash and Saraph, who married into Moab and residents of Lehem (the records are ancient). 23  These were the potters who dwelt at Netaim and Gederah; they dwelt there in the king’s service.

The bottom line: he married, and had children. It appears that at least one of his son’s also married out; his shiksa of choice, a nice Moabite. Nu; like father, like son. On the other hand, let us not forget that Rus (Ruth) one of everyone’s favorite Jewish characters, was also a Moabite shiksa and whose progeny include Dovid Hamelech and also the Moshiach one day soon. Don’t have converts in your family? You may not be Moshiach worthy! Should we not be more welcoming? Veyter.

Ober, lets us read this. The Yehuda/Tamar story has long interested the heylige Ois who has -over the years- asked and answered many questions. Check out the archives at www.oisvorfer.com. This year, we shall shine a light on a special -efsher romantic- place called Timnah. What is it, where is it, and why is it relevant?

Tucked into the middle of the Yehuda/Tamar encounter, is this place Timnah, thrice shouted-out in a three consecutive pisukim. It’s a place easy to miss because most of you chazerim are too busy with the scintillating details of the story itself. After all, it’s not a daily zach   when we get to read how one of our holy-roller shvotim wound up having sex with a make-believe hooker who happened to be his own daughter-in -law. One cannot make this stuff up. Ober if Timnah is thrice mentioned, perhaps there’s a good reason; isn’t there always? Don’t our sages kimat always pounce when they read the same word in three pisukim? Typically, they do. Why would the city known as Timnah get three shoutouts?  Was Timnah a special place?  We must conclude that Timnah plays a key role in the story’s imagery and narrative logic; it is essential for creating the space for Tamar and Yehudah to come together (literally and figuratively) for their fateful encounter. Let’s read the pisukim:

בראשית לח:יב וַיִּרְבּוּ הַיָּמִים וַתָּמָת בַּת שׁוּעַ אֵשֶׁת יְהוּדָה וַיִּנָּחֶם יְהוּדָה וַיַּעַל עַל גֹּזֲזֵי צֹאנוֹ הוּא וְחִירָה רֵעֵהוּ הָעֲדֻלָּמִי תִּמְנָתָהלח:יג וַיֻּגַּד לְתָמָר לֵאמֹר הִנֵּה חָמִיךְ עֹלֶה תִמְנָתָה לָגֹז צֹאנוֹ. לח:יד וַתָּסַר בִּגְדֵי אַלְמְנוּתָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ וַתְּכַס בַּצָּעִיף וַתִּתְעַלָּף וַתֵּשֶׁב בְּפֶתַח עֵינַיִם אֲשֶׁר עַל דֶּרֶךְ תִּמְנָתָה כִּי רָאֲתָה כִּי גָדַל שֵׁלָה וְהִוא לֹא נִתְּנָה לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה. לח:טו וַיִּרְאֶהָ יְהוּדָה וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לְזוֹנָה כִּי כִסְּתָה פָּנֶיהָ. לח:טז וַיֵּט אֵלֶיהָ אֶל הַדֶּרֶךְ…

Bereishis 38:12 A long time afterward, Shua’s daughter, the wife of Yehudah, died. When his period of mourning was over, Yehudah went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, together with his friend Cirah the Adullamite. 38:13 And Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is coming up to Timnah for the sheepshearing.” 38:14 So she took off her widow’s garb, covered her face with a veil, and, wrapping herself up, sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him as a wife. 38:15 When Yehudah saw her, he took her for a harlot; for she had covered her face. 38:16 So he turned aside to her by the road…

Timnah’s placement within the narrative is intentional, its setting essential for these two characters to intermingle outside of the appropriate social boundaries and structures. It is somewhere around Timnah where questionable sexual and cross-cultural activity can occur momentarily. No wonder Roadside Assistance was and remains so popular.

The bottom lines of Tamar and Mrs. Potiphar. Both stories feature the seduction or attempted seduction of the main character. Both female protagonist uses their feminine wiles to entrap the hero. The wife of Potiphar sought sexual pleasure and domination over Yoisef the foreign slave, while Tamar endangers her life in order to conceive children who will become the mainstay of the tribe of Yehudah.

And in an ironic twist on the brothers who sold Yoisef into slavery (to include Yehudah who concocted the idea), clothing play a prominent role. The brothers presented Yoisef’s blood-stained tunic as proof of his death (Bereishis 37:32-33). Each of these women used garments or personal items of the hero as supportive evidence to prove their innocence. The villainous Mrs. Potiphar presented Yoisef’s raiment as proof of her claim of his rapacious intention, while the heroic Tamar displayed the staff and stringed seal (חותם ופתילים) of the unidentified father of her unborn. Seemingly, Yehudah also displayed his staff, if you chap.

And listen to this: It so happens that as the heylige Ois was reading the Novee Shoiftim (Judges 14-15) just last week, he came across the amazing story of Shimshon (Samson). Ober what has he to do with our parsha and specifically Yehudah and Tamar?  And the answer? Shimshon is another famous Tanach personality, a Jewish hero, who went down to Timnah, fell in love with a shiksa, this one a Philistine. Mamish?  In the opening two pisukim, so is she described: a Philistine woman. Let’s read the first five pisukim.

And Shimshon went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Pelishtim.

וַיַּ֗עַל וַיַּגֵּד֙ לְאָבִ֣יו וּלְאִמּ֔וֹ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אִשָּׁ֛ה רָאִ֥יתִי בְתִמְנָ֖תָה מִבְּנ֣וֹת פְּלִשְׁתִּ֑ים וְעַתָּ֕ה קְחוּ־אוֹתָ֥הּ לִ֖י לְאִשָּֽׁה׃

And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Pelishtim: now therefore get her for me to wife.

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר ל֜וֹ אָבִ֣יו וְאִמּ֗וֹ הַאֵין֩ בִּבְנ֨וֹת אַחֶ֤יךָ וּבְכׇל־עַמִּי֙ אִשָּׁ֔ה כִּֽי־אַתָּ֤ה הוֹלֵךְ֙ לָקַ֣חַת אִשָּׁ֔ה מִפְּלִשְׁתִּ֖ים הָעֲרֵלִ֑ים וַיֹּ֨אמֶר שִׁמְשׁ֤וֹן אֶל־אָבִיו֙ אוֹתָ֣הּ קַֽח־לִ֔י כִּי־הִ֖יא יָשְׁרָ֥ה בְעֵינָֽי׃

Then his father and his mother said to him, Is there no woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Pelishtim? And Shimshon said to his father, Get her for me; for she pleases me well.

וְאָבִ֨יו וְאִמּ֜וֹ לֹ֣א יָדְע֗וּ כִּ֤י מֵֽיְהֹוָה֙ הִ֔יא כִּֽי־תֹאֲנָ֥ה הֽוּא־מְבַקֵּ֖שׁ מִפְּלִשְׁתִּ֑ים וּבָעֵ֣ת הַהִ֔יא פְּלִשְׁתִּ֖ים מֹשְׁלִ֥ים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought a pretext against the Pelishtim: for at that time the Pelishtim had dominion over Yisra᾽el.

וַיֵּ֧רֶד שִׁמְשׁ֛וֹן וְאָבִ֥יו וְאִמּ֖וֹ תִּמְנָ֑תָה וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ עַד־כַּרְמֵ֣י תִמְנָ֔תָה וְהִנֵּה֙ כְּפִ֣יר אֲרָי֔וֹת שֹׁאֵ֖ג לִקְרָאתֽוֹ׃

Then Shimshon went down, and his father and his mother, to Timnah, and came to the vineyards of Timnah: and, behold, a young lion roared against him.

Next: The characters then converge upon this location for a seven-day wedding feast that leads to a series of disputes between Shimshon and the locals that eventually precipitates his battle against the Philistines. Bottom line: He too met a woman of questionable status in ​Timnah. What is it about Timnah that makes it an appropriate choice for such stories? Shoin, now that we mentioned Timnah and how Shimshon found his love interest in that very place, let’s take a minute and enjoy a few more tidbits about him. In brief Shimshon was involved with three women. The first, as mentioned above, was a woman from Timnah whom he married. The second woman was a harlot – a whore mamish- from Gaza, and the third was Delilah, with whom Shimshon fell in love. The medrish debates at length when Shimshon’s sinning began. Though some said his marriage to the woman from Timnah initiated his moral decline, others argued that his sinning began when he engaged in sexual activity with a zoina (harlot). Chazal (our sages) used Shimshon’s involvement with shiksa women as a way to denounce attraction to foreign women and to denounce intermarriage. Shoin!

Was Timnah mamish at fault here? Says the medrish azoy: we learn from the wording of the Novee (Shoiftim 14:1), azoy: “Once Shimshon went down to Timnah” that this act was a descent, entailing moral degeneration (check out the heylige Gemora Soitah 10a). At times, just going down, might be sinful. Shoin! On their way to Timnah, Shimshon’s parents saw the vineyards of Timnah, that were planted with kilayim (different species planted together, verboten in the heylige Toirah (Vayikro 19:19). They told Shimshon: “Just as their vineyards are planted with kilayim, their daughters, too, are the result of intermingling,” thinking that in this manner they would convince him not to marry a shiksa Philistine woman. It’s in this context the sages of the medrish (Bamidbar Rabbah 9:24) said azoy: “You shall not intermarry with them” is written in seven places in the heylige Toirah, in order to forbid intermarriage with all the seven nations that inhabited Canaan, including the Philistines. Did he listen to his parents? Not! He preferred and got what his eyes saw (Shoiftim 14:3). Says the Novee: “But Shimshon answered his father, ‘Get me that one, for she is the one that pleases me’ [literally, is right in my eyes].” In the end, he was punished accordingly (middah ke-neged middah: “measure for measure”) when the Philistines gouged out his eyes, as is portrayed on the Novee (Shoiftim 1:8). Does everyone agree? Not! Ober we are out of time and space. Want more color on Shimshon? Check out the heylige Gemora Soitah 9b; it does not disappoint with more shiksa talk and more.

Was Timnah made famous by Yehuda and Tamar as the place to visit when looking for a wife or a quickie? Was Timnah famous as the place where Yiddin and others -to include shiksas and other non-descript locals came to meet and interact? Was it the forerunner to Grossinger’s or the Concord, may they both rest in peace? Seemingly so as in both our parsha and in the heylige Novee, Timnah becomes the locus (check out new word of the week) of strange engagements between different groups.

A gittin Shabbis and happy Chanukah!

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman


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