Parshat VaYeshev

In this week’s Parsha we learn about Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Yehuda who marries Er, When Yehuda’s eldest son dies, leaving her with no children, she does the Mitzvah of Yibum and gets married to Yehuda’s second child, Onan. Soon after, Onan also dies, leaving her once again with no children. Yehuda has one last son who is too young to get married, so he tells Tamar to go back to the house of her father and he will call for her when his son is old enough for marriage. Tamar soon realizes she will not be married off to the youngest child and because she knows she is supposed to have an important child through Yehuda she takes matters into her own hands.

When Yehuda’s wife dies, Tamar dresses up and positions herself on the path where Yehuda will be traveling in order to seduce him and carry the child she knows she is supposed to. Yehuda is with her and later on hears she is pregnant. Then she reveals what she had done and that she was expecting twins from Yehuda, Yehuda pronounces Tamar more righteous than he, because he did not give over his last son like he was meant to. Tamar then gives birth to twin boys whom she names Perez and Zerah. Although this is merely an overview of the story and there are many Meforshim and explanations of this story, a reader of the basic text is left disturbed. How could this happen with such righteous people?

We see two other stories with similar disturbing details. One such story takes place when the daughters of Lot see Sodom destroyed. They believe that they are the last people alive, so they get their father drunk and each girl has a child through him. This produces the nations Amon and Moav. The second story occurs later on with Rus and Boaz. Rus is in the field of Boaz when he sees her and realizes he is the last living relative of Rus’s late husband and it is up to him to do the Mitzvah of Yibum. Boaz announces that because she is a women of Moab and not a man, she is indeed allowed to convert to Judaism. To prove himself and show to those who did not believe this fact to be true, he marries her and gives to her a son, Obed.
The common denominator between all these stories is Dovid Hamelech. Lot’s daughters give birth to the nation of Moav, which in turn leads us to Rus who is the great grandmother of Dovid. Boaz himself is the descendant of Perez who comes from Yehuda and Tamar. How is it possible that all these stories of questionable origin lead us to the one and only Dovid Hamelech, from whom Mashiach will descend?

This is a lesson which all of us can learn from. Though we do not know all the details of each story, we see Hashem’s ways clearly. All these doubtful stories, which don’t seem very honorable from our basic level of understanding, are the origin of one of the greatest people to have ever lived. In order to be great one does not need to come from great roots. To achieve greatness one only has to work on himself and believe that they can achieve whatever goal they choose. Hashem put all these stories into motion to teach us this concept; Dovid was picked to be king because of his greatness, despite his roots.
In conclusion, this story proves to us that each and every one of us can be someone great. When we try to achieve greatness, our background, our family, and our origin don’t matter. Each person is their own person and we all have the power within ourselves to be the best we can be. What that matters is that we try, we work on ourselves, and we persist. We are judged by who we become rather than those around us or where we come from, in the same way that Dovid was not judged for coming from Moav and Perez.

Student studying in Tomer Devorah