Thursday, January 14, 2010

VAYEISHEV; OF ABANDONMENT AND HOPE

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Clothing may at times betray our deepest wishes. And at times it may betray our deepest fears.When we dress for success it reflects the former. When we veil our women it reflects the latter.

In the Tamar and Yehudah narrative, Genesis 15:38 states:

"vayireha Yehudah vayachshevaha lezona ki chista paneha-

Judah saw her, and because she had covered her face, he assumed that she was a prostitute."

Note that because her face was veiled, he had assumed she was a prostitute. In fact, that was WHY she dressed that way. She WANTED him to assume that!

Note the odd vowelization in the word for "he assumed," or "thought"-vayachshVAHA. It might ordinarily be vocalized as vayachsheVEHA instead. But here it is not. Now VA means "in it"or "in her." This may signify that there is an element of psychological projection occuring. Not that he is assuming x,y, or z about her based on objective criteriae. Rather, his own fears are projected onto (into) her in his quick yet faulty summation of who she was.

He was driven by fear and guilt for having abandoned his brother Joseph. Guilt for and fear of abandonment had become defining forces in his personality makeup. He had spared his youngest son, Shelah, from the possibility of an untimely death only through abandoning Tamar and postponing/foregoing his levirite obligations. Er and Onan had died. Would Shelach be next? By abandoning Tamar and withholding her due, he would thus save his son. But at what price?

Now the levirite laws were intrinsically righteous in nature in ensuring the social security of a widow in her old age. It was the world's first social security program! Psalm 71 declares: "al tashlicheni la'et ziknah, ki'chlot kochi al ta'azveni. Do not cast me off me in my old age. When my stength leaves me do not abandon me."

Having a child would serve to protect her from abandonment in her old age. Onan's deepest sin, when he "spilled his seed," therefore, was in avoiding his obligation to protect his widowed sister-in-law in her old age (as well as perpetuating his dead brother's name). This misreading of the text in its proper context "fails to see the forest for the trees." This focus has been the source of much guilt, anxiety and depression through the ages. True onanism in its deepest sense is really then the willfull neglect of the widow, the elderly and all society's vulnerable!

We see in our parsha the recurring theme of abandonment. Joseph is abandoned in the pit, then abandoned in Egypt, and lastly - abandoned in prison. He wrestles with sexual temptation in the context of committing adultery with Potiphar's wife, thereby resulting in the potential abandonment of his sole connection to his family's moral code, a succumbing to the alien allures of Egyptian pagan culture. That he did not succumb was the reason he became known as Yosef HaTzaddik, Joseph the Righteous.

Prostitution reflects the disconnect between sex and obligation. It embodies abandonment at the deepest taboo level. Fear of abandonment leads to hatred of that which symbolizes it. That which is hated must be covered up or put away. Rather than seeing someone covered as modest and demur, he projects onto her the opposite, a reflection of his own inner demons and struggles.

A face connotes personality. Veiling the face reduces her to a sexual object, violating her humanity. Many Muslim women would protest this assertion, but they have bought into their own oppression in a Stockholm Syndrome-like way.

In Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as in most of the Islamic world, the Taliban and the imams fear the freedom and sexuality of women. More to the point, they fear their own sexuality and its associated drives and passions. They project their fears onto women and turn them into objects of fear and loathing so intense that they punish the victim for the sins of the predator! Rape victims are lashed at best, and killed for the family's honor at worst. They justify their veiling practices to fend against the predatious demons of male society in the name of guarding their women's sexual purity.

Ironically, according to the sartorial descriptions of the Torah as read in this week's parsha, their women thus assume the costume of the prostitute who must dwell in the utmost darkened cave-like fringes of society. Their society is thus shut off to the ideas and values of female energy and insight. Islamic society became unbalanced when it was open only to the aggressive tendencies of male energy, and thereby lost its vital center and devolved into an orgy of hatred and a lust for warfare.

The beauty of traditional Jewish notions of Tzniut, or modesty, lies in finding a balanced attitude towards sexuality. Embracing a wholesome view of sex, it sees it as intrinsically good and worthwhile. Yet while its energies are viewed as basically positive, there is a recognition that it best be channeled through the vessel of consecrated marriage, or Kiddushin, lest its urges become destructive and all-consuming.

The Eishes Chayil song/poem, which is sung at the Shabbat table each and every week, validates the woman of the marketplace, whose wisdom and insight nurtures and sustains both the family as well as the greater society, and whose industriousness contributes to society and helps provide for the poor and destitute. Men and women equally must learn to focus on their internal as well as external qualities, and thus both equally develop their truest potentials and input society with a harmonious balance of male and female energies.

And as the moral compass of Yehudah reasserted its sense of justice in doing right by Tamar and reversing her very real sense of abandonment, so too will the Jewish People come to reassert the centrality of Israel in their lives and give succor and support to her people through visiting. When family members are in trouble one goes to be with them in their time of need. And Israel must come to see that Jerusalem is the heart and vital center of world Jewry, just as Mecca is for the Moslem world and the Vatican is for Christendom.

The G*d of Israel saw Joseph overcome his sense of abandonment and led him breathtakingly up from his lowly slave status to the rank of grand vizier so as to be a conduit of salvation for his people. And just as the G*d of Israel saw justice for Tamar, reversing her abandonment and causing the ancestors of the messianic Davidic redeemer to descend from her womb, so too will the G*d of Israel today protect and redeem His people in their time of travail as woesome as any in their history.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2010 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)
Dedications are available.

2 comments:

jost said...

如果你批評他人。你就沒有時間付出愛.........................

願望 said...

培養健全孩子最好的方法是父母先成為健全的人。.........................

NEVER GIVE UP!

Loading...

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

moshav band live at mexicali blues

Loading...

What mind is it?

"Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people."
-Eleanor Roosevelt


ON FIXING AND HEALING...

"If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix..... If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal..........." Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Hatiqwa

Loading...

Beta Israel - Ethiopian Jews - The Ingathering from Without

Loading...

Palestinians of Jewish origin - The Ingathering from Within

Loading...

Holy Wedding at Makhpela, Tomb of our Fathers in hevron - Music by Pey Dalid

Loading...

Mariane Paradise and The Gan Eden Project sings of the Unity of All Creation from Jerusalem

Loading...

A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD

Loading...

IVDU ET HASHEM B'SIMCHA- SERVE THE LORD WITH JOY DANCING AND SINGING FROM INSIDE A BOMB SHELTER

Loading...

SELICHOT LIVE AT CARLEBACH SHUL 2008

Loading...

NAZI RALLIES AND SPEECHES

Loading...

JEWISH MEN AND WOMEN GATHER TO CELEBRATE REB SHLOMO'S 14TH YAHRZEIT SINGING AT HIS GRAVE

Loading...

MOSHAV BAND - THE ONLY ONE

Loading...

Reb Zalman on Jewish Renewal

Loading...

Let There Be Peace

Loading...
"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

- anonymous
"Perhaps the greatest force in the entire universe is compounded interest."

- Albert Einstein

the last hoshana rabba with reb shlomo and me playing together the week before he took off in '94

Loading...

bob marley - one love 6:13 (6 MINUTES 13 SECONDS) and exodus

Loading...

Tisha B'Av 5765 Katif Expulsion

Loading...

Children of Sderot - The Daily Terror and Nightmares

Loading...

Let Me Sing a New Song

Loading...

On Schlomo's magnificent 13th (Bar Mitzvah) yahrzeit in Heaven

Loading...

AMAZING INTERVIEW WITH REB SHLOMO top video only

Loading...

Larry David wants to Save the Planet

Loading...

Havdalah Ceremony on Moshav Meor Modiin in Central Israel

Loading...

Alpha blondy from cote d'ivoire sings his love of Jerusalem in Hebrew and French all over the world

Loading...
When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.
-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor." - Aish Kodesh
"As you want G*d to give you a chance, give everyone else a chance to also begin again." - Shlomo Carlebach

About Me

My photo
United States
I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!