Ahavas Sholom – an Historic Landmark and Sacred Space

Newark's Last Remaining Synagogue born of the Great European Migration at the turn of the 20th Century

145 Broadway, Newark, NJ 07104
Phone: 973-485-2609 | Email: cahavassholom@optimum.net


Simon Says, December 9, 2022

The Torah portion this week, Vayishlach, contains the rape of Dinah.  Next week’s portion, Vayeshev, contains the story of Judah and Tamar.  What is the relationship between the two stories?

Superficially, the two stories have a theme of sex.  In Chapter 34, verse 19, the Torah says,  וְלֹֽא־אֵחַ֤ר הַנַּ֨עַר֙ לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת הַדָּבָ֔ר כִּ֥י חָפֵ֖ץ בְּבַֽת־יַֽעֲקֹ֑ב, which literally means (about the circumcision Jacob’s sons proposed) “[Shechem] did not put off the [circumcision], because he had delight in Jacob’s daughter.”  Next week, Judah’s wife dies, and he buys unknowingly a would-be prostitute (Tamar) because he had gone too long for sexual gratification.

The stories have a deeper meaning.  In this week’s portion, Jacob’s sons concoct a proposal to have Shechem, his father, and all of the men of their city be circumcised, because an uncircumcised man would not be allowed to marry Jacob’s daughter.  The men undergo circumcision, and Levi and Simeon kill all of the men recovering from the painful surgery.  Jacob confronts Levi and Simeon after the killing, and they said to their father, “Should our sister be treated like a whore?”

In next week’s portion, Tamar gets pregnant with Judah’s child, and she is visibly pregnant.  Legally, she is not allowed to have sex (she is betrothed to Shelah to have levirate marriage), and Judah says to the townspeople, “Stone her to death.”  Tamar shames Judah, because she shows the tokens from Judah, and Judah relents.

The stories have the theme of protecting a woman.  Judah does not participate in the slaughter of city men when Dinah was raped, and he was taught to protect a woman from Tamar.