Tamar, The Secret Badass Sexually Active Woman Of The Torah

Tamar, The Secret Badass Sexually Active Woman Of The Torah

There are lots of wonderful women in the Torah. Here is one of my favorites.
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A lot of people use religion as a tool to oppress women, and Judaism is no exception. However, if you read the stories of the Torah upon which the Jewish religion is based, there are more tales of women who take charge of their lives than you might have been led to expect.

Recently the Torah portion of the week was Vayeishev (Genesis 37:1-40:23), which includes the story of Tamar, one of my favorite stories in all the scriptures – but probably not one you ever heard in Sunday School.

Even if you aren’t Jewish, if you’ve ever seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat or Dreamworks’ Joseph: King of Dreams, then you know that one of Jacob’s many sons was named Judah. But here’s something left out of the movies and musicals: in the middle of the Joseph story, Judah leaves home, gets married, and has three sons. His eldest son, Er, marries a woman named Tamar.

Tamar and Er intend to have children, because it’s a very important custom at the time for the eldest son to have a legacy of sons, but Er dies soon after they are married. So then Judah tells his second son, Onan, to marry Tamar, so that they can have a child and call it Er’s.

But Onan refuses to have sex with Tamar (the Torah literally says that he casts his seed on the ground). So G-d kills Onan. Apparently G-d disapproves of refusing to let a woman who wants to have a baby have one.

Judah then decides that Tamar must be bad luck or something (because there’s no way his son could have done anything wrong, right?), so instead of having her marry his third son, Shelah, and try again for children, Judah sends Tamar back to her parents’ house. He promises to send for her when Shelah grows up, but he never does.

Tamar is stuck in a very awkward and frankly insulting situation. Because she was married to Er and is currently engaged to Shelah, she is legally kept from marrying someone else. She can’t get a job. She doesn’t want to be a child in her parents’ house forever; she wants to be a mother.

So Tamar puts a veil over her face and waits somewhere she knows Judah will pass by. Judah sees her, assumes she’s a prostitute, and solicits her.

“How are you going to pay me?” says Tamar.

“I’ll send you a sheep later,” says Judah.

“Give me your ID card so I know you’ll actually do it,” says Tamar (okay, so it was his signet, staff, and cord, but they basically served as his ID card).

And they have sex. And Tamar gets pregnant. And Judah is very confused afterwards about why he can’t find the prostitute and get his ID card back.

Three months pass, and somebody spills the beans to Judah that Tamar is pregnant. Judah’s like, “No way – she’s my daughter-in-law! She can’t be having sex with someone else! Let’s kill her.”

And Tamar’s like, “Here’s the ID card of the guy who fathered this baby.”

And Judah’s like, “…oh. My bad.”

And apparently G-d super approves of the whole thing because Tamar has twin boys. And she raises them on her own, because she’s a confident single mother who needs no man.

What I love about Tamar is her agency. Although she’s in a situation where she has very few options, she takes ownership of her life and sexuality, works to get what she wants, and does so in a way that makes the men who are messing with her life shut up and leave her alone in the end.

And though many people – Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike – use the laws of the Torah as excuses to treat women as subservient people who lack agency, there are stories like this in there as well, which show women refusing to fit that role, and not only getting away with it, but being cosmically rewarded for it. These women, my matriarchs, are a big part of why I’m proud to be Jewish.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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17 Empowering Bible Verses For Women

You go, girl.
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We all have those days where we let the negative thoughts that we're "not good enough," "not pretty enough" or "not smart enough" invade our minds. It's easy to lose hope in these situations and to feel like it would be easier to just give up. However, the Bible reminds us that these things that we tell ourselves are not true and it gives us the affirmations that we need. Let these verses give you the power and motivation that you're lacking.

1. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future."

2. Psalm 46:5

"God is within her, she will not fall."

3. Luke 1:45

"Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her."

4. Proverbs 31:17

"She is energetic and strong, a hard worker."

5. Psalm 28:7

"The Lord is my strength and my shield."

6. Proverbs 11:16

"A gracious woman gains respect, but ruthless men gain only wealth."

7. Joshua 1:9

"Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

8. Proverbs 31:30

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised."

9. 1 Corinthians 15:10

"By the grace of God, I am what I am."

10. Proverbs 31:26

"When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness."

11. Psalm 139:14

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

12. 1 Peter 3:3-4

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."

13. Colossians 2:10

"And in Christ you have been brought to fullness."

14. 2 Timothy 1:7

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline."

15. Jeremiah 29:11

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"

16. Exodus 14:14

"The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

17. Song of Songs 4:7

"You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way."

Next time you're feeling discouraged or weak, come back to these verses and use them to give you the strength and power that you need to conquer your battles.

Cover Image Credit: Julia Waterbury

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How Incorporating Organization In My Daily Routine Single-Handedly Changed My Life

And how it can structure yours.

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It would be a complete fabrication of the truth if I pretended that my life in any way has been picture perfect. Things are messy, life is messy, and my life becomes an endless cycle of self provoked destruction.

I've had short bursts of motivation as a last expedient to seize control of the downward spiral I have endured. But mostly they have diminished along with any motivation I have left.

None of these short term solutions have yet to salvage my mental, physical, and academic state. SO, as an attempt to overhaul my life, I decided the best way to strive for control, is to organize every aspect of my life.

Yes, this could become unhealthy if I used this tactic as a way to tear myself down or over analyze my accomplishments, or lack thereof. But I try to view my life as something I have a say in while considering that not everything will be perfect or completely satisfy my goals for myself.

To successfully enact this measure, I try to never go into a day unaware of what I must accomplish, what tasks/work I have to attend to, and stocked with a full calendar and set of alarms that prevent me from missing deadlines. Although mildly time-consuming to detail my life in advance, it is greatly beneficially outweighed through the amount of time this tactic saves me.

Recently, I have noticed how much happier I have been, and feel as if my life is back on track and it's future in my hands. This has allowed me to work an upwards of 50 something hours a week, see and manage friends, read and keep up with hobbies, as well as give me peace of mind and time to relax with loved ones.

I am grateful for the role that organization has played in my life and suggest that everyone incorporate some type of underlying structure in their lives, to realize that anything is achievable with proper organizational preparation.


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