Shabbat-Table Talks: Vayesheb
By: Rabbi Ralph Tawil <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Value: Giving rebuke graciously
without embarrassing, hurting or insulting. In relationship, there are times when we must give rebuke. This occurs
when our friend or relative has done something that is wrong or that bothers us.
Giving some thought about the best way to do this can spare grief; it is also
The story of Yehuda and Tamar is a complex one. It contains elements that can
lead to lively discussions. Let us focus on the value above. This occurs at the
end of the story. Ask your children if they have learned the story of Yehuda and
Tamar. If they have, let them tell the story. If not, tell the most important
parts of the story.
son Yehuda had three sons. The oldest, Er, married a woman named Tamar. But he
died without having any children. When that sad thing happens, the living
brother must marry the wife of the dead brother, in order to have children for
him. The second brother, Onan did not like the idea that his son would belong to
his dead brother. He made sure that Tamar would not get pregnant. He also died
without having any children.
was afraid to let his third son, Shela, marry Tamar. He was afraid that he would
also die. Tamar was stuck. She could not marry anyone else, and she did not have
children. She decided on a desperate plan. When Yehuda’s wife died, Tamar
disguised herself so that Yehuda would not recognize her. Yehuda did not
recognize her and he slept with her. Tamar asked Yehuda to give her his seal,
cord and staff--things that identified Yehuda.
months later, everyone knew that Tamar was pregnant—but they did not know who
the father was. When a woman did something like that, get pregnant when she was
not allowed to, the punishment was very serious. Let’s read the pesuqim that
describe what happened next.
Text: Beresheet 38:24-26
three months later, Yehuda was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played
the harlot (for younger children say—has done a very bad thing); in fact she
has gotten pregnant by harlotry (because of what she did).” “Bring her
out,” said Yehuda, and let her be burned.” As she was being brought out, she
sent this message to her father-in-law, “I am pregnant by the man to whom
these belong.” And she added, “Examine these: whose seal and cord and staff
are these?” Yehuda recognized them, and said, “She is more in the right than
I, since I did not give her to my son Shela.” And he was not intimate with her
Notice how Tamar informed Yehuda that he was the father of her baby. She did not
say it openly. Rather, she showed him the proof of the things in a way that
would make him agree. She also waited until she was being brought out to be
burned. Even under such tension, she did not reproach Yehuda in a way that was
embarrassing. She merely allowed him to draw the conclusion from the evidence.
She also trusted that he would be honest enough to admit his mistake. Her life
was staked on these decisions! She thought about this plan to the last detail.
She was interested in making Yehuda live up to his obligations to his dead sons.
Tamar eventually brought him to this realization by her actions. Tamar was not
burned. She gave birth to twins, one of who is the ancestor of King David (and
of the Mashiah). Her brave actions merited such a reward.
Tamar was very careful when she told Yehuda that he was wrong. She did not do it
in a way that would embarrass him. She let him understand his mistake, and he
was able to admit it.
are some ways that we can tell someone when they have done something wrong to us
or hurt our feelings?
thing to do is to describe what happened as objectively as possible. Then
describe how that affected you. For example, if your brother said something that
made you feel bad. Instead of saying something to make him feel bad and getting
into a big fight, remind of what he said to you and then describe how you felt
about that. “Joey, when you said I was little, it hurt my feelings.”
“Sammy, you said that I messed up the room. I don’t think that I was the
only one to do it.”
of reacting to the hurt by hurting back, try to bring the person to an
understanding of what happened and how it affected you.
course, the best way to teach this practice is that the parents use it amongst
themselves. On occasion, our spouses do things that get us upset. Instead of
attaching a demeaning label or hurtful comment, describe how that behavior
affects you. For example, say: “When we are going out together and have an
appointment to meet another couple I feel very pressured to be punctual. I get
nervous because I feel it is respectful to be punctual. This can often affect my
attitude the whole evening. I am sure that you do not want me to feel this
the way, this idea can be applied to the way parents speak to their children.
Instead of being critical or insulting about a child’s messy room, for
example, one might simply state the facts. “Dirty clothes go in the hamper.”
“Books belong on the shelves.” “I see shoes in the den.” You could even
use one word reminders—“toys.” This method conveys the information without
being critical. It avoids all the emotions that come with an insult or a
perceived slight or put-down. It gets the hearer to deal with the situation and
not with the relationship.
must be aware of the whole situation when we give rebuke. Is the person
receiving the rebuke going to be embarrassed by getting the rebuke in the
presence of other people (guests, sibling, friends etc.).
Thinking about ways to give rebuke that are not embarrassing or hurtful not only makes the rebuke more effective, but it displays an attitude of respect and dignity towards people—even if they are your children.
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