top of page
  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


The story of Tamar in Parshat VaYesheiv, is a complex study of levirate marriage, disappointment and both the powerlessness and power of women. Tamar marries, her husband dies. Her father-in-law, Jacob's son Yehudah, pushes off having Tamar marry her husband's brothers. She waits and waits until her youngest brother-in-law is old enough to marry, but even then, he is not given to her as a husband. Rather than continue to wait for her father-in-law to keep his promise to give Tamar a husband and an heir, she takes control of her destiny. You can read more about Tamar's fascinating story here.

This poem, called Waiting, explores the conflict that Tamar experiences as she waits for her father-in-law to fulfill his obligation to her.


Sun stretching sinewy arms across the earth

Shadows lengthen and retreat

One day melts into another

Moons wax and wane

The rains come and go

Fields turn from green to yellow to brown

Birds hatch their young

They grow and fly away

I sit, mourning my past

Watching life go by from my doorway

I am a shell, hollow inside

An empty bed

An empty body

An empty cradle

Once I was young

I had a husband

My cup was full

Happiness was mine

Sounds echoed in the household

So long ago

Now silence echoes against the walls

Each day I grow older

My youth slips away

Like the earth

My body will go from green to yellow

to brown

What will be my fate?

My life as uncertain as a random breeze

Hours, days, months, years

No child, no husband

Springs come and go

I am alone

God, give me the strength

to do,

to take life into my own hands

To have the courage to get up

To stop looking out my door

and waiting for my future

I will rise from the floor

from these years of mourning

Cease waiting

I will brush my hair

Cover myself with a red robe

Sandals on my feet

My eyes are steel, rimmed with kohl

My heart beats again

The plan is mine

as I step out of my doorway

to meet my future

Genesis 38 Translation from SEfaria

Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Stay as a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”—for he thought, “He too might die like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

וַיִּרְבּוּ֙ הַיָּמִ֔ים וַתָּ֖מָת בַּת־שׁ֣וּעַ אֵֽשֶׁת־יְהוּדָ֑ה וַיִּנָּ֣חֶם יְהוּדָ֗ה וַיַּ֜עַל עַל־גֹּֽזֲזֵ֤י צֹאנוֹ֙ ה֗וּא וְחִירָ֛ה רֵעֵ֥הוּ הָעֲדֻלָּמִ֖י תִּמְנָֽתָה׃ A long time afterward, Shua’s daughter, the wife of Judah, died. When his period of mourning was over, Judah went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, together with his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

וַיֻּגַּ֥ד לְתָמָ֖ר לֵאמֹ֑ר הִנֵּ֥ה חָמִ֛יךְ עֹלֶ֥ה תִמְנָ֖תָה לָגֹ֥ז צֹאנֽוֹ׃ And Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is coming up to Timnah for the sheepshearing.”

וַתָּסַר֩ בִּגְדֵ֨י אַלְמְנוּתָ֜הּ מֵֽעָלֶ֗יהָ וַתְּכַ֤ס בַּצָּעִיף֙ וַתִּתְעַלָּ֔ף וַתֵּ֙שֶׁב֙ בְּפֶ֣תַח עֵינַ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־דֶּ֣רֶךְ תִּמְנָ֑תָה כִּ֤י רָאֲתָה֙ כִּֽי־גָדַ֣ל שֵׁלָ֔ה וְהִ֕וא לֹֽא־נִתְּנָ֥ה ל֖וֹ לְאִשָּֽׁה׃ So she took off her widow’s garb, covered her face with a veil, and, wrapping herself up, sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him as wife.

וַיִּרְאֶ֣הָ יְהוּדָ֔ה וַֽיַּחְשְׁבֶ֖הָ לְזוֹנָ֑ה כִּ֥י כִסְּתָ֖ה פָּנֶֽיהָ׃ When Judah saw her, he took her for a harlot; for she had covered her face.

וַיֵּ֨ט אֵלֶ֜יהָ אֶל־הַדֶּ֗רֶךְ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הָֽבָה־נָּא֙ אָב֣וֹא אֵלַ֔יִךְ כִּ֚י לֹ֣א יָדַ֔ע כִּ֥י כַלָּת֖וֹ הִ֑וא וַתֹּ֙אמֶר֙ מַה־תִּתֶּן־לִּ֔י כִּ֥י תָב֖וֹא אֵלָֽי׃ So he turned aside to her by the road and said, “Here, let me sleep with you”—for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. “What,” she asked, “will you pay for sleeping with me?”

46 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Dec 12, 2023

wow. so powerful. love this view of Tamar through her own waiting eyes. Thank you Leann

bottom of page