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Tamar: The Strength Within Connectivity

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"She said to him: 'No, brother. Don't rape me. Such things are not done in Israel. Don't do this terrible thing.'"

וַתֹּאמֶר לוֹ אַל-אָחִי אַל-תְּעַנֵּנִי כִּי לֹא-יֵעָשֶׂה כֵן בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אַל-תַּעֲשֵׂה אֶת-הַנְּבָלָה הַזֹּאת

--II Samuel 13:12

King David's eldest son Amnon is lovesick for his half-sister Tamar, a virgin princess. Amnon's slimy cousin Yonadav proposes a ruse: Amnon should pretend to be ill, ask King David to send Tamar to make cakes for him in order to help him get well. Amnon does this, and David agrees to his odd request. While Tamar is cooking for Amnon, he seizes her.

Tamar pleads with Amnon, arguing that his behavior is wrong, and claims (perhaps in desperation) that David would give Tamar to Amnon as a wife if Amnon would ask for her in a decent way.֥ Amnon does not listen to her; instead, he rapes her. Then, disgusted by her presence, he throws her out, though she protests that "to send me away is worse than the first wrong you committed." Tamar cries and tears her ornamented royal clothes -- her coat of many colors, the same as Joseph's coat. Tamar goes to the home of her full brother Avshalom, who takes her in, but advises her to be silent. Two years later, Avshalom avenges his sister's rape by killing Amnon.

Tamar is vocal on her own behalf. She argues her case before her brother, and even after he has brutalized her she continues to condemn his behavior. Tamar argues for the potency of sexual limits, reminding Amnon that Israelites should not rape women. David's daughter Tamar represents gevurah shebeyesod, the need for boundaries of sexual connection. We are most like Tamar when we demand that our community never tolerate sexual violence, and insist that all people be free from sexual abuse.

This is an excerpt from the "Omer Calendar of Biblical Women," available at West Side Judaica in NYC or online. For more on the Omer, join the conversation and community by visiting the Omer liveblog on HuffPost Religion, which features blogs, prayers, art and reflections for all 49 days of spiritual renewal between Passover and Shavuot.