The Pledge (18)

Happy weekend. Thanks for stopping by my blog to read another installment of The Pledge. If you’re just joining us, you can click here to read from the beginning.  

4.

“You’ve barely eaten,” Alit says, her tone hopeful. “Are you with child?”

Tamar straightens up in her chair and clears her throat. She and Ofra had gone to the main house, as was her custom, to help Alit with anything she might need. Lunch had been prepared, though Tamar had not partaken of any.

“No. Not yet,” she replies. “I…I’m not hungry.”

Indeed, who would be, after the revelation Er had made? And if that wasn’t sickening enough, it seemed Er was happier – as if he didn’t have to sneak around anymore. He was at liberty to do as he please…while she languished in her emotions.

“I remember when I first realized I was with child,” Alit muses, sitting across from her daughter-n-law. “I had no appetite at all. Just the very thought of eating made me sick. But it was a privilege to carry Judah’s son, do you understand?”

Tamar holds her gaze, understanding all too well what Alit was trying to say – what she had been saying for the past year: Tamar was taking her marriage too lightly. Had she appreciated and loved Er, she would have borne him a son by now.

“Yes, I do,” she says half-heartedly.

“You should have seen him when he was younger,” Alit continues, her eyes lost in a place just beyond Tamar’s imagination. “Judah was a handsome man. He is now, don’t get me wrong, but there is something about youth…and innocence. That’s what struck me about him when he first came to Adullam. He was so different than all the men here. He was innocent and ignorant of our ways and gods.”

Tamar listens, as this is the first time the older woman had opened up to her.

“I fell in love with him almost instantly. Of course, a woman can’t let a man know that, especially in marriage. Only foolhardy women and prostitutes openly lead men on. A good woman lets him chase her, because that’s what men do – they hunt, they make the decisions, they “get” a wife. So that’s what I did. I let Judah lead me, until he sought my father’s permission to have me. And what a celebration that was.”

Alit smiles – not one of the fake smiles she often offered to others, but a genuine, wistful smile, making Tamar leery of the situation. Why was Alit being so candid?

“That first time we were together was…” Alit sighs, contentedly; then catches herself, as if she remembers who she is talking to. She sits up and makes eye contact. “Well, you can imagine just how happy Judah was when I gave him the news that I was child; and nine months later, Er was born.”

Tamar returns her gaze, but says nothing, feeling as though the woman had yet to make her point.

“Tamar, it is your responsibility, as his wife, to give him children.”

She opens her mouth to argue, but instead remembers Er’s threat – she would be the one to burn.

“And it is at any cost that you find a way to do so, so that his name continues, do you understand this?”

Tamar nods her head, but begins to wonder about Alit’s “admonishment”. Did she know what Er was really like? Or that he didn’t sleep with her anymore? How was Tamar supposed to force the situation?

“The greatest gifts I have given Judah are Er, Onan and Shelah. Watchful, Strong and Requested. That’s what their names mean, did you know? Because I watched Judah. Because I had to be strong to his wife. And because I wanted another child from him. They exceed the wealth that even my father, who too was a certain man of Canaan as Judah now is, had gotten. Because a man without sons is nothing.”

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