The Pledge (28)

Greetings. We’re over halfway through the tale and nearing completion of it. To read the story from the beginning, you can click here. And as always, thanks for stopping by my blog. 

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Part IV

 1.

As with Er, Judah and his family are called to Onan’s house. The thought that they were bereft of another son was an incredible one, but true nonetheless. He is first to arrive, first to view his dead son, sprawled out awkwardly on the floor. Already upset, Alit follows, screaming and crying for her son, accusing Judah of bringing ‘that’ witch Tamar into their home. From there, the situation seemed to escalate, with servants, friends and mourners joining them for an early bereavement. And Judah, numb and uncertain of the emotions in him, is reminded then of the vow he made when he promised to marry Alit – he would take care of her and their child.

“This is all your fault,” Alit exclaims, beating her fists on his chest. Even in her submission to him, Alit retained the independence she knew as Shua’s daughter. Usually this was not a problem, but today was not the day for her to show out.

“Lower your voice,” Judah admonishes her, as he takes hold of her wrists. She only pulls away from him in anger.

“I will not lower my voice as long as that witch is in the house,” Alit yells.

With a sigh, Judah responds, “Alit, listen to yourself. You’re being unreasonable.”

“I am not. She couldn’t keep Er home, so she went after Onan and now he is dead too. Are we supposed to give her Shelah to kill as well? No. I will not have her taking my baby from me. He is my gift from the gods, all I have left. I will not allow her to take him too.”

Exhaustion suddenly fills Judah and he yearns for the peace and distance of the fields.

“You know it’s more than tradition…law dictates Tamar go to Shelah. Would you have Er’s  and Onan’s names struck from the record? We have no choice.”

“No!” Alit pulls the grieving boy to her and throws her arms over him. “No!” Alit repeats. “Will you rob me of him too? You weren’t there when he was born, you didn’t care. I raised him, I raised his brothers and my reward is this witch who kills them. What of your promise now, Judah ben Jacob? What of your pledge? They are dead and you don’t care. After everything I did for them, for you. Where is your promise?”

Judah looks down to the boy. His eyes are red with tears and his face beset with worry. He had been close to Er and affected deeply by his death; but to lose a second brother, was beyond devastation and the boy, only thirteen years of age, had not said a word to anyone in the time since he had arrived at the house.

As a father, Judah had failed. Not just because this was his last son, his only heir, but because he was never there – for Er, Onan or Shelah. And now, the law dictated Shelah take Tamar as his wife, just as Er and Onan did.

He turns to Tamar, sitting quietly on the bench. She hadn’t moved in all the time they had been there and if it wasn’t for the batting of her eyelids, he would have thought her catatonic.

She’s changed, he considers. She was young, vibrant, filled with spirit and energy when she came into the household. There was a twinkle in her eye when she looked at Er and spoke of him. Now, it was all gone – her spark, her youth, her spirit – all because of his sons. Still that didn’t change the fact that she was twice a widow in the same family. Maybe she wasn’t a witch, but she was cursed. And if he gave Shelah to her now, the boy would end up dead and then he would be next.

Judah turns back to his wife and son and gently pushes his son away, back to the chair Alit had pulled him out of.

“I will send her back to her father’s house,” Judah whispers. “I will tell Chiyrah that Shelah is too young.”

Alit opens her mouth to object, but Judah cuts her off.

“She will not marry him,” he tells her firmly.

Satisfied, Alit says no more.

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