Kenneth Cohen

Despair to Salvation

The story of Yehuda and Tamar has an aspect to it, that could be connected to Chanukah.

Tamar was the daughter of Shem the son of Noach. She was considered like the daughter of a Kohein. Her father was called a Kohein. She greatly longed to be part of the Messianic line.

She somehow knew that this line would come by way of Yehuda. When she saw that Yehuda’s third son was not going to be given to her, she devised her plan to entice Yehuda himself.

The Baal Haturim noted that her pain was very great. This allowed her to suffer the humiliation of being thought of as a זונה, a harlot. It is no coincidence that when Jeremiah laments the exile, he asks how Jerusalem has become violated like a harlot.

The common thread between Tamar’s humiliation and Jerusalem’s desecration, as well as the spiritual degradation that the Jews experienced under the Syrian-Greeks was the same.

The pain that was felt was temporary. The ultimate result was glory for Israel. This is an important reminder that we must never despair when going through difficulties in our lives. We must believe in the power of prayer. And we must understand that the difficulties are there to shape us into becoming better people.

Whatever happens on a national level, also applies on a personal level. The pain can be transformed into joy, the darkness into light, and humiliation into redemption. This is the lesson learned from Tamar, and it is also the lesson of Chanukah.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at
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