It Doesn’t End Here : Sugar-coating Tanakh

Image via Unsplash
Image via Unsplash

It’s Purim-time. Perhaps the most perfect time to pose a question to ourselves.

Do we sugar-coat the depth and complicated nature of Tanakh?

Do we oversimplify the complex lives and stories of our greats, our heroes and matriarchs/patriarchs?

In the spirit of Purim-let’s start with the Purim story.

The end of Megillat Esther (for us) is the salvation of the Jewish people from the evil degree to bring our destruction.

That may be where we end the Megillah, but it was nowhere near over for our Hadassa.

Her day-to-day life remained the same. She stayed in the kingdom of Achashverosh.

What do we know about her life after the decree was annulled? We know that she had a son.

The rest of her story remains unclear. That leaves us to assume.

Imagine the pain as she still wasn’t able to go back to Mordechai or live with her community again. She lived in the fear of a King who she was forced to call her husband.

Exploring Megillat Rut, we have a different idea.

Rut leaves her land with Naomi after the death of her husband and father-in-law.

She obviously must have left some family members behind as well.

She devoted her life to Naomi and her happiness.

When she went to Boaz, it was at the request of Naomi and she didn’t question it.

She was selfless in that she was looking out for her mother in law who without a doubt shared in Rut’s same difficult past.

Going to Boaz, going to the field-it must have been frightening and difficult for Rut.

But, nonetheless the megillah ends with Rut’s marriage to Boaz and the birth of a son that she selflessly gives to Naomi to raise.

I, personally, think that this parallels quite well with the selflessness of our matriarch Rachel and her allowing Leah to become the Kallah despite the pain she knew that she would feel watching her sister marry her Chatan.

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Did Rut feel that same pain as she passed her child on to her mother-in-law?

Yet did she experience the joy of knowing how much she touched her life?

We can’t be sure, but it’s something to think about.

I think that a central message in Megillat Rut is selflessness and kindness.

If we really take to heart her story and imagine ourselves in such a position-we could almost call such a hopeful example of Geirus-a painful experience in many ways.

If we move into the story of the Akedah, we have the same challenges come up.

We say it every day, and in some ways perhaps have become desensitized to, the Akedah and how powerful of a story that it is.

Avraham is on the mountain about to give up the beloved son that he and Sarah had desperately waited for.

Such a level of grief he must have felt is indescribable.

Prior to this, he lived anything but an easy life.

He left his family, the religion that he knew and obscurely pursued the one G-d, Hashem, that he so confidently had faith in.

As far as he knew, his wife would never be able to have children and then finally once they had a child-he was asked to give it up to the same G-d who had taken him on this long, winding journey.

Even though we know how the story ends, we have to remember that at the time, Avraham didn’t have a clue that he wouldn’t end up taking the life of his son!

When we continually put ourselves in the positions of the patriarchs, matriarchs-our gedolim-it gives us a picture of how incredibly human they truly were.

We are told that Sarah passed away during this time.

Imagine the pain that Sarah had felt knowing that she was going to lose her son-one that she thought she would never get to have!

(We could also parallel this to Rachel and her wish for death rather than being childless.)

Let’s fathom for a moment how challenging Avraham’s life was post Akedah.

We see the end of the Akedah as a sigh of relief-but that was only a moment for Avraham. He had an entire life ahead of him.

What is the point of all of this?

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To see the rawness and real depth in each human-each gadol in the Tanakh and throughout our history.

It is a history full of mistakes, pain, joy, hope and uncertainty.

When we can connect to the real people who exist in our Tanakh, we can learn from the Torah as a blueprint for our lives.

We can identify with their hopes, their trials and tribulations.

At times, we sugar coat the stories of our great heroines throughout the Tanakh.

But it’s important to remember-it doesn’t end with the megillah.

Esther’s story doesn’t end with Yisrael’s safety from the decree, Avraham and Yitzchak’s stories don’t end with the Akedah.

Our Tanakh is full of real, human people and as we recognize that their moments of heroism are beautiful, but not the full story-we can begin to really grasp what a gift it is that HaShem gave us at Matan Torah.

About the Author
Yiskah attended seminary in New York & Israel before moving back to the states. She currently teaches in early childhood education and is working toward a degree in Psychology and a certificate in Holocaust Education. She is a contributor to "Every Name Counts", "The World Memory Project" and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's project "History Unfolded" and has written articles for Refuat Hanefesh as well as others on the topics of mental health, Jewish identity and conversion/geirus.
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