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A Tale of Two Loves: Amnon and Tamar Vs. David and Yehonasan

Siblings Can Learn to Hate Each Other; Strangers Can Learn to Love Each Other

1 hr 45 min

Class Summary:

This weekly women's class was presented on Tuesday, Parshas Bechukosai, 23 Iyar, 5782, May 24, 2022, at Bais Medrash Ohr Chaim in Monsey, NY.

King David—whose yartzeit is on Shavuos—remains one of the most fascinating, perplexing, and majestic figures in Jewish history. The combination of wisdom, humility, honesty and spirituality coupled with courage, power, passion, and leadership, and all of them with incredible intensity, conferred upon him the status of the ultimate Jewish king, leader, and poet.

Two of the most powerful stories of love in the Tanach are also associated with him and one two of his children. They are summarized succinctly by our sages in the Ethics of the Fathers ch. 5: “What is an example of a love that depended on something? The love Amnon had for Tamar. What is a love that did not depend on anything? The love between David and Jonathan." 

Let us recall these two narratives of love. Let us also understand why the Mishnah needs to find illustrations for two models of love from two ancient stories, when both of these models play themselves out in each of our lives on a constant basis?

At a “farbrengen” in the spring of 1973, Shabbos Parshas Bechokosai 5733, the Lubavitcher Rebbe offered an explanation to the Mishnah. As was his style, he demonstrated how the answer to the above enigma lay in what seems like a discrepancy of a single world. It teaches us a novel idea about how family members need to nurture relationships between themselves and also what type love we are capable of achieving with our spouses and even toward strangers.

The riveting stories of how Amnon violated Tamar and how Jonathan loved David illustrate what we are capable of and what we must be caution of in the volatile and complex world of love.

Please leave your comment below!

  • GS

    Gunter Stefan -9 months ago


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  • Anonymous -2 years ago

    I wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your Tuesday women's class this week. There was a nuance there that I appreciated: In the last many years, when many in my bubble are speaking about unconditional love and parenting, there has been this underlying confusion, shame, anger, resentment, etc. 
    Like: why weren't we raised with unconditional love? They made so many demands of us; they didn't love us conditionally! Why didn't they know this truth of Torah? But we also knew our mothers/fathers would jump in front of a bus for us, so did they or didn't they love us unconditionally? Do I love my kids unconditionally? Do I love my spouse unconditionally? What about expectations? Can we have expectations of our children? Spouse? What the heck does unconditional love even mean!? 
    (The irony is that for me/my family, it wasn't even religious expectations per se. It was also beauty, image, reputation, success, cleanliness...)
    I think for myself;  The guilt of having raised my kids with certain expectations and making them feel like that was connected to my love, whether I ever expressed that or not. I don't think I ever told any child, "if you use your cell phone on shabbos, you're not loved." But I do not doubt that my older generation of kids might think/thought questions that love if they stepped out of line... The guilt in knowing that there was even a time that I felt unloving;  creating scenarios in my head, exactly as you said, "If a kid of mine ever did XYZ, I'd just rather they weren't my child." I get it; I have had these dark thoughts because that is what I interpreted as the unwavering conditions for being part of our world. 
    Intellectually I know that I did the best I could with the tools I had, and I mostly don't live in shame, yet something about the specificity and nuance of your class was very redeeming, emotionally. 
    1) Yes, we were all loved unconditionally (something I had believed my whole life but started to question when the hoopla of unconditional love became a topic), and yes, we love our kids unconditionally--- but for all sorts of cultural/emotions/personal reasons, unconditional love has been distorted and still gets distorted at times. Yet with awareness and classes like this one---it's much less likely to keep happening (Dear God, may I never be thus challenged!)
    2) Yes, we grow to love our spouses, friends, and even parents unconditionally, but that takes YEARS of work. Years and years of them/us filling many many many conditions as a prerequisite to that love (IE so we can feel safe, and you don't ever feel safe without inner work, so unconditional love comes after you love yourself and simultaneously, feel that they meet all of your conditions ). This resonates. 
    Thank you again for your deepfelt and uplifting classes! 

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  • NM

    Nachi Mendelow -2 years ago

    Sonnet 116: Let me not to the marriage of true minds BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments. Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove.
    O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
    It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
    Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
    Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle's compass come;
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me prov'd,
    I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.

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  • K

    Kalman -2 years ago

    Kvod ha-rav, you said that Amnon and Tamar could marry halachically, but the Torah says:

    וְאִ֣ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִקַּ֣ח אֶת־אֲחֹת֡וֹ בַּת־אָבִ֣יו א֣וֹ בַת־אִ֠מּ֠וֹ וְרָאָ֨ה אֶת־עֶרְוָתָ֜הּ וְהִֽיא־תִרְאֶ֤ה אֶת־עֶרְוָתוֹ֙ חֶ֣סֶד ה֔וּא וְנִ֨כְרְת֔וּ לְעֵינֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י עַמָּ֑ם עֶרְוַ֧ת אֲחֹת֛וֹ גִּלָּ֖ה עֲוֺנ֥וֹ יִשָּֽׂא׃

    If a man takes his sister [into his household as a wife], the daughter of either his father or his mother, so that he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace; they shall be excommunicated*excommunicated Lit. “cut off.” in the sight of their kinsfolk. He has uncovered the nakedness of his sister, he shall bear the guilt. (Vayikra 20:17)

    It turns out that this is a prohibition according to the Torah, and they could not marry according to the law of the Torah.

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    • Anonymous -2 years ago

      See Sanhedrin 21a, that she was a convert as a "yefas toar," and the child came before the conversion. As I discussed in the class.

      CF. Tosefos Kiddushin 22a, that Tamar may have been conceived before David came into the picture, so she was not his bilological daughter.

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  • Anonymous -2 years ago

    Your promotion of unconditional love In my Humbled opinion Empowers the resentful kids who are made to feel too comfortable for stepping out. It puts the parents on the offensive. As if parents are demanded to deem unacceptable behavior as acceptable.

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    • DS

      Dena S -2 years ago

      As a parent you don't get to win, you only get to choose how to lose- 

      Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Women’s Pirkei Avos/ Shavuos Class

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • May 24, 2022
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  • 23 Iyyar 5782
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This class is dedicated by Ilana Mantell of Berkeley, California in honor of ahavas Yisroel

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