The Sacrifice of Tamar by Naomi Ragen
I should probably digest this book more before writing this blog entry… there is so much to it. The basic story is about Tamar, the good, obedient daughter of an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish family who after marrying a righteous, law-abiding Hassid, is raped by a black man. She is so terrified to tell anyone for fear that she might be cut off or humiliated in some way, that she proceeds as planned to her mikvah, goes home to her husband, and pretends that nothing has happened. Of course, about a month later, she notes that her period is late and she is in a panic. What should she do? What if this is her husband’s baby? What if it isn’t?
In her turmoil, she turns to the 2 women who were always there for her, in a sense. Her friend Hadassah, the rebellious daughter of the highly honored Rebbe, and her friend Jenny, who has chosen her faith along with her value of education and independance. Each gives a voice to the various sides of the religion debate, and each is articulate and smart. Hadassah, taken with the colorful choices in the world that are not allowed by the restrictive lifestyle of the ultra-faithful, seems to drift from one distraction to another without a purpose. On the other hand, Tamar gives voice to the law and closed religious society, which gives structure and purpose, in spite of the choking need to hide anything that isn’t perfect, anything that will ruin a reputation and standing in the community. Somewhere in between is the voice of Jenny, the voice that questions and seeks knowledge and individuality, but also loves the good teachings of the Torah, the ethics and the humanity that can be found there.
There is a lot of discussion of who is really faithful and good and who just gives the appearance of what is good. Will Josh, Tamar’s husband come through and do what is good or will he obey the law, as Tamar sees it? Will Tamar herself ever stop being hypocritical and stop hiding herself and her truth so that she can finally be happy and not criticize everyone else?
Again, Naomi Ragen has written another book that exposes the paradoxes of the religious Jewish community, where there is true beauty and there is also true ugliness. A lot to think about!