The Torah is filled with stories of people’s lives. Some of these stories are uplifting and inspirational, others are depressing and tragic. Of all the Biblical biographies, that of King David is certainly one of the most riveting. His life is full of adventure, danger and romance. His family life, however, was filled with pain and tragedy, none greater than the tragedy of Amnon and Tamar.

Amnon was David’s eldest son. David was known as a very lenient father, and it could therefore be assumed that Amnon was used to getting his way. As a young man, Amnon became infatuated with his half-sister Tamar (David’s daughter from a different wife). This being young love, Amnon “was so distressed that he fell sick because of his sister Tamar” (II Samuel 13:2).

At the advice of his cousin Yonadav, Amnon feigned illness and begged of his father that Tamar come and nurse him. David, sympathetic to his son, agreed, and instructed Tamar to go to Amnon’s quarters to care for him and prepare food for him. When Tamar finished preparing a meal for him, Amnon ordered his servants to leave, attacked Tamar and raped her. “Then Amnon hated her with exceeding great hatred; for the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her” (13:15).

Tamar, raped and then cast aside, was taken into the household of her brother Absalom. All that is said of David’s reaction is that: “when King David heard of all these things, he was very wroth” (13:21). Torn between two children, he refrained from action. Two years later, however, Absalom avenged his sister by killing Amnon.

It is a very sad story indeed, but the Torah does not shy away from presenting harsh realities…in the hope that people will learn from these stories and be kinder to one another.

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