Jill Hammer


I live in your house
but you don’t know me

all I have to do
is veil myself
in ordinary things

what you need

and that’s all you perceive

you don’t know me for the tree of life
I am

yet when you indulge every pleasure
satisfy every urge
it is me you encounter

I own
the tools of your sovereignty
the staff and seal are mine

I marry first-born and last-born
the living and the dead
I am the widow and the birthgiver

yet you refuse me a place at your table
an entry in your genealogy

You think I am your whore
but I am the mother of your children

you owe me everything you have
and everything you are

redemption, if it ever comes
will come from my body

you would burn me alive
to honor your laws
to live out your fantasies

but I am more righteous than you

look at all you hold in your hand
to whom does it belong


The biblical Tamar marries a son of the patriarch Judah, but that son dies.  In accordance with biblical custom Judah gives her to another of his sons, who dies.  Judah is supposed to give Tamar his third son, but instead he sends her back to her father’s house to live in perpetuity as a widow.  Tamar dresses in a veil, sits on the road pretending to be a harlot or a priestess or both, and Judah solicits her.  Thus, she becomes pregnant.  When he discovers her pregnancy and wants to burn her, she shows him the seal, staff, and cord that he gave her at the time they slept together, as a pledge that he would pay her.  He admits she is in the right and she gives birth to twins, one of whom becomes the ancestor of the Messiah.



Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, is the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion, and the co-founder of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute.  A ritualist, liturgist, poet, dreamworker, and scholar, Rabbi Hammer is the author of a number of books, including The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for all SeasonsSisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical WomenThe Hebrew Priestess: Ancient and New Visions of Jewish Women’s Spiritual Leadership (with Taya Shere), and The Book of Earth and Other Mysteries.  Her forthcoming book is titled Return to the Place: The Magic, Meditation., and Mystery of Sefer Yetzirah. She is the translator of Siddur haKohanot: A Hebrew Priestess Prayerbook, and The Romemu Siddur.  She lives in Manhattan with her wife and daughter.