Sunday, May 19, 2013

Michal & Palti: Sansa & Tyrion

Those of you who read A Song of Ice and Fire, now more popularly known as the books that spawned the 'Game of Thrones' TV show, may have noticed by now that the book is positively biblical, which is probably why those of us who are Tanakh lovers enjoy it so much. In any case, I thought of a connection between Sansa & Tyrion and the Talmudic interpretation of Michal and Palti ben Layish.

(This is spoilery for people who have not read the books, although it will most likely come up in tonight's show).

In A Storm of Swords, Tyrion, a dwarf, is to be wedded to Sansa Stark. After they actually are wedded, the following very poignant speech is given by the dwarf:

"Sansa." The hand was gone. "Open your eyes." 
She had promised to obey; she opened her eyes. He was sitting by her feet, naked. Where his legs joined, his man's staff poked up stiff and hard from a thicket of coarse yellow hair, but it was the only thing about him that was straight. 
"My lady," Tyrion said, "you are lovely, make no mistake, but … I cannot do this. My father be damned. We will wait. The turn of a moon, a year, a season, however long it takes. Until you have come to know me better, and perhaps to trust me a little." His smile might have been meant to be reassuring, but without a nose it only made him look more grotesque and sinister. 
Look at him, Sansa told herself, look at your husband, at all of him, Septa Mordane said all men are beautiful, find his beauty, try. She stared at the stunted legs, the swollen brutish brow, the green eye and the black one, the raw stump of his nose and crooked pink scar, the coarse tangle of black and gold hair that passed for his beard. Even his manhood was ugly, thick and veined, with a bulbous purple head. This is not right, this is not fair, how have I sinned that the gods would do this to me, how? 
"On my honor as a Lannister," the Imp said, "I will not touch you until you want me to."
it took all the courage that was in her to look in those mismatched eyes and say, "And if I never want you to, my lord?" 
His mouth jerked as if she had slapped him. "Never?" 
Her neck was so tight she could scarcely nod. 
"Why," he said, "that is why the gods made whores for imps like me." He closed his short blunt fingers into a fist, and climbed down off the bed.
Even though Tyrion is Sansa's lawful husband, and for the sake of the kingdom and his father Tywin he needs to sleep with Sansa, he prefers to wait for her acquiescence rather than consummating the marriage. And he will wait forever, if need be.

It occurred to me that this scene nicely parallels the Talmudic interpretation of Palti ben Layish's marriage to Michal, daughter of Saul and wife of David. In Sanhedrin 19b, we read:

 כתיב פלטי וכתיב פלטיאל אמר ר' יוחנן פלטי שמו ולמה נקרא שמו פלטיאל שפלטו אל מן העבירה מה עשה נעץ חרב בינו לבינה אמר כל העוסק בדבר זה ידקר בחרב זה והכתיב (שמואל ב ג) וילך אתה אישה שנעשה לה כאישה והכתיב (שמואל ב ג) הלוך ובכה על המצוה דאזיל מיניה עד בחורים שנעשו שניהם כבחורים שלא טעמו טעם ביאה אמר רבי יוחנן תוקפו של יוסף ענוותנותו של בועז תוקפו של בועז ענוותנותו של פלטי בן ליש תוקפו של יוסף ענוותנותו של בועז  
[The second husband of David's undivorced wife] is variously called Palti42  and Paltiel!43  — R. Johanan said: His name was really Palti, but why was he called Paltiel? Because God saved him from transgression.44  What did he do [to be delivered from sin]? He planted a sword between her [Michal] and himself, and said, Whoever [first] attempts this thing,45  shall be pierced with this sword. But is it not stated: And her husband [Palti] went with her?46  — This means that he was to her like a husband.47  But is it not written, He went weeping? — This was for losing the good deed [of self-restraint]. Hence [he followed her] to Bahurim, implying that they both had remained like unmarried youths48  and not tasted the pleasure of marital relations.
R. Johanan said: Joseph's strong [temptation]49  was but a petty trial to Boaz;50  and that of Boaz was small in comparison with that of Palti son of Layish.
In both of these situations, a man who ostensibly wishes to sleep with his beautiful wife refrains from doing so, either because a) it was not her choice to wed him, and he does not wish to force her or b) she is still married to another man. Each man exercises supreme self control, and it's always cool to see a modern example of an ancient event.

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