We read in Parashat Vayeishev of the scheme devised by Tamar, Yehuda’s widowed daughter-in-law, to lure Yehuda to an intimate relationship after he refused to allow his younger son to marry her as required by the custom of levirate marriage which was, apparently, practiced at that time. Hearing that Yehuda was traveling from home, Tamar dressed as a prostitute and sat at a place which the Torah calls “petach einayim” (38:14). When Yehuda passed by, he saw her and solicited her services, which resulted in her conceiving twins.
Rashi explains the term “petach einayim” – which literally means “the opening of eyes” – as a reference to an intersection. It seems that an intersection is called “petach einayim” because it requires one to pay close, careful attention to ensure he follows the right direction. When traveling a long road without intersections, one can, in a sense, keep his eyes “closed,” traveling forward without looking at or thinking about his route. Upon reaching an intersection, however, one needs to “open his eyes,” to look and think carefully about where he wishes to go. Therefore, an intersection is called “petach einayim.”
Tamar’s objective was to attract Yehuda’s attention and interest, and so she positioned herself at a “petach einayim,” a place where people travel with their eyes open. When people travel with “open eyes,” looking around and exploring in order to properly choose their direction, they are likely to take note of the many different distractions and lures that present themselves along the way. Tamar capitalized on Yehuda’s “open eyes” at the intersection to catch his attention and lure him to intimacy.
We need to lead our lives, on the one hand, with a clear path and direction, journeying determinedly and with our minds focused toward the goals which we want to achieve. This determination and focus help us avoid the distractions that abound so we stick to our chosen path without being thrown off course. But on the other hand, we must keep our eyes open to new opportunities, for new ways to grow, to improve, and to reach higher. If we insist on always staying on the same precise route, we limit ourselves. The challenge, then, is to keep our eyes open for new opportunities without falling prey to the distractions and lures all around us; to adhere to the course of life that we are to follow while constantly seeking new ways to make the journey more productive and more fulfilling, ensuring to avoid the diversions that threaten to draw us off the correct path.