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Echoes of the Future
Video 6 of 17
It's kind of slippery here how Judah is talking. Notice that there's one, two, three, four references to brothers over here. Two of the times, the two outer times over here and over here, by brothers he is referring to the brothers on his side, actually other children of Leah presumably, full brothers. The middle brothers over here - which we'll denote just by checkmarks - he's talking about Joseph. He seems to be trying to say that we're all the same, we're one happy family, Judah said to his brothers, what profit do we get out of killing our brother? Let's just sell him, he is after all our brother. Of course that's kind of a specious argument because if he really is your brother Joseph, then what are doing not just killing him but selling him? You shouldn't be selling him either. So it's kind of duplicitous. On the one hand he's saying well he is really our brother, on the other hand, are all the brothers really equal? It's like that George Orwell line, everyone is equal but some are more equal than others.
But his partners over here, the ones that he's talking about are of course his brothers, and here you get this kind of echo here years later when Jacob speaks to these brothers that Judah was trying to convince, Shimon and Leivi. Shimon and Leivi you brothers. That kind of echo. Now if it was just that, maybe just a coincidence, but listen to what he continues saying about that. Klei chamas mecheiroseihem - weapons of violence is your trade. But that word Mecheiroseihem, a very unusual word over here, what does it remind you of? Well if you can speak Hebrew that is really perilously close to the Hebrew word for the sale of Joseph, which is going to be Mechirah.
Now if you would actually conjugate that to mean your sale, over here; these weapons of violence are your trade - so if you conjugate it to mean weapons of violence - almost like a double entendre - are your sale. As if he's impugning Shimon and Leivi, or attributing the sale of Joseph to them, it's your sale. So you would continue and you would write Mechiroseihem - your sale. Again perilously close to Mecheiroseihem. Seems to be almost an intentional playoff of that, almost as if you're attributing - Jacob is attributing the sale, it's their sale. Which sale? The sale of Joseph. So let's just color code that over here and go on.
Besodom al tavoi nafshi bikhalam al techad kevoidi - let my soul not take counsel with them, I don't want to be associated with that evil. Ki b'apam hargu ish - because in anger they killed a person; U'birtzonam ikru shor - and in their wantonness, through their will, they uprooted oxen. Now what is this referring to? The simple meaning is probably the referring to the killing out of the city of Shechem, which is something which we're not going to get into here, but was carried out by Shimon and Leivi. But yet there's another possibility also. There was the attempted killing - not the actual killing, but the attempted killing of Joseph. Are we referring king of obliquely to that as well?
Rashi, grandfather of medieval commentators, seems to think that's so. The word Shor - oxen, which could refer to just the animals that were killed in Shechem could also be a veiled reference to Joseph. If you look later on in this chapter at Joseph's blessing, this very word Shor - Shin, Vav, Reish, is actually a word that is used as a euphemism for Joseph himself in that blessing. Is it over here then a euphemism for Joseph as well? That you wantonly, willfully, tried to uproot Joseph?
Arur apam ki az - going onto verse 7; cursed be their anger for it is brazen. V'evratam ki kashata - same idea. Achalkem b'yaakov, v'aphitzem b'yisrael - I will split them up. So this is the language that we get for Shimon and Leivi.
Now I want to focus later on in this phrase, I want you to keep this in the back of your mind, this phrase; Ki b'apam hargu ish u'birtzonam ikru shor - in anger they killed a man, in willfulness they uprooted an ox. Again, I want you to keep those words in mind because you're going to hear echoes of it, I believe, in Psalm 30 as well, the psalm we've been looking at.
Anyway, let's continue on to verse 8 over here as we go on. I want you to remember these words as well. Yehuda, atah yoducha achecha - Jacob says to Judah, Judah your brothers will praise you. The word Yoducha over here means praise, your brothers will praise you. This is going to be the signal trait of Judah, and it actually comes from his name. The word Yehuda is a name, when Leah named it, she said; Hapa'am odeh et Hashem - now I will be able to praise god. Here indeed at the very end of his life, here is Yaakov, here is Jacob saying, your brothers will praise you. Yadecha b'oref oyvecha.
See it's very interesting, fascinating kind of wordplay. See this word Yehuda is getting boiled down. Yud, Heih, Vav, Daled, Heih is getting boiled down. The loss of the Heih to Yud, Vav, Daled, Vav. Now we're taking out the Vavs and now down to Yud and Daled and Chaf. We're just sort of boiling down Yehuda to its essence. Over here the word is going to mean no longer praise, but hand. Yehuda, your brothers will praise you, your hand; B'oref oyvecha - will be at the nape of the neck of your enemies. In other words, the imagery is that you can imagine someone about to - with a karate chop of their hand against the neck, the back of the neck - about to break the neck of their enemies. Poised, about to break the neck.
Yishtachavu lecha benei avicha - your brothers will bow to you. Gur aryeh Yehuda - a lion cub is Judah. Miteref beni alitah. Now this is interesting language over here. Again if you could imagine a lion cub, this imagery of lion cub is very interesting, it relates both to the words immediately before it and to the words immediately after it. Let me explain what I mean over here. When we said your brothers will praise you, why? Presumably because you could defend them against external enemies, because; Yadecha b'oref oyvecha - because your hand will be against the nape of your enemies' neck. If you think about this, Yehuda over here is being crowned king, later on in the blessing, I didn't reproduce it over here but down below, verse number 10, Judah is actually going to be given kingship by his father - Lo yosur shevet m'Yehuda - the scepter will not leave Judah. Later on that actually come to pass. Children from Judah, from the tribe of Judah, become king over all of Israel.
If you think about what a king - what an executive, president, anybody who leads a country, their number one objective is going to be defense of the nation. In fact, the reason why the brothers, the subjects of Judah; Yishtachavu lecha benei avicha - those who bow before your father, because they bow before him, because you are king. The reason why they're going to bow before you is because you can defend them, because; Yadecha b'oref oyvecha - because your hand will be at the nape of your enemies' necks. Because you will show no mercy to your enemies and you will destroy them and thereby assure the tranquility of your people, of your nation.
Who are you? Gur aryeh Yehuda - a lion cub is Judah. Well a lion of course is the king of the jungle and it's no coincidence that the lion is going to be the symbol of Judah as king. You are the one who - the animal who is the most fearsome, beast of prey, is the lion. This is the next words over here. Again; Gur aryeh Yehuda - referring to the words before and the words right after; Miteref beni alitah - from torn up prey; Beni alitah - my son you went up. Of course what animal is going to tear up prey? Of course it's the lion.
But something else is going on with this language of torn up prey. It reminds us a little bit, doesn't it, of the story of Joseph. How? Think about that and let's come back and talk about it.
1. What Does the Book of Psalms Have to Do With the Joseph Story?
2. A Curious Dedication
3. Profit Motive
4. Blood Money
5. Did Jacob Know?
6. A Father's Ambivalent Blessing
7. The Ruthlessness of War
8. The Lion and the Cub
10. To Redeem an Ancestor's Pledge
11. The Lion and the Lamb
12. Moving Up
13. Memories of Father
14. First Cries
15. Where Would I Be Without You
16. What Could Kill Me--But Then What?
17. A Palpable Presence
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