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Judah: A Perplexing Character?
Video 6 of 22
Okay so you've shown why we need this verse. This verse tells me something about the consequences of the sale of Yosef which was what happened in Chapter 37, so now I understand why I need Chapter 38, verse 1. But that's all I understand. Why do I need verse 2, verse 3, verse 4? The story of Yehuda and Tamar should have been exactly one verse long and then we should have gone back to our regularly scheduled programming, back to the story of Yosef going down to Egypt. Why do I have to hear the whole long story of Yehuda having three [brothers/sons 1:28], one of them died and then Tamar tried to marry this one and it didn't work out, tried to marry that one and this whole long, colorful story involving seduction and collateral as we'll see, and a woman almost getting killed and a whole long thing? The rest of it just seems like a diversion. What, because it was an interesting story, so we figured once we start talking about it, we throw in the rest of it? Why is the rest of it here?
So Rashi frustratingly asks the question, why is this story here, and then you expect you're going to get an answer, but it doesn't seem like you get an answer. Rashi seems to only answer why one verse is here at best - maybe even one word, over here, this word Vayeired. What is Rashi doing? Doesn't he see that he didn't answer his own question? This is what should bother you I think when you read this Rashi.
The theory that I want to suggest to you is that sometimes there's more than meets the eye to Rashi, especially when Rashi is quoting a Medrash. In fact this is a Medrash over here that Rashi quotes to answer his question. The way the Medrash works is kind of like the iceberg theory of things, you only see the tip - at least that's what visible to the naked eye. But if you explore a little bit you find there's a whole world beneath the surface. I think that's the case here too. I think if you look just beneath the surface you'll (a) find mountains of evidence for what it is that Rashi is saying, and (b) you'll see that Rashi is not just explaining why one verse is here, he's actually explaining why the entire story is here.
But in order to do this, we have to take a careful look at Rashi and the assumptions that he seems to be making, and see what is his evidence for these assumptions? They are not assumptions, they are not axioms that come out of nowhere, they are actually grounded in a careful look at the text, Rashi doesn't give you all the evidence you have to figure it out yourself. But let's take a look at what the assumptions are that Rashi is making and let's try and uncover the evidence for those assumptions. We'll begin to fill in some of the missing pieces over here.
Here are some of the assertions that Rashi makes. Here's the Rashi that we're looking at, we're looking at Chapter 38, verse 1, the Rashi over there. By the way, almost everything we're going to be doing in the Yehuda and Tamar story is really just figuring out what Rashi means over here. It's just taking apart the layers of meaning which seem to be packed in, almost obliquely, into this one Rashi. So here are Rashi's assertions. (A) When Yehuda went down from amongst his brothers he went down politically not just physically. That's one thing that Rashi is going to argue, what's the evidence for that? (2) When Yehuda was politically demoted that was a direct result of the brothers' perception of Yehuda's role in the sale of Yosef, they were dissatisfied with how they thought Yehuda led them. What is the evidence for that?
Assertion number 3 that Rashi makes, the brothers regretted their decision to sell Yosef once they saw their father's grief over the loss of his son. Now remember that's an assumption that Rashi is making, that the brothers actually regretted the sale of Yosef; Keshera'u betzarat avihem - when they saw how upset their father was. What's the evidence that Rashi has for that? Because it's not explicit in the text. Indeed if you look at the text it's actually only much later - four, five chapters later, Chapter 42 over here in this verse which we looked at before - that you actually see evidence that the brothers regretted the sale of Yosef. If in other words, if I asked you what is the first time you have evidence in the text for the idea that the brothers regretted having sold Yosef? It would have been here when they say amongst themselves when Yosef is overhearing them, they don't know it's Yosef; Yosef is this masked man, this official in charge of grain in Egypt. They're saying to themselves, gee, all these misfortunes are befalling us because; Asheimim anachnu - we are guilty; Al achinu asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho behitchaneno eleinu v'loh shamanu - because we saw his pain and we didn't listen to him. We talked about this verse before. But this seems to be the first time, the very first time, that the brothers seem to regret, or have a sense that they might have done something wrong. At least we don't have any evidence that they felt this before that.
But Rashi is now making a very bold argument, he's saying, no, no, no, immediately after the sale, right over here when Yaakov mourns, when they heard these words that Yaakov was inconsolable; Vayema'ein lehitnachem - that he would not be comforted, that's when they regretted the sale of Yosef. So where do we see that? It's not explicit in the text, how does Rashi know that?
Finally, number 4, Rashi's assertion is that the brothers would have listened to Yehuda - or at least that's their own perception of things - that they thought that they would have listened to Yehuda had he told them to return Yosef to his father. That's actually, according to Rashi, the nature of the flaw in Yehuda's leadership that the brothers identify. Atah amarta lemochro - they said, you told us to sell him, we were listening to you. Ilu amarta lehashivo hayinu shomim lecha - if you would have told us to return him to Dad, we would have listened to you. Now that's an assumption Rashi is making too. How does Rashi know that? Or, how does Rashi know that they were even thinking that? And if they were thinking that, is what they're thinking true? Are they delusional? Are they just blaming everything on Yehuda and sort of lying to themselves because they wouldn't have listened to him anyway? Or would they have listened to him? Is there any evidence for that, one way or the other?
So these are the assumptions that Rashi is making, what is the evidence, if any, in the text that supports these assumptions? Take a look at the text, go back to the beginning of 38, the end of 37, wherever you want to look in the Yosef story, do you think there's evidence that supports these assertions? Let's come back in the next video and let's compare notes.
1. Introduction to Yehudah and Tamar
2. Kinds of Questions
3. A Question of Placement
4. A Tale of Two Digressions
5. Does Rashi Answer The Question?
6. Are We Explaining One Sentence or a Whole Story?
7. A Triangle of Descent
8. The Unexpected Element
9. Perpetual Mourning
10. Failure to Persuade
11. Patchwork Quilt
13. Lest it Come to Scandal
14. Recognize, Please..
15. Tales of Goats and Coats
16. Keepsake or Evidence?
18. How Many--and Why?
19. What's At Stake?
20. Yehudah's Name
22. Superfluous Details
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