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Judah: A Perplexing Character?
Video 10 of 22
So looking back to what we talked about with Reuven, remember, this is kind of the piece that we were talking about Reuven the seer, Shimon the hearer, Reuven sees the pain of his brother. Reuven is very heroic in the degree of empathy that he feels for Yosef, and his attempts to save him. He tries to save Yosef and go all the way and return him to his father, to right what he sees as a terrible wrong, here he goes all the way.
On the other hand, he doesn't actually persuade his brothers nor does he even try to. What he does in fact is he does an end-run around them. Remember what he says to the brothers is; Yad al tishlachu bo - let's not send our hand against him, let's leave him in the pit. What he attempts to argue to the brothers, let's leave him in the pit to die, so he's not really changing anything, it doesn't make a difference whether you kill him outright and put his bones in the pit or whether you just leave him in the pit to die. From that perspective he's telling the brothers basically the same thing, what difference does it make which way you kill him? The reason why he's doing it is to do an end-run around the brothers so that at night he can come back - as the text says; Lema'an hatzil oto miyadam lehashivo el aviv - to bring him back to his father, unbeknownst to the brothers. So he makes no attempt to actually confront the brothers and persuade them to change their minds, but what he's going to do is he is going to try to act unilaterally without them and try to circumvent them.
So if you contrast that to Yehuda, Yehuda does save Yosef from death but he doesn't go quite as far as Reuven. His argument is not that we should save him and this is wrong and this is abhorrent and that we can't really do this, and that we have to return him to father. He doesn't go as far as saying we should return him to father, instead he says, let's sell him as a slave instead. So he doesn't go as far as Reuven. On the other hand, he actually does persuade the brothers, he actually confronts them and persuades them to follow him.
So what we might do is look at the orange over here as a measure of sort of leadership capacity or ability to act as a leader. Yehuda is acting as a leader much more than Reuven - at least in Neustadt's version of this. He's actually confronting the brothers and persuading them effectively. The brothers, if anything, say you should have gone further. What were you doing just saving Yosef from death, you should have gone further and had us return him to father. Reuven on the other hand, who actually has that ambition, wants to save Yosef and return him to father, is the one who doesn't feel that he has the leadership ability to be able to do it, and in fact, doesn't act as a leader in that kind of way. So even though in the brothers' eyes, at least, now that they see themselves as wrong for having sold Yosef, might see Reuven - if they would only understand where Reuven is coming from - as having the sort of the morally superior position. Reuven wanted to save Yosef and return him to his father, but unfortunately, Reuven wasn't able to make that actually happen, wasn't able to persuade the brothers. Does an end-run around them and the end-run doesn't succeed because it's foiled by Yehuda's plan and ultimately the Yishmaelim get in the way and selling him before Reuven is able to actually make his plan happen.
Yehuda's plan in not quite - and this is the brothers' argument; the brothers' argument is it was morally flawed. You knew this was wrong, the brothers are arguing, you should have told us to return him to father. But for all the moral flaws of Yehuda he is acting as a leader, he is an effective leader. What he does argue he's able to argue and he's able to win, he's able to persuade the brothers to follow him.
So in effect then the brothers' critique of Yehuda is not a critique of Yehuda's leadership capacity. They're not saying you aren't an effective leader, you don't have leadership qualities. He does. The critique is the direction in which he takes those qualities. You didn't go far enough in the brothers' view. You see it actually if you look at the text very carefully. You see sort of a kind of cutting corners that Yehuda is doing, which, in Rashi's eyes, the brothers later are sort of holding him culpable for, saying, you should have gone further. In other words, in the brothers' view the brothers feel that Yehuda understood that it was wrong, but didn't go far enough in stopping them.
Let's look at Yehuda's language again; Vayomer Yehuda el echov mah betza ki naharog et achinu vechisinu et damo - as we read these verses, I want you to take a look for a word that appears over and over again. What's the word that appears over and over again? Yehuda says to his brothers, what profit do we get out of killing our brother and covering his blood? Let's sell him to the Yishmaelim, let our hand not be upon him, because after all, he is our brother. And, his brothers listen to him. Do you hear the word? It happens four times. What's the word? The word is brother. Here's the first one; Vayomer Yehuda el echov - Yehuda says to his brothers. What gain do we have out of killing our brother - there's the second one - and covering up his blood? Let's sell him to the Yishmaelim, let our hand not be upon him because after all he is our brother. And the brothers listen to him.
Now notice also that the word brother doesn't mean the same thing each time. The two outer brothers, this one - one and four - over here, if you view this as a sandwich, this is the bread and this is the meat. Two and three are the meat and one and four is the bread - the outer brothers. The outer brothers, who are these people? Who is Yehuda talking to when he talks to his brothers? Who are the ones listening to him when his brothers listen? How is that different from the middle ones? The middle brothers over here; What gain do we have over killing our brother, because after all he is our brother. So these ones on the outside are referring to Yehuda's partners over here, to the full brothers, the ones who are plotting along with Yehuda as to what to do with Yosef. These brothers over here, is a reference to Yosef himself, the outcast brother, the half-brother. But of course it's the same word, and the argument ostensibly that Yehuda is making is that, well brothers are brothers, they should all be treated the same. He is our brother so how could we do this to him?
On the other hand, is he really taking that argument to the nth degree? I mean if you really accept the premise that Yosef is your brother, and that therefore you ought not kill him; What do we gain out of killing him and covering up his blood, that's the wrong thing to do, because after all; Ki achinu besareinu hu - he is our brother. Well if he is your brother then not only should you not kill him, you shouldn't sell him as a slave either.
This really is the brothers' argument. What were you doing letting us sell him? You knew this was wrong, you understood he was our brother, why didn't you go the whole way? You didn't go the whole way because at some level you were afraid of us, and maybe there is his failure of leadership. A leader cannot be afraid of the ones he led, you were afraid that we wouldn't listen to you, you have the power, we were listening to you, you should have gone all the way. Not only don't you kill him, you don't sell him as a slave either. This is the brothers' critique against Yehuda in Rashi's eyes.
Okay, having seen all this, let's come back to the question we asked before, understanding this Rashi, this Rashi in which Rashi wants to figure out why is this not a digression. Lamah nismecha parsha zu l'kan - why is this Parsha here? Rashi's argument is, is that this whole story of Yehuda and Tamar, the whole thing, not just the first verse, is not a digression. He's explaining that the reason why the whole Parsha is here is for the reasons he's argued here, because Yehuda has been demoted and the brothers have caused him to lose his position of leadership over them. How is that an explanation for why this story which doesn't seem to belong is all here? How is it that Rashi is not explaining one verse, but explaining the whole story?
So again, we're going to come back and look at that.
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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