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Judah: A Perplexing Character?
Video 18 of 22
Let's go to the next child who is lost. Who else is lost in the story? Well on chain reaction there's another child lost, and that is Shimon. We talked about this before. Remember when Yosef imprisons Shimon when he sees them, and we talked about why Shimon was imprisoned, why did Yosef imprison Shimon and not the oldest child Reuven? When we looked at the text we saw because when Yosef chooses to imprison Shimon it's right after he hears Reuven say to the brothers in Hebrew - which he understands - I told you; Al techetu bayeled - not to do this sin against the child. So Yosef realizes that Reuven isn't responsible and the next oldest child who is responsible is Shimon. But not only does he realize that, but again as we saw in the text, the brothers are saying to themselves; Asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho behitchaneno eleinu v'loh shamanu - we saw his pain but we didn't listen to him. We talked about not listening and seemingly the seer, Reuven, the one who is named for seeing, saw the pain of his brother, but Shimon, the one who is named for hearing, didn't respond. Why is Shimon lost? Shimon is lost because of a failure to help older brother Yosef out of trouble. So Yosef takes Shimon prisoner.
Finally, the last child that Yaakov stands to lose but doesn't lose, almost loses, is Benjamin. Now if you think about the loss of Benjamin, the possible loss of Benjamin, the language in the text is; Pen yikra'enu ason - I don't want to send him - Yaakov says about Benjamin to his other brothers. I don't want to send him down to Egypt, even though the masked man in Egypt is asking for him, because I worry that he will be lost like the other brothers. What if something will happen to him like happened to Shimon, like happened to Yosef? I've already lost two, I can't lose Benjamin as well.
Now if you think about all of this, all of this resonates in the story of Yehuda and Tamar. How many children does Yehuda lose? Three. In exactly the same circumstances. Think about the oldest child, the Bechor, in Yehuda's case it's Er, how come Er is lost? Well; Vayehi Er bechor Yehuda rah b'einei Hashem - he does Ra'ah, just like Yosef; Dibartam ra'ah el avihem. And, as we talked about before, just like Yosef was quasi dead and there's perpetual mourning, so too, Er, the Awake One, quasi-dead, perpetual mourning, Tamar never gets over the loss of Er, she's always wearing these clothes of mourning. Now, just as Yaakov lost Shimon, the second child, in a chain reaction over the loss of Yosef, over a failure to show loyalty to an older brother, how come Onan is lost? Onan is lost for exactly the same reason. Lost because of failure to help older brother in trouble. G-d didn't like what Onan did, Onan did not take care of Er, would not have a child to perpetuate the name of Er, so he gets lost too.
Finally, there's this third child, which doesn't get lost, but might get lost and the father is worried that he's going to get lost like the others. Even in Hebrew, just like the language over here was; Pen yikra'enu ason, listen how similar this is; Yehuda; Pen yamut gam hu k'echov. I don't want to allow - he says to himself - Shelah to be taken by Tamar lest he die like his other brothers, like Onan and like Er. Father worries he will be lost like the other.
So look at what happens, I mean, it's exquisite. Let me get rid of some of this ink so you could just see it. It's literally - it's like the same thing. Everything that's happening in this story is happening in this story. Yaakov loses two children, fears he's going to lose his last to this masked man. Yehuda loses all these children, fears he's going to lose this last to this masked woman. If we just build this out, and look at the whole story, we can actually put the whole story together and what's really happening, fascinatingly, is that Yehuda is finding himself in exactly the same position that he put his father in, in the previous story.
Let's look at it. What did Yehuda really do in the sale of Yosef? Here's what he did. So there's a whole chain reaction. Yehuda deceived his father, in doing so he was disguising what really happened to Yosef, and in doing so he used a goat, slaughtered a goat, put the blood on a coat, stripped his brother of a coat. In doing so, caused his father unremitting anguish over a son who is only quasi dead. Remember, unwittingly they make it worse for Yaakov, because Yosef isn't really dead, Yaakov can never get over the loss.
After this, in chain reaction, Yaakov suffers the loss of a second son Shimon, why? Perhaps over a failure to show loyalty to the first son who was lost. Then Yaakov seeks to safeguard his only remaining son, which in this case is Binyamin, from who? A disguised person who is really the person he's looking for all along, which is Yosef. He doesn't realize that the masked man in Egypt is really a good guy, is really Yosef. So he's somehow shooting himself in the foot, safeguarding his only remaining son. Of course, little does he realize that by keeping Binyamin from going to this masked man who happens to be Yosef in Egypt, he's actually extinguishing the only hope that he has of redeeming his actual lost son.
So the position which Yehuda put himself, his father in, is this terrible position where he loses all of these children and the father is too pained and it's too difficult for him to be able to let go of his last son, in which case he would get everyone back. Because if you think about it, if he would just allow Binyamin to go he would get everyone back. Because when Yosef really finally meets up with Binyamin he reveals himself and Yosef comes back and Shimon gets back.
Well this entire same thing is happening in the next story. Let's just color code it and you'll see. Let's look at the story of Chapter 38. In the story of 38 Tamar deceives her father-in-law - if Yehuda deceives his father in this story, this time Yehuda is the victim of what he did to his own father, he becomes the victim of a deception at the hand of not a child, but a child-in-law. Yehuda deceives his father disguising what really happened to Yosef, this time she disguises her identity. In this story Yehuda used a goat, in this story she asks for a goat but there's no goat, Yehuda doesn't have one, it's dead, that's why he doesn't have one, it got killed in the last story. Remember how Yosef got stripped of a coat here, this time Yehuda gets stripped of a coat. Remember how he caused his father unremitting anguish over a son who is only quasi dead? Now he suffers a loss of a child who is quasi dead, who can come back if only the right elements come into place, if only Yibum takes place he can come back, Er is Awake - the night of the living dead. Remember how he caused Yaakov to suffer the loss of a second son Shimon, over a failure to show loyalty for a son who was lost? He now loses a child, Onan, over a failure to show loyalty to Er. Same thing. I mean, he's been put in exactly the same situation by G-d, and it's almost like G-d is saying to Yehuda, this is what you do to his father, what happens if you get put in the same situation? Will you be able to crawl out of the situation you put your father in?
It continues. Not only does Yehuda lose two children, he's about to lose a third child Shelah, he doesn't want to let Shelah go. Same language; Pen yikra'enu ason - lest something to happen to him, just like; Pen yamus gam hu k'echov - just like; Pen yikra'enu ason. So he's safeguarding his only remaining son Sheilah just like Yaakov did, and in doing so he's shooting himself in the foot, he's trying to shield him from - in this case from a disguised Tamar who is really the person he's looking for all along, just like Yaakov was trying to shield Benjamin from a disguised Yosef who was really the person he was looking for all along. Of course, little does Yehuda realize that in doing so, in shielding Shelah from Tamar he's actually doing a disservice to himself, he's shooting himself in the foot, he's extinguishing his only hope of redeeming Er. Because if Shelah goes to Tamar he gets everyone back, he gets Onan back, he gets Er back, through the Yibum that would take place through Shelah.
So what happens is, is that Yaakov is in exactly, in exquisitely, the same position. In losing two children and losing a third to the masked man, if only he would realize who the masked person really is.
We asked before, what was everyone thinking? What was G-d thinking? Well, perhaps we get the answer in Chapter 38. G-d was saying, you did this to your father? What if you're put in the same position that you put your father? Can you get yourself out of that position? The rest of the story of Yehuda and Tamar is the story of how Yehuda gets himself out of that position. The answer is, yes, he can get himself out. And how he gets out has dramatic ramifications for the rest of the story of Yosef. Let's take a look at that in the next video.
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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