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Judah: A Perplexing Character?
Video 16 of 22
Is there any idea of mourning that seems to keep on going on and on and on and someone who won't be comforted in the story of Yehuda and Tamar? So the answer is right over here. Remember Tamar, Tamar is mourning Er, Tamar has on these black clothes, these clothes of mourning, these clothes of widowhood. We get this little detail in the story when she goes to change those clothes to dress up as a harlot by the side of the road, she takes off those clothes of mourning. Now when is this? This is years after the loss of Er. Remember, Er dies and she wants to marry Onan, and she does, but nothing comes of that, and then she's promised that well let's wait and see when Shelah grows up, and then Shelah grows up. So like a decade later she finally sees she's not getting Shelah and at that point she goes out to seduce him. So this is like 10 years later and she's still wearing these Bigdei Almenutah, these clothes of mourning, why is she continuing to mourn?
The answer might just be for the exact same reason that Yaakov is continuing to mourn. Yaakov mourns because Yosef is not really dead, there's no closed book, he's only quasi dead. What about Tamar mourning for Er? Same kind of thing, interestingly. Er, is he dead or not? Well Er is very emphatically dead, right? Except sort of not because the whole idea of Yibum is to do what? Is to keep the line of the dead going, to bring back someone who is going to be the legacy of the dead person. The brother of the deceased is going to marry the widow, step into the shoes of the marriage and revive the marriage. It's like Er is coming back.
By the way, remember the name Er. We talked about such a funny name, Awake. What a strange name for a dead guy, right? All he does is die and here he is and named Awake. He's the night of the living dead. This is really what's happening here. But it is the night of the living dead, that's why Tamar can never really get over the loss of Er, why she continues to mourn. Because since Yibum is a possibility and she's not giving up on Yibum, she can never accept comfort for the loss, she's still in her clothes of mourning 10 years later. It's an open book. Just like Yosef is quasi dead, Er is quasi dead. Er could come back, Yosef can come back.
There is of course somebody in Tamar's story who actually does accept comfort for a loss, who is that? The answer, interestingly enough, is Yehuda. The one person who loses someone in the normal way of the world, Yehuda loses his wife and then moves on; Vayinochem Yehuda - Yehuda receives comfort. So Yehuda receives comfort, but Yehuda who had tricked his father about the loss of a child who wasn't really dead, his father can't receive comfort. Tamar who has married Yehuda's son and who is waiting for Yibum and Yehuda puts her off and says, well maybe Shelah, maybe Shelah, she too can't accept comfort.
So another connection between these stories, in addition to all the connections we've seen here, is the idea of perpetual mourning. Perpetual mourning because of quasi death. This is what happens in the story of the sale of Yosef, it's also what happens in the story of Yehuda and Tamar.
Okay, so moving on, we've seen the connections between these stories, what about the connections between these stories, between 38 and 39? Anything remind you of Yosef and the wife of Potiphar? The answer is a lot should remind you of it. Yehuda and Tamar is a seduction story, the wife of Potiphar is a seduction story. They are actually mirror image seduction stories. How are they mirror image? Well, if you think about the role of the man and the role of woman, over here in the story of Yehuda and Tamar, the woman is acting nobly and the man not so high minded. In the story of Joseph and the wife Potiphar it's actually the reverse. The wife of Potiphar is just plain seducing Yosef. Yosef who is resisting seduction because he doesn't want to do this terrible thing and betray his master, he's the one who is acting nobly in this story. So it's kind of a mirror image. But two seductions stories; one the mirror image of the other.
Not just any old seduction story, what else about 38 reminds you of 39? Oh there's a man who loses his coat. This is actually a mistake that should go all the way out here, because this connects us to the story of the sale of Yosef and the story of Yehuda and Tamar and the story of Yosef and the wife of Potiphar. But of course, just like Yehuda loses his coat in this story, just like Yosef loses a coat in this story, Yosef loses his coat again in this story. The wife of Potiphar strips Yosef of his coat. If you think about the role of the coat, it's actually precisely the same in Chapter 39 as it is in Chapter 38. What role does the coat play in 39 that reminds you of the role of the coat in 38?
Well you could think about it this way. What was the coat originally in each story? Originally the coat was given for safekeeping. If you think about the Yehuda and Tamar story when Yehuda gives his coat he gives it as collateral, that is safekeeping, it's collateral. It's not yours, I'm just giving it to Tamar for a while until I get it back. Well that's what the coat is given for originally, that's the original plan, but what happens in the end is that the coat ends up getting used as evidence. Remember, Tamar then sends the coat out to Yehuda and says, do you recognize this coat? This coat shows that you're the one responsible for this, you're the father of the child. So the coat which was given for safekeeping ends up used as evidence in the hands of the woman.
It's exactly the same thing in this story. Yosef - what happens in the story, how does she get the coat? Remember, she grabs a hold of Yosef's coat and then Yosef who doesn't want to be complicit in this act, actually wriggles out of his coat and runs out into the street and leaves. Then she, furious, then goes and screams and says Yosef tried to violate me, and here's the evidence, here's his coat. So the coat which was originally - it wasn't hers to keep but she's just holding onto it, ends up getting used as evidence. Of course it's a mirror image story, because in this story the coat is used to prove something that's actually true, and in this story the coat is used in a corrupt kind of way to prove something that's false, to prove falsely that Yosef violated her.
So interestingly, if we add all this up, we see that 38 is very closely connected to a whole bunch of stories; to 37, to the stories before this - goats and coats number 1 of course, the story of Yaakov and Eisav, and to the story after this, the story of 39. Is there anything about this that connects 38 to stories even after this, the later chapters, Yosef meeting his brothers in Egypt? Let's come back and talk about 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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