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Judah: A Perplexing Character?
Video 13 of 22
So; Vayishal et Anshei mekoma leimor - and at that point the agent starts asking around and says; Ayei hakedeisha hi ba'einayim - where is the harlot who used to be at the crossroads; Al haderech - on the way? Vayomru loh haytah bazeh kedeisha - and everyone says, we don't know what you're talking about, there was never any harlot here. Vayashav el Yehuda - so the agent goes back to Yehuda and says; Loh metzasiha - I didn't find her. I looked for her; V'gam anshei hamokom omru loh haytah bazeh kedeisha - and I also asked around and everyone said there was no harlot over here. Vayomer Yehuda - and at that point Yehuda says; Tikach lah - well I guess let her just take the things that she took as collateral; Pen niheyeh lavuz - lest it's going to come to scandal if you go, keep on asking about this harlot on my behalf. Hinei sholachti hagedi hazeh - I did in fact send the goat to her; V'atah loh metzata - you didn't find her.
Now the question again here is, is why do we get all this detail? I mean, who really cares that there was this unsuccessful attempt to find the stuff, he sent the stuff, he sent the goat, he didn't send the goat. I mean, why do I care about all this?
Anyway; Vayehi kimshalosh chodoshim - it happened after three months; Vayugad l'Yehuda leimor zantah Tamar kalatecha v'gam hinei horo liznunim vayomer Yehuda hotzi'uha vetisaref - it happened at that time - and this is again, you have to go back to the Ramban here which I talked to you about before, about the nature of Yibum. Remember the idea here is, is that Tamar was waiting and hoping for Yibum, hoping to have a child through a relative of the deceased. Now when the Torah later formalizes the law of Yibum, the woman while she is in a position of waiting for Yibum after her husband has died she doesn't have children she's waiting to marry one of the brothers of the deceased, she's known technically, Halachically, in the Talmud as a Shomeret Yavam - a woman who is awaiting Yibum. A Shomeret Yavam leaves her status of being a Shomeret Yavam through one of two ways; either a Yavam, the brother of the deceased, according to the Torah, would marry her, or the brother of the deceased would perform a procedure known as Chalitza, which would release her from her sort of limbo status.
Now, as I might have mentioned to you before, the way the Torah conceives of Yibum is that when the brother of the deceased actually would marry the widow, assuming that she would, he wouldn't actually be performing a new act of marriage. For example, there doesn't have to be a ring. There's no ring because all he is really doing is stepping into his brother's previously existing marriage. Normally speaking when a man dies it terminates the marriage, except in a condition in which they have no children, in which case the marriage is sort of in limbo and the brother of the deceased can step back into that marriage and sort of re-ignite it. This is a technical, Halachic detail, but it is important for the discussion.
What happens if a woman in that situation sort of disregards this lingering obligation of Yibum, disregards her status of Shomeret Yavam and would go and would marry some other man, not from the family, without benefit of Chalitza which would release her from the status of being a Shomeret Yavam? So according to the Torah this is something which she is not supposed to do, but it's not seen as an act of adultery if she does that. In other words, her residual marriage to her previous husband, the one who died, is not considered to be of sufficient strength that she's considered really married and that if she would marry somebody else that would be an illegitimate marriage and would be considered an adulterous union. Nevertheless it seems that that's the way it works after the Torah was given.
We're talking right now in Genesis before the Torah was given at Sinai, and as the Ramban says, the idea of Yibum was known, but it worked by sort of different rules. One of those different rules seems to have been that a woman in a state of Shomeret Yavam when she hasn't had Yibum actually actualized, so she's in that state of potentiality; she was in this marriage and her husband died and there are no children, she's awaiting Yibum. That if she would be intimate with another man it seems that the custom at the time was that it would be considered an adulterous union.
On that basis Yehuda, who ironically is in the position of judge over here in the local area it seems, he hears that Tamar is pregnant. Now he doesn't know who the father is, he doesn't realize that the father is actually him. So he thinks, okay here's Tamar, this woman who is awaiting Yibum and she didn't marry Shelah - the only other person really available for Yibum - he thinks, and therefore she must have been intimate with some other man, she's pregnant and therefore she deserves to die. Which is his response. Vayugad l'Yehuda leimor - in verse 24; Zantah Tamar kalatecha v'gam hinei horo liznunim - Tamar illegitimately was with some other man and she's pregnant, she's going to have this child out of wedlock, this child - contravening her previous marriage to her husband. Vayomer Yehuda hotzi'uha vetisaref - so Yehuda says okay, so she needs to die. He levies the death sentence against her. Now Tamar is going to die; Hi mutzeit - she's being taken out to be killed.
Now actually if you think about it, Tamar is in a situation where of course she has a secret weapon, she has Yehuda's stuff: his staff, his ring and his cloak. If she wants, one call to the National Enquirer and it's all over, she can just give them that stuff. Interestingly, Tamar does not choose that course of action. Tamar instead does something else. She sends the stuff back to Yehuda. As she's being taken out to be killed; V'hi shalcha el chamiyha leimor - she sends the stuff back to Yehuda saying; L'ish asher eileh lo onochi horo - and she says, the man who owns these things is the father of my child. Vatomer - and she says; Haker nah - do you recognize these things? L'mi hachotemet vehapetilim vehamateh ha'eileh - who is the owner of this staff, this signet ring and this cloak? That's the message she sends when she sends the stuff back to him.
Now it's a very risky kind of thing of course, because she's putting the ball in Yehuda's court, what could Yehuda do if he wanted? If Yehuda wanted to avoid scandal, wanted to avoid responsibility for this, he could just disclaim all responsibility, he could bury the stuff, he could pretend that it wasn't him, it's an embarrassing situation. But that's not the path Yehuda chooses. Yehuda honorably; Vayaker Yehuda - verse 26 over here - Yehuda actually recognizes the things; Vayomer - and he responds; Tzadkah mimeni - she is more righteous than me. Remember this is the man who previously was worried about scandal, didn't want his friend continuing to look for this harlot, but then he actually says, look it was me; Tzadkah mimeni - and in fact she is more righteous than I. Ki al kein loh netatiha l'Shelah beni - actually, I hadn't been giving her to Shelah and the reason why she was intimate with me, she was just trying to perform Yibum. She was doing it this way because she knew that if she approached me straightforward I wouldn't have agreed.
V'loh yasaf od leda'atah - and he wasn't intimate with her again, Tamar is spared; Vayehi b'eit lidetah - and as she had children; V'hinei te'umim bebitnah - it turns out that she had twins. Vayehi belidetah - and then as she is born; Vayiten yad vatikach hameyaledet vatikshor al yado shani - she ties a red string over the hand of Bechor, of the firstborn child, saying; Zeh yatzah rishona - this is the one that came out first. Vayehi kemeishiv yado - but then the child that seemed to be coming out first, put his hand back into the womb; Vehinei yatzah achiv - and the other child came out first. Vatomer mah paratzta alecha paretz - and she said my, how have you burst forth like that? She in fact named him for bursting forth. The word Peretz means bursting forth. Vayikra shemo Peretz - and she called him Peretz and the other child she called Zerach.
By the way, what does this remind you of? Just another hint in the story of the general story, the surrounding stories of Genesis, what does this story of these two children being born in this kind of way remind you of? So we've gone through this story in some detail now, what are the aspects of this story that remind you of the surrounding narrative of Genesis? Is this really a digression? Or, as I want to suggest to you, are there interwoven themes that really, really bind up Chapter 38 with the rest of the surrounding text, the story of Yosef and even the broader surrounding story of Genesis? What do you think? What do you think those themes are? Those words, ideas, phrases, concepts? You can make a list and let's come back and 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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