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Judah: A Perplexing Character?
Video 11 of 22
Actually Chapter 38 has historically been one of the places that the Documentary Hypothesis will point to for its claims. So imagine this guy is telling you, yeah, you know I was reading the Documentary Hypothesis, the story of Judah and Tamar, what is the story with Judah and Tamar doing there? It's just interrupting the whole story of the sale of Yosef, this unconscionable interruption of the story of the sale of Yosef, and it proves, he will argue, that there are multiple authors. You see this is one author over here and this is one author but then evidently there was another competing author and he kind of threw this in, and maybe he was from the tribe of Judah and felt there was too much about Joseph, and wanted some more Judah stuff, and he only threw it in. Then later on some editor came and kind of stitched this altogether and didn't bother really doing that good of a job, and so we've still got this digression in here. This is the Documentary Hypothesis, that this is fundamentally a digression.
Now Rashi is arguing that that's not so, that there's no competing author here. Rashi of course is going with the normative Jewish view, the Bible is the product of one author, G-d gave the Torah at Sinai. Imagine that you propound that back to your fellow Joe on the plane and you tell him Rashi explains what this chapter is doing here. Chapter 38 is here because - and then you start telling him Rashi's theory. Will Joe be impressed? So again, if you just read Rashi superficially, if you're not careful, he doesn't seem to give a really great refutation of why this is a digression. It still seems a digression. As we said before, Rashi seems to only explain the first verse, and as I mentioned to you before, it's my contention that Rashi is explaining more than the first verse.
But let's say you would want to come back to Joe on the plane, let's say you would actually want to sort of argue against the Documentary Hypothesis. You know, there's sort of two ways you could do it. One way to do it, which is kind of has its limited effectiveness, is you could say, well look you have your theory, you think this is a digression and you think it was put in here by some other author, and my theory is that there's a different reason why this is here. Then you can come up and pick one of a dozen reasons of why you think this story is here. Basically you can all agree to disagree. He'll have his theory and you'll have your theory of why this is here, and you'll all kind of go home, and you'll never really know who is right.
But is there a way to actually take the offensive against this theory? In other words, not just to be on the defensive, that yeah, I'll explain to you why this digression is here, but to actually be on the offensive. In other words, what I want to argue to you is that Chapter 38 is actually some of the best evidence we have that the Torah is actually a unified document. That parts of the Torah that seem to be just kind of pasted together with digressions here and digressions there, aren't, and if you look under the surface, it's all unified. It had to have been the product of one author. How would you prove that? What would you have to look for in Chapter 38 in order to make that argument?
So what would you need to see in Chapter 38 to prove that we're not looking at a digression, at something that was plunked in there by another author? So let me answer that, if I can, by way of analogy. Right here you see on your screen a patchwork quilt, actually a handmade patchwork quilt. So imagine that someone came to you and said, this quilt was sewn together by different people, it wasn't one person who decided to sew it together because look, this thing over here has nothing to do - looks so different than this. Somebody who chose polka dots obviously is not interested in stripes, and somebody who chose stripes is not interested in polka dots. Or, there's obviously a blue author here and this is evidence of the blue author, and then there's a pink author and people who don't like pink, they don't like blue, now these polka dots clearly were done by the same person. But - and everything else was done by different people. Let's say someone made that argument, how could you refute it?
You know, one thing you could say, is you could say, well, you know you think it's different authors I think it's the same author, and they just chose to put different things in here. You could make that argument and you too could agree to disagree, and go your ways. But how could you prove that they're wrong? How could you prove that there's actually one maker of this quilt? What would you have to show? You would have to show some sort of seamless stitching, some sort of seamless interweaving.
Let's say you took this and you flipped it upside down, and you were able to look on the underside of the quilt, what if you saw the same distinctive weave for all of the different patchworks? That would show a single author. What if I looked at this piece carefully, this red polka dot piece, and what if, if I began to examine this underneath a microscope, this patch over here? I began to see at a microscopic level the same red polka dots. And what if l looked at this paisley pattern over here and if I look carefully I began to see at a microscopic level, the paisley pattern all over here in the leaves and the leaves over here, and over here it looks so different, but at the microscopic level, I'm seeing these exact same paisley patterns in pink, woven throughout all of this grey and everything. At that point, it becomes pretty hard to resist the idea that this is a single author. That kind of cross weaving of themes doesn't take place - at the surface level it's patchwork, at the deeper level it's all interwoven, it has to be unitary.
What I want to suggest to you is that if we want to settle this question, is Chapter 38 a digression, once and for all, the way to settle it, is to look carefully in Chapter 38 and see if we see that cross weave. If we look at Chapter 37, Chapter 39, 40, 41, and all of that, do we see a certain kind of cross weave? Are there themes, words, ideas, that are distinctive in Chapter 38, that are cross woven with 37, 39, 40, 41, with the Joseph story? If you find these very distinctive words and themes that are underneath the surface echoes of the Joseph story over and over and over again, that's what you show, it's all the work of one master artist. That's the way you flip over the quilt and you see the same distinctive hand stitching on the other side. It's the way you see this polka dot pattern reappearing over and over again in every one of the panels.
We're going to be looking for those telltale cross weaves in Chapter 38. Go back to 38 and start looking for those distinctive hallmarks of hand stitching. Ask yourself, what about 38 reminds me of the Joseph story? I'm reading a story which is so different from the Joseph story, but if I listen very carefully, if I look at the other side of the quilt, I begin to see these themes, these words, these ideas, that eerily remind me over and over and over again, of the Joseph story either before or after Chapter 38. This is the cross stitching that shows a unified Torah. Open up your text, go back to the quilt, as it were, read Chapter 37, read it with 38, read 39, read 40, read it all together, ask yourself, can you find the common themes, ideas and phrases and make it all part of an unmistakable magical whole?
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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