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Judah: A Perplexing Character?
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Let me explain to you what I mean by that. You can think about any relationship as a kind of balance. Relationships starts off the relationship is in balance; here's me, there's you, we're-balanced, there's nothing on each side, there's nothing in each one of these cups so they're in balance. How does a relationship though get out of balance? Well a relationship can get out of balance in good ways or in bad ways. A very nice, fine way that a relationship can get out of balance is let's say I move into the neighborhood and you bring me gifts and you come over and you help my kids with homework and get them set up for the first day in school and welcome me to the neighborhood, all of that is absolutely wonderful. Wonderful. And it makes me feel really good and if you do this for me, you're putting something in this part of the balance, it's going to tip the scale downward and it's going to make this part of the scale tip upward, and the relationship is going to get out of balance. At that point I'm going to want to re-balance the scale. How would I re-balance the scale? Well I would reciprocate. I would do that by trying to put something in this part of the scale, I would try to reciprocate to you. That's a very powerful dynamic, I want to pay you back the favor.
This by the way is such a powerful dynamic, it's used all over the place, sometimes people take advantage of us actually with this. If you ever go into a used car dealer - or a new car dealer for that matter - the salesman walks you in and offers you, please take a can of coke from my refrigerator, never take the coke. Because if you take the coke they've just put something in this part of the scale, your part of the scale just went up, what do you want to do? You want to reciprocate. You have no way of reciprocating except if you buy the car. So you're actually going to feel like you want to buy this car, you have a 25 cent can of coke and you're going to spend $25,000 now feeling like you have to buy the car because he did you a favor and you have to find a way to do the favor back. Psychologically that's the dynamic. That's why you do favors for people in your store. So this is a very powerful dynamic here. Relationships can get out of balance in good ways and you want to reciprocate, and of course they can get out of balance in bad ways too.
So let's say that you're mean and nasty and you sneakily steal [unclear 3:10] without looking or something, I mean you could do really nasty things to me. If I find out that you've done nasty things to me, you put something nasty in this part of the scale, so what do I want to do? Well if I want to take revenge of course - revenge is the way you could reciprocate an evil. So that's the desire for revenge. So revenge is sweet. Revenge is sweet because it gets a relationship back into balance. But, what if I'm the kind of person that does not want to take revenge? Or what if it's impossible for me to reciprocate a kindness? What if I'm not in a position to reciprocate a kindness? What then? Am I destined to live with this relationship that's out of balance, I'm stuck? A relationship out of balance is very painful, I want to get balance back into this relationship. Ah, that is where Hoda'ah comes in.
Hoda'ah is the way that you can re-balance a scale in the absence of reciprocation, either positive or negative. Hoda'ah actually is counterintuitive. What I'm about to say does not make any sense but it's actually true. If your scales are in balance and the one who is in the unbalanced part - I'm in the unbalanced part right now - if instead of reciprocating I can actually look you in the eye and I can recognize the imbalance, I can recognize the truth of what is going on and I can say it to you, that can magically bring things back into balance.
Think for a moment by the way about the words we use for these things, about the words we use for the various facets of Hoda'ah - thanks. How do you say thank you in English without saying thank you? We say I appreciate it. What does the word appreciate mean? Appreciate means to recognize the value of something, to understand the value of something. If I say I appreciate what you've done, I am making a recognition. I'm recognizing the truth as I say, yes, this is true, you put something in here, I am recognizing that. And, if you accept that I have recognized that, I say, wow, you've done such an amazing thing for me, I really appreciate what you've done, I understand its value, and you accept this, our relationship is suddenly gets back into balance.
By the way, it's the same thing for the other side of Hoda'ah - it's not just thanks that it works that way, this is how apologies work too, this is how admitting that you're wrong works. What does it mean to apologize, what it means, how you apologize without apologizing? If you recognize what it is that you've done, you recognize the imbalance you've created, I did this terrible thing to you, I'm all broken up about it, I understand the negative value of what I've done to you and I feel terrible about that, and I can say that to you. I can't right the wrong, but if you can accept my recognition of that, then a certain kind of balance can come back into the relationship. This is the magic of Hoda'ah, this is the magic of Yehuda's name.
In the story of Yehuda and Tamar - indeed in the entire story of Yosef - Yehuda is being called upon to actualize his name. When does he do this? The answer is he does it twice. The first time he does it is right here, how does Yehuda get himself out of this mess? G-d puts Yehuda in exactly the same position he put his father in, will Yehuda who has lost two children, is about to lose a third, Shelah, the only way that he can get the two children back is if he fearlessly lets Shelah go to the masked woman, Tamar. The person that he thinks is evil but is not really evil. How does he get the strength to get his children Er and Onan back if he won't give Shelah? He does so by redeeming collateral.
But how does he redeem the collateral? How does he get it back? He gets it back through answering Tamar's fateful question; Haker nah. What does that mean? Recognize please. Will you recognize? It's the core of his name. It's what Yehuda means. Will you do what you're named for? You told your father to falsely recognize Yosef's coat, now you lost a coat - will you be able to get it back? Your first attempt to get it back failed - when? When you weren't able to perform an act of Hoda'ah, you were worried lest it come to scandal. Oh I sent the goat, but she's not there, I can't have people talking about me, let her just keep the stuff. Well if she keeps it then that's the end of Yehuda's kingship. She keeps the collateral, she keeps the coat, the signet ring and the staff, it means he lost it entirely.
But Yehuda gets one more chance. The man who was worried about whether it would come to scandal now if he's going to get the coat back it will really come to scandal. Now he's the man who has condemned this woman to death, he's the great judge and he has to stand there and say it might look like I'm the great judge condemning you, this evil woman, who has become intimate with some other man and have this child, that you're supposed to go to death. But now he has to say, no - and he does. Tzadkah mimeni. He does recognize, he recognizes the interpersonal truth, you are more righteous than I, he says. I was the father. He has that chance to bury all the evidence, but then kingship is lost forever. Instead, he recognizes the truth, you are more righteous than I, you were doing this nobly so that you could perform Yibum so that you could have Er and Onan back. I was the one who did this for ignoble reasons.
That heroic act of recognition, that heroic act of redeeming collateral, sets Yehuda up to help get Yaakov out of the mess that Yehuda put him in back in Chapter 37. With the man who had said Haker Nah to his father, and who heard Haker Nah and was able to recognize the truth, was able to get his kingship back, was able to get Zorach and Peretz back, save his children, now helps Yaakov save his two children. When Binyamin was threatened Reuven says, I'll kill my two sons, it doesn't bring him back alive. Now Yehuda, a man who lost two sons and is speaking to Yaakov a man who also lost two sons, Yosef and Shimon, and says, I know what it means to lose sons, I'm not going to tell you that any of us will lose any more sons. But I will tell you; Onochi e'ervenu - I will be the Orev. I will be the collateral for him.
When he redeems that collateral he redeems it one more time through a very difficult act of recognition, an act of Hoda'ah. He lays it all out on the line for this Egyptian official that happens to be Yosef, tells him the whole story, and says, how can I bear to let my father lose another child? Take me as a slave. There was a time when Yehuda let the child of a rival mother languish in slavery because it was so painful to deal with the fact that father loved another woman more. Now Yehuda looks that truth in the eye and says, yes, father's soul is bound up with Benjamin, because Benjamin is the child of Rachel, the mother that he loved more than my own mother. That was painful and there was a time when father lost a child because of that, but he's not going to lose one now. Let me be the slave instead of Binyamin. That terrible recognition of truth, of the painful realities that he would rather not face up to, is Yehuda actualizing his name. The one who is named for admitting uses admission to reclaim his kingship.
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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