Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Parshat VaYehsev

The Isolation of Yehuda

Soon after Yoseph is sold into slavery, the Torah brakes off from this narrative to tell us about Yehuda's episode with Tamar.

The episode begins with the words: "Now it came about at that time that Yehuda went down from his brothers (Bereshit 38:1).

The Rabbis understand Yehuda's descent to be a direct result of the selling of Yoseph. Yehuda's position as leader of the brothers had been diminished as he had the power to lead them differently and not sell Yoseph. And so, Yehuda separated from his brothers.

History was to be repeated. In the future, when Israel was a tribal confederation, Yehuda was distant, cut off from the rest of the tribes.

The tribe of Yehuda was a strong tribe in Israel's south, distant from the rest of Israel, and so did not play a major role in the confederations history. In fact, its name is barely mentioned in Sefer Shoftim.

Furthermore, when Devora, the judge who united the tribes more than any other judge, criticizes the tribes that did not help her in her campaign against Sisera, she does not even mention Yehuda. She never even considered that Yehuda would aid her and so, they were not worthy of criticism.

Indeed, the story of the tribe of Yehuda during the era of the Judges is recorded in a book totally separate from the Sefer Shoftim: the Book of Ruth.

Therefore, when Sha'ul, Israel's first king, mobilized his first army, "he counted them in Bezek, and the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Yehudah thirty thousand (I Shmuel 1:8). The prophet could have just written "the children of Israel were 330,000", but he did not. Instead, Israel and Yehudah were numbered separately.

The prophet is trying to say that not only did Sha'ul manage to unify Israel, he even managed to bring the tribe of Yehuda on line.

The tribe of Yehuda then succeeds to remain with Israel, throughout Sha'ul, David and Shlomo's reign. However, in the first days of Shlomo's son, Rehavam, Israel splits from Yehuda, and once again, Yehuda is isolated from the rest of Israel

This split was never restored.

The Rabbis explain that the early seeds of this split are in this week's parsha, when Yehuda went down from his brothers.

Last Year's Sedra Short on Parshat VaYeshev entitled "Yoseph and Yehuda", appears at:

Another Sedra Short on Parshat VaYeshev entitled "Who sold Yoseph?" appears at:

Another Sedra Short on Parshat VaYeshev entitled "Yoseph: The Fourth Patriarch", appears at:

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