© 2016 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
Class BLASPHEMY-3/Judah and Tamar
1: Would the dysfunctional family recover?
When a royal family, like that of Jacob, misbehaves in such a grave fashion, selling their own brother to Egypt as a sex slave, their action constitutes Desecration of G-d Name, i.e. BLASPHEMY.
When Jacob and sons, just been elevated to be called Israel, qualified to chant “Holy, Holy, Holy” from Earth along the Angels above, their action diminishes the HONOR of the G-d of Israel.
As long the family stays morally depressed, they could not chant along with the Angels.
Would the family recover?
They would recover, of course, gradually. First it would be Judah, then Joseph, then the rest of the brothers.
A clue for that recovering process is given in the text.
As we’ve already noted, the entire last portion of the Book of Genesis, after the return of Jacob to the Holy Land, is written under the name of ELKM, only. The message is that Jacob and his sons lived under the Heavenly Court’s Decree to take them down to Egypt, one way or another (Rashi.) After all, ELKM is not only the CREATOR and JUDGE; He is also our KING Who Controls History.
Recognizing this is HONORING G-d and SANCTIFICATION of His Name.
Denying this is DISHONORING G-d and DESECRATING His Name.
But there are two exceptions to the above, in the text:. There are two stories written under the name of YHVH: (1) the story of Judah and Tamar (2) the story of Joseph and his master’s wife. In these stories the heroes sanctify YHVH Name and bring Her to Earth, thereby saving Mankind from extinction.
Thus Judah and Joseph would start the healing process and bring about the spiritual recovery of the royal family. They would lead their brothers to become ‘holy’ again, worthy of chanting with the Angels.
Let’s focus on Judah, then on Joseph.
2: Judah and Tamar
After the selling of Joseph, it says:
“And it came to pass at that time,
that Judah went down from his brothers
And turned in to a certain Adukamite whose name was Hirah.
And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite named Shuah,
And he took her and he went to her and she conceived and bore his a son and he named him Er….”
The words “Judah went down from his brothers” can be interpreted that he “went down from his greatness,” (Rashi) from his natural leadership of his brothers. They accused him, and he accused himself, for letting them sell Joseph. (Midrah)
Moreover, he “went down” to associate with a pagan Canaanite, and married a Canaanite girl, by itself not a sin. She bore him three sons: Er, Onan, and shilo. Then:
“And Er, the firstborn son of Judah was found evil in the eyes of (1) YHVH
And (2) YHVH slew him. And Judah said to Onan go to your brother’s wife
and perform the duty of the brother-in law and raise up seeds to your brother.
And it came to pass when he came to his brother’s wife
That he spilled it on the ground lest he should give seed to his brother
And the thing that he did displeased (3) YHVH and He killed him also”
The term “evil,” we’ve learned, is specific to YHVH’s perspectives.
Neither Er nor Onan did something wrong against the law, something that would enrage ELKM.
But they did something uncompassionate, merciless and cruel that enraged the Merciful YHVH,
Therefore YHVH reacted in vengeance and killed them both.
Here, in just two verses, YHVH name appears 3 times in the text, whereas the entire series of chapters are written under ELKM.
Someone must have sanctified Her Name, to bring her down into the world and into the text. One can claim that by slaying these two ‘evil’ sons, YHVH’s HONOR increased in the world. But there is a better interpretation: the rest of the story would tell us how Judah sanctified the Holy Name.
How Tamar sanctified YHVH name
You know the story. Here it is in short:
Her language recalls the brothers’ questioning Jacob: “Please recognize it. Is it your son’s shirt?” here we see “measure for measure,” ELKM’s way of JUSTICE.
She would die rather than shame Judah in public.
By this she sanctified YHVH’s Name.
How Judah sanctified YHVH’s Name
Judah admits bravely that “she is right, from me!” Meaning “she is been pregnant by me.”
But the rabbis read it: “She is more righteous than me!” (Midrash)
Hence both sanctified YHVH’s Name, but Tamar was a greater martyr than JUDAH, as he himself admitted. .
Now the Torah turns to Joseph and tells how he sanctified YHVH name!
END OF BLASPHEMY CLASS 2