Rabbi Z Aviner
Judah and Tamar, Joseph and his Master’s Wife
What does Moses teach us about BLASPHEMY?
Moses dedicates the entire story of Joseph to the issue of Desecration of G-d’s Name and BLASPHEMY, with is Adam’s Sixth Commandment given in Eden. By this he has exhausted going over the Commandments one by one through the Book of Genesis.
And as we’ve seen in the past, each time he discusses a Commandment, he uses the opportunity to teach us something about it that we would have never received otherwise. What then does he inform us about BLASPHEMY?
We can write the following few points –
- 1. The concept of BLASPHEMY
When a royal, G-d fearing people like Jacob and his family, commit such a despicable act of selling their own brother to slavery, it reflects badly on God and His Torah. DIMINISHING GOD’S ’HONOR IN OTHER PEOPLE’S EYES is BLASPHEMY, or DESECRATING HIS NAME.
The other way around is also true: INCREASING GOD’S HONOR IN OTHER PEOPLE’S EYES IS AN ACT OF SANCTIFICATION OF GOD’S NAME.
The RMBM indeed uses this very definition of BLASPHEMY and SANCTIFICATION.
In short- One commits BLASPHEMY by
1 Cursing by his mouth God’s’ Name either in private or in public
2 Bringing others to diminish G-d’s HONOR by their misbehavior
One SANCTIFIES G-d’s Name by
1 Chanting in public Hoy, Holy Holy, like the angelic choir above
2 Increasing God’s HONOR by exceptionally good behavior
Surrendering one’s life in God’s HONOR is an extreme way of sanctifying His Name
Cursing G-d by mouth ……………Chanting in public Hoy, Holy, Holy
Bad behavior ……………………..Good behavior
………………………………………Surrendering one’s life.
2. BLASPHEMY can be Corrected
The second point that Moses teaches us here is that although BLASPHEMY is a terrible sin, it can be corrected. How?
The section starts with the act of Desecration of G-d’s Name by selling Joseph. It is a short story, though devastating one. Then Moses Describes at length how Jacob and his family recovered from their sin – through repentance, asking forgiveness and by SANCTIFYING G-d’s Name.
The first to recover was Judah,
The second was Joseph,
Then the rest oof the brothers.
How do we know it? For in the story of Judah and Tamar, the Name of YHVH re-appears 3 times,
And in the story oof Joseph and his master’s wife 8 times.
We’ll soon read it and see how both Judah and joseph sanctified YHVH’s Name by surrendering their lives in Her HONOR.
3. The Heavenly Court’s Response to BLASPHEMY
How would the HC respond to Desecration?
ELKM, the JUDGE, would treat it as a. sin. The response would be alng the rule of “measure for measure” and sure to come.
Thus, since the brothers sold Joseph to slavery in Egypt, ELKM would move things around so that they themselves of their children would be enslaved in Egypt. As the result, G-d’s words to Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved in Egypt – woiuld be fulfilled.
ELKM, then, takes over the text and acts behind the scene to execute His Verdict. G-d’s capacity to intervene and manipulate human history is called G-d’s KINGSHIP.
And you wouldn’t fine any other site in the Torah that describers God’s KINGSHIP so clearly. Here we know the direction where G-d’s is moving things around – bringing Jacob and his family down to Egypt – and we see clearly as well the steps He takes to implement His verdict.
It should be noticed that G-d’s KINGSHIP is operating behind the scene, secluded from our eyes. The participants in the drama are totally unaware of the Decree, and each one operates in his own circle completely by his or hers free will, yet God too operates in His Free will.
What does Moses tell us about YHVH’s Reaction to BLASPHEMY?
Moses informs us here an important message – that YHVH would remove Herself from that person. She would not be angry, She would not even punish him or her directly; all she would do is taking Herself from him, from dwelling in his heart, even from protecting him in the HC.
You see that in the text. Ever since the selling oof Joseph, YHVH’s Name disappears from the text (apart from few points). As if She is offended by the act of Desecrating Her Name.
Unlike ELKM who created the Six Days alone, YHVH came only at the transition between the Sixth Day and the Sabbath, and only to participate in creating Adam “In Our Form and Our Image.” She is here on contingency – only if Adam accepts Her into His heart, so that he would become Very Good and eligible to enter the Sabbath- Her Domain. If Adam desecrates the HONOR of her Name – well, She would depart!
YHVH too controls and manipulate history, as a KING. But Her KINGSGIP is more concealed from our eyes than that of ELKM. After all, She had entered our world , into our Sixth Day, from her Sabbath, as a hidden acronym, seen in the text only by learned eye. She is like a modest BRIDE entering Her Groom’s home, wearing a veil. Her KINGSHIP is hidden to start with. Facing BLASPHEMY, discredit Her HONOR, would make her even more shy. She would remover Herself.
The result of Her removal, Jacob lost his prophetic level and therefore could not see what happened to Joseph. The entire family sank into depression, splitting between themselves even more than before.
4. BLASPHEMY and KINGSHIP
Now we understand what BLASPHEMY is all about. It is discrediting or diminishing GOD’S HONOR as a KING.
No wonder that in the Torah’s section that is dedicated to describe G-d’s KINGSHIP and intervention in history, is also the site where BLASSPHEMY and DESECRATION of the HONOR of G-d’s Name is also introduced.
5. The Shechinah as a KING
The Book of Genesis begins with the entrance of YHVH into our Sixth Day from the Sabbath, ending with Her KINGSHIP. This is a new description of her, unseen before. She made a long way throughout the Book, increasingly becoming closer to our mind and heart. Thus –
- At chapter One – dealing with IDOLATRY – She appears as a participant in creation, as GRACE, Hessed.
- Then in the story of Eden – dealing with ADULTERY – She appears, after the Sin, as a Forgiving Attribute, calling Adam Where are You? Come to me, repent!
- Then in Eve’s words – dealing with BLOODSHED – She appears alone, without ELKM by her side, as a Loving Mother in Heavens, looking forwards to a Very Good future
- Then in the Heavenly Court’s session before the Flood She appears as an Attribute of MERCY who hates Evil, cruelty, hammas.
- Then in the stories about Abraham, revolving around THEFT, She appears in a new Name AaDoNai Who Owns the Heavens and the Earth.
- Then in the stories of Jacob looking for JUSTICE, She appears as the G-d of Israel, seeking Justice with peace, called GLORY, tif-ereth.
- Now with Joseph, encountering BLASPHEMY, She appears as a KING.
6. Judah and Tamar
You know the story, The point here is that in contrast to the rest of the tet that carries only the Name ELKM many times, therefore painted in RED, the name of Judah in the story with Tamar the Name YHVH appears 3 times –
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 displease (3) YHVH
and He killed him also”
Indicating that he was recovering from his depression after selling Joseph. And he did that by admitting in public that She, Tamar, was more righteous than himself, and that the child is his.
(7) joseph and his Master’s Wife
Compare that to the story of Joseph with his master’s wife, where YHVH’s Name appears 8 times in just a few verses, as the most dense in the Torah!
And (1) YHVH was with Joseph and he became successful
And his master saw that (2) YHVH was with him…
And whatever he does, (3) YHVH made succeed in his hand…
And (4) YHVH blessed the Egyptian’s house….
And (5) YHVH’s blessing was in whatever he owned….
And (6) YHVH was with Joseph…..
For (7) YHVH was with him…
And whatever he did, (8) YHVH was with him
The number 8 may designate the 8 commandments that Joseph kept even in the Egyptian house – 7 of Noah plus Abraham’s circumcision. Later when he came to power he ordered the Egyptians to circumcise themselves to get the food (rashi).
Although she was his master, Joseph showed that His Master in Heavens, his KING, reigns supreme.
YHVH appears 8 times for Joseph kept 8 commandments – including circumcision
YHVH Entering our World
1 In Creation- IDOLATRY – —-as Grace, Hessed
2 In Eden – ADULTERY – as Forgiving Rachamim
3 At the Flood – BLOODSHED – as part of the HC
4 With Abraham- THEFT—– —— as Owner, AaDoNai , LORD
5 With Jacob – JUSTICE – ——–as Glorious, tif-eret
6 With Joseph –BLASPHEMY – as our KING, Melech
7 In the Exodus – ——————-as our Redeemer, Moshiah