Vayeishev 5767-2006

"What's in a Name?"

Parashat Vayeishev contains the extraordinary story of Joseph and his brethren. At perhaps the most dramatic moment, the story suddenly pauses. A new saga of Judah's falling-out with his family is told. This saga is communicated not only by the words of the text, but also by a careful analysis of the names of Judah's sons, which have much to reveal to us.

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Vayeishev 5763-2002

"Judah Emerges as the Leader of Israel"

As the natural, charismatic leader, Judah's brothers abide by his suggestion to sell Joseph rather than kill him. But now that father Jacob is inconsolable, the brothers blame Judah for their father's misery. Judah has a falling out with his brothers and departs from his household ostensibly renouncing his family connections. He marries a local woman, has three sons, two of whom die after they are married to Tamar. Unknowingly, Judah has a sexual relationship with Tamar who becomes pregnant. After sentencing Tamar to death by burning, Judah, rising to the occasion, admits his guilt and spares Tamar's life. Judah thus becomes the first Ba'al Teshuvah (penitent) and emerges as the leader of Israel.

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