Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Vayeishev 2 - Yehudah and Yosef

I began to write this as a tangent to a post on my other blog, Parshiyos, but decided that this was somewhat off-topic there (and also that I've been neglecting this blog). There's definitely room for improvement, but even as it is, I think it's pretty interesting.

I noticed that the Torah separates between the story of Yehudah and Tamar and the story of Yosef and Potiphar's wife with a s'tumah, creating a minor break, rather than with a p'sucha, which would have been a more major break. This is curious, in that the two stories utilize entirely different protagonists, entirely different supporting casts, and settings miles apart. (I would say that the s'tumah is what the Torah uses to indicate parallelism between two parshiyos, but I already argued that this is the meaning of an "extreme p'sucha", where it's a p'sucha that doesn't start with a conjunctive vav.) The two stories do have certain stylistic similarities, though. Let's examine:

38:1 - And Yehudah went down from his brothers, and he turned unto an Adulamite man, whose name was Chirah.
39:1 - And Yosef was brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar the officer of Pharoah, chief executioner, purchased him.

It already looks interesting. Both Yehudah and Yosef begin the parsha with a descent. The active descent of Yehudah is contrasted with the passive descent of Yosef. Similarly, Yehudah's descent from his brothers, emphasizing the significance of his origin (we don't even know where he went down to!), is contrasted with Yosef's descent to Egypt. Both immediately move into the orbit of another man: Yehudah to Chirah and Yosef to Potiphar. The words "Va-yet ad" used by Yehudah is of somewhat unclear meaning, but "Va-yet" was used with reference to Avraham's transient dwelling in 12:8. Why is Yehudah now channeling his great grandfather? By going down to Egypt, even against his will, Yosef is channeling his great-grandfather!

38:2-6 - Yehudah marries, has three children, and marries one of them off
39:2-6 - Yosef thrives in the house of Potiphar.

Both Yehudah and Yosef meet with success in the house of their host.

38:7-10 - Er and Onan are both killed after marrying Tamar.
39:7 - Potiphar's wife propositions Yosef.

Both Yehudah and Yosef have their idyllic worlds rocked by a woman.

38:11 - Yehudah tells Tamar to return to her father's house.
39:8-10 - Yosef rejects Potiphar's wife's advances.

Both Yehudah and Yosef try to ignore the changes.

38:12 - "Vayirbu HaYamim" - Yehudah's wife dies, he's comforted, and he goes up to Timnah with Chirah (his Adulamite friend) to shear his sheep.
39:11 - "Vayhi K'haYom HaZeh" - Yosef comes to the house when no other man is there.

Yom-yom. Yehudah goes up, as opposed to going down, and his host comes with him. Yosef comes to the house, as opposed to being brought, and his host is not there.

38:13-14 - Tamar sits down by the crossroads.
39:12a - Potiphar's wife grabs Yosef by his garment, and demands of him, "Shichva imi"

Tamar tries to induce Yehudah to proposition her; Potiphar's wife tries to induce Yosef to lay with her.

38:15-19 - Yehudah sees the disguised Tamar and propositions her "Hava na avo eilayich". Yehudah agrees to give Tamar a kid, gives her his signet, his cord, and his staff as collateral, and has relations with her.
39:12b - Yosef flees, leaving his garment in Potiphar's wife's hand.

Yehudah succumbs to Tamar's enticement, and gives her his property. Yosef flees from Potiphar's wife's enticement, but leaves her his property.

38:20-23- Yehudah sends Chirah to bring the kid to the prostitute; he asks around, but cannot find her.
39:13-18- Potiphar's wife tells the men of her house what Yosef did to her, and then tells Potiphar what Yosef did to her.

Yehudah, the defeated one, spreads the word about what he has of Tamar's, first to his host, then to others; Potiphar's wife, the defeated one, spreads the word of what she has of Yosef's, first to others, then to his host.

38:24 - Yehudah is told that Tamar is pregnant from illicit relations, and he sentences her to death.
39:19- Potiphar's wife tells her husband what Yosef did to her, and his anger flares.

Yehudah, the defeated one, hears that Tamar, the victor, has sinned, and sentences her to death; Potiphar's wife, the defeated one, tells her husband that Yosef, the victor, has sinned, and gets him angry (and logically this should have resulted in his being sentenced to death).

38:25-26- Tamar sends Yehudah's collateral to him, and he admits that she was right.
39:20 - Yosef is thrown in prison.

Tamar shows Yehudah his items, which belie his claim and he does not have her killed. (According to the midrash, Potiphar saw that Yosef's garment belied his wife's claim and) Yosef is not killed.

38:27-30- Tamar gives birth to Peretz and Zerach; Yehudah now has three sons, again.
39:21-23- Yosef thrives in prison.

Yehudah is whole again. Yosef is whole again.

In all three stories, we have a man (Yehudah/Yosef), a woman (Tamar/Potiphar's wife), and a host (Chirah/Potiphar). The roles become a little scrambled after the climax.

Incidentally, this may shed light on my question in the previous post about what the significance of Chirah is.

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