The world has become a very frightening place because it has become a very frightened world. Facing great terrorist perils and unknown natural dangers, the leadership of the world is clamoring for simple solutions. It also attempts to cover its head under a heavy blanket of platitudes and glib politically correct statements.
In such a world the leadership looks to find the smallest target and the easiest to bully and cajole in order to at least achieve some respite or quiet before the coming storms. As a result it is much easier to force Israel to back off from Iran and to cease making logical reciprocal demands from the Palestinians. This is a much travelled road leading to disaster.
In the world of Ancient Egypt the will of the ruler was supreme and deadly. One would take great risk to confront and disagree with the whims and dictates of any ruler. Yet we read that Judah gathered that strength and moved into the line of fire
Then Yehuda (Judah) came near( VaYigash) unto him, and said: ‘Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant; for thou art even as Pharaoh.( Genesis :18)
This could not have been easy as all the brothers were uneasy and in fact overwhelmed with the full realization of their guilt;
“ And they said to one another, “Indeed, we are guilty for our brother, that we witnessed the distress of his soul when he begged us, and we did not listen. That is why this trouble has come upon us.”( Genesis 42 :21)
It is even more perplexing because it seems that Yehuda had assumed the greatest brunt of responsibility. It was Yehuda that devised the sale of Joseph
“. And Yehuda said to his brothers, “What is the gain if we slay our brother and cover up his blood? . Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, but our hand shall not be upon him, for he is our brother, our flesh.” And his brothers hearkened”.( Genesis 37:26-27).
Perhaps it was out of that sense of guilt that Judah then leaves his family and wanders into the fields and society of Canaan.
“Now it came about at that time that Judah descended ( yatad) from his brothers, and he turned away until [he came] to an Adullamite man, named Hirah. And there Judah saw the daughter of a merchant named Shua, and he took her and came to her.( ibid 38:1-2)
Yet here we see that same Yehuda finding and gathering the strength to approach the Egyptian viceroy and to give one of the lengthiest speeches in Torah in an attempt to enable the release of Benjamin.
What happened to Yehuda?
It is in the fields of Canaan that Yehuda finds his voice. When the dramatic set of events unfold and he finds out that his daughter in law Tamar is now pregnant he declares that by the laws of the land she must be executed.
It is then that Tamar consciously or unconsciously grants Yehuda the opportunity to step into his destiny.
When she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law, saying: ‘By the man, whose these are, am I with child’; and she said: ‘Discern, I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and the cords, and the staff.'( ibid 38:25)
She does not declare who is the owner of signet and the staff. It is Yehuda that must accept and acknowledge his own responsibility.
“And Yehuda recognised them, and said: ‘She is more righteous than I; forasmuch as I gave her not to Shelah my son.’ “ ( ibid 26).It is out of this union that we see the beginning of the line of David, the precursor of redemption.
The Sfat Emet explains that the name “Yehuda” is related to the word “hoda’a.” which means ‘concession’ or ‘acknowledgement’. That is the basis of Yehuda’s strength. The ability to acknowledge failure and to acknowledge the source of real strength.Yehuda becomes his destiny when he understands that within his name is ensconced the name of G-d. It is then that he changes from a meek and complacent individual into the lion of courage. It is then that he fulfills the blessing and insight described by Jacob on his death bed
Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up. He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as a lioness; who shall rouse him up?(Genesis 49:9 )
The Sfat Emet explains that the words “Then Judah approached him (Vayigash eilav ) and said, “Please, my lord ( Bi Adoni) , let now your servant speak something into my lord’s ears “ implies something deeper than the simple meaning of the words.
The drash of the verse explains that “ Yehuda approached not Joseph but actually.. Him ,Hashem .In the midst of that prayerful moment he then declares “Bi Adoni” which can be read “within me is my L-rd” That is to say Yehuda is declaring within my “name” which is a whisper of my destiny lies the name of Hashem. It is that strength that gives me the courage to confront the viceroy of Egypt.
The Jewish people are called “Yehudim” and thereupon have that same inner source of strength. They carry the name of G-d within their name. As a result they become the language of G-d and are used by the divine to declare a message to the world. That awareness is what they must turn to as they face the pressures of Iran ,Obama and the European union.
Only with that awareness will they live up to their prophecy “” He stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as a lioness; who shall rouse him up?( Genesis 49:9)