Double Mitzvah – Vayigash

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Tamar Fox.  Check out last week’s post in this series, Double Mitzvah – Miketz.  

PG-13Parshat Vayigash begins with Judah begging Joseph (who he doesn’t know is his brother) to take Judah as a captive, instead of Benjamin. The commentators make much of the fact that it’s Judah who steps forward to make such an offer. What makes Judah so ready to sacrifice?

I would argue that the answer is two parshiyot back, in Vayeshev, where Judah sleeps with a prostitute who turns out to be his own daughter-in-law. When she becomes pregnant, Judah condemns her to death before being presented with evidence that he is the father of her child. Tamar comes off as the heroine, both besting Judah in the chess match of wits he’s set up, and maintaining the lineage of Judah’s house. But perhaps more importantly, Judah sees some of the ramifications of his own dalliances. An act he presumably assumed would stay private (sleeping with a prostitute) was ultimately revealed to the whole family. And while he could have wallowed in shame and disgrace, trying as hard as possible to stay under the radar, he instead learned something from it. His own sexual impropriety taught him to be a better person.

For me, this is a valuable lesson in learning from relationships, even problematic ones. The media loves to tell people (particularly ladies) that there are dire consequences for hooking up and having sex. And it’s true that sex and hookups don’t always end with great things. But you certainly can learn a lot from your relationships of all kinds. Even the ones that end somewhat disastrously, or leave you broken-hearted or embarrassed—they can be great at teaching us what we want/need in a partner. And it’s wonderful and empowering to see that Judah learns and grows from his relationship with Tamar.

Author of Jewrotica's Double Mitzvah column, Tamar Fox is a writer and editor in Philadelphia. She will try anything once, including open relationships, dating someone who is chalav yisrael, and going to Suriname.
  • I love the idea of all interactions – sexual and otherwise – being learning opportunities. I try to relate to many, if not most, of my life experiences as opportunities to learn, to give, to cultivate gratitude or to just be present.

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