This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Vayechi, is the last Parsha of Sefer Bereishit. It finishes the saga of the Forefathers and prepares us for the enslavement of the Jews and ensuing exodus from Egypt.
One of the major developments in this Parsha was that Yehuda, the fourth oldest of the twelve brothers, was blessed by Yakov to provide the lineage of all the Kings of Israel. But why Yehuda? Why was he blessed with the kingship?
Over the course of the Sefer, the Torah has contained numerous character defining moments for Yehuda which may help answer that question. When Yosef was thrown into the pit, Yehuda was the one to decide to sell him instead of letting him die. Later, he admits that he is the father of the children that Tamar, his daughter-in-law, was carrying upon whom he had decreed a death sentence. The third is pleading to Yosef (who had not yet disclosed his identity to the brothers) to allow Binyamin to go home and take Yehuda in his brother’s stead. These three incidents indicate that Yehuda has the qualities that are necessary in a king. 1) He tempers the anger of the brothers against Yosef and suggests that he be sold rather than killed. A king must lead, yet he must understand how far he can go without destroying his relationship with his people. The brothers would not have accepted a pardon for Yosef. Yehuda provided an alternative that his brothers were pleased with. 2) A king is not G-d. Kings make mistakes. Yehuda could have let Tamar be killed. She did not confront him directly. Yet once he knew that he was responsible he uses the phrase, Tzadka mimeni, she is more righteous than I am. A king must be able to admit and correct his errors in judgement. 3) A king is responsible to his people. Yehuda understands how painful it was for Yakov to Yosef. He does not want Yakov to suffer again over the loss of Rachel’s only other son. He therefore is willing to sacrifice himself rather than to break his commitment Yaakov that Binyamin will be returned safely. Yosef certainly has a role to play. However, it was Yehudah’s character that allowed him to become the ancestor of kingship for the Jewish people.
By: Eli Waxman (9th Grade)