This week’s parsha is Parshat Vayeshev. It is known for the narrative where Yosef, the favorite son of Yakov, is hated by his brothers and sold into slavery. Immediately after Yosef is sold, the Torah seems to go on a tangent, relating the story of Yehudah and Tamar.
The parsha delves into a story where Yehuda’s children die after marrying Tamar due to the laws of Yibum, and Tamar disguises herself to conceive children with Yehudah. This is placed next to another story about potentially immoral sexual activity: that of Yosef and Potifar’s wife. What is significant about this juxtaposition?
There are actually many similarities between the two women. While both did immoral activities, they did so for pure reasons. Tamar needed to conceive a child, and Potifar’s wife knew that she would have a child with Yosef (it was really her daughter, Osnat). After their initial activity, both women are confronted with trouble. Their polar responses teach us an important lesson.
When Yosef initially rejected Potifar’s wife, she lost her moral high ground. Instead of remaining pure, she grabbed Yosef and tried to force him into complying. Tamar could have done the same by placing blame on Yehudah, the father of her twins. However, she retained her purity, and never sold Yehudah out. Instead, when Yehudah found out what happened, he protected her, and one of their children would sire the Davidic dynasty.
We learn from the juxtaposition of these two seemingly unrelated events a significant message. As the Yiddish saying goes, “der mensch trakht un got lakht”– man plans and G-d laughs. No matter how much you plan, something will always go wrong. As we learn from Tamar, if we keep our purity and high state of mind, we will be rewarded.
By: Jack Benveniste-Plitt (10th Grade)