AND THE WINNER IS…
Rabbi David Walk
As the Gregorian calendar year of 2012 comes to an end there are the inevitable newspaper articles, TV shows and websites declaring the best and worst of the year that was. Many of these dubious decisions scream at you from tabloids while waiting in line at supermarket checkouts: biggest story, best athlete, or biggest scandal. It seems that I always disagree with the so-called experts, but I always find it interesting. There was an artsy type magazine that listed the best movies of the year, and even though I had gone to the flicks about ten times during the year, I hadn't seen even one of their top ten films. My favorite list is ESPN's worst ten plays of the year. I can't wait for that display of incompetence. This year's winner should be a particular fumble on Thanksgiving Day by a certain quarterback plying his trade in the marshes of
These two titans (I'm not referring to either the mythological kind or the
The two best blessings are reserved for these two giants. Even though the poetry is difficult to translate, it's clear that Yosef is endowed with power, wealth and fertility. He is also granted certain leadership qualities like charm, and he is referred to by terms of leadership like shepherd and head (Genesis 49:22-26). However, the ultimate prize is bestowed upon Yehuda, Joseph is compared to the powerful and valuable ox, Yehuda is referred to as the royal lion. The blessing continues: The scepter shall not depart from Yehuda nor the staff from between his legs (verse 10). According to the Talmud these items refer to both kingship and, and the other kind of Jewish management, scholarship (Sanhedren 5a). The clear symbols of power belong to Yehuda, and will remain with him forever.
The end of that verse is extremely controversial. This leadership will either be until the coming of a person called Shiloh or the bringer of tranquility (Hebrew: shalva), a messianic reference, or, perhaps, the establishing of the centrality of Shiloh the town where the temporary
But this, of course, brings us to the central question: Why did Yehuda emerge from the shadows as the clear winner in this eternal competition? Some have suggested that Joseph never explicitly sinned and is, therefore, called the Zadik, while Yehuda fell in the incident with Tamar. However, Yehuda confesses his impropriety and becomes the prototype for penitent. The Talmud later reveals that the perfect zadik can't stand in the place of the ba'al teshuva (Sanhedrin 99a). That's a winning hand. The Rav (Rabbi Joseph D. Soloveitchik) explained the famous Midrash (Genesis Raba 85:1), which states during the sale of Joseph: God was preparing the light of Mashiach, to mean that how the brothers emerged from that episode would decide who would be the eternal leader of the Jewish nation. It was Yehuda.
I've got a slightly different point of view. I've got this feeling that God didn't choose the winner; our great-grandfathers did. Time after time Yehuda steps forward to deal with problems and everyone accepts his leadership. At the sale of Joseph, Yehuda proposes, the others acquiesce. When it's time to get more food in
By the time the envelope was ripped open, it was obvious to all who won in the category of best leading man. I think that's what the Midrash means when it says God was preparing the light of Mashiach as Joseph was being sold to
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