Joseph & Judah: The Empowering Humility of Yesod

Nov 30th, 2010 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
Both Judah and Joseph “go down.” Judah lost his prestigious position as the leading brother and had to move away and begin a new life. Joseph went down into a pit, was lifted out only to be sent “down” into Egypt, then rose to a position of leadership in Potiphar’s household, again only to be thrown back down into the prison pit! (OK – a Federal Prison, a.k.a. country club, but still prison.)

It’s interesting to note the different responses to being lowered:

Judah, as his father Jacob, in this portion of Passivity – Vayeishev – sleeps with a very, very expensive prostitute, who basically tells him she is going to blackmail him: She wanted all his personal things as security. Kind of overkill – Don’t you think? She then disappears and he can’t find her to pay her, so he…forgets about it.

He only comes back to some semblance of passion and life when he has an opportunity to rid himself of his problematic daughter-in-law, Tamar, with whom he has taken a passive approach of sending on a visit home, rather than informing her that he doesn’t want her around at all.

Tamar set things rolling, and Judah regained his former leadership position. (See The Big Lie)

Judah had a difficult time dealing with his low points.

It almost seems endemic to Judah’s family. Boaz rises to his greatness only in the final days of his life, at the urging of Tamar. King David appears in Kings, not Samuel, and rises to his best at the urging of Batsheva.

Joseph deals with his “downs” with equanimity. He also seems to deal better with his glorious moments. He does fail, but never seems as devastated as Judah, Boaz or King David.

Perhaps there is a simple reason: Joseph knows that his leadership positions are never his own. He understands that he is the attribute of Yesod – the preparation for Malchut, which belongs to his brother Judah. Joseph does not experience the same devastation upon losing high positions because he knows that they aren’t really his.

Judah and King David represent Malchut – Divine Kingship. They expect more of themselves and therefore are far more devastated when they fail.

Author Info:
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