Genesis 38
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1  About that time Yehuda left his brothers and camped near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah.

vai-HEE ba-AYT ha-HEE va-YAY-red y’-hu-DAH may-AYT e-KHAV va-YAYT ad EESH a-du-la-MEE ush-MO khee-RAH

א  וַיְהִי בָּעֵת הַהִוא וַיֵּרֶד יְהוּדָה מֵאֵת אֶחָיו וַיֵּט עַד־אִישׁ עֲדֻלָּמִי וּשְׁמוֹ חִירָה׃

 38:1   Yehuda left his brothers

Though the story of Yehuda and his daughter-in-law Tamar seems to interrupt the narrative of the Yosef stories, Jewish tradition teaches that its placement here is deliberate. In beautiful shorthand, the Midrash explains the connection: “While the tribes were busy with the sale of Yosef; Reuven, Yosef and Yaakov were busy with their sackcloth and mourning; Yehuda was busy taking a wife; and God was busy creating the light of the Mashiach.” Like a puppet master operating behind the scenes and hidden from view, Hashem is pulling the strings and directing events without the knowledge or under­standing of the participants themselves. From the union between Yehuda and Tamar, the Davidic dynasty and ultimately the Mashiach himself would emerge. Precisely when life seems to be completely unraveling, Hashem is directing events with His infinite wisdom, and is carefully nurturing our redemption.3 comments

2  There Yehuda saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua, and he married her and cohabited with her.

ב  וַיַּרְא־שָׁם יְהוּדָה בַּת־אִישׁ כְּנַעֲנִי וּשְׁמוֹ שׁוּעַ וַיִּקָּחֶהָ וַיָּבֹא אֵלֶיהָ׃

3  She conceived and bore a son, and he named him Er.

ג  וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן וַיִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמוֹ עֵר׃

4  She conceived again and bore a son, and named him Onan.

ד  וַתַּהַר עוֹד וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן וַתִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמוֹ אוֹנָן׃

5  Once again she bore a son, and named him Sheila; he was at Chezib when she bore him.

ה  וַתֹּסֶף עוֹד וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן וַתִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמוֹ שֵׁלָה וְהָיָה בִכְזִיב בְּלִדְתָּהּ אֹתוֹ׃

6  Yehuda got a wife for Er his first-born; her name was Tamar.

ו  וַיִּקַּח יְהוּדָה אִשָּׁה לְעֵר בְּכוֹרוֹ וּשְׁמָהּ תָּמָר׃

7  But Er, Yehuda‘s first-born, was displeasing to Hashem, and Hashem took his life.

ז  וַיְהִי עֵר בְּכוֹר יְהוּדָה רַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהֹוָה וַיְמִתֵהוּ יְהֹוָה׃

8  Then Yehuda said to Onan, “Join with your brother’s wife and do your duty by her as a brother-in-law, and provide offspring for your brother.”

ח  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה לְאוֹנָן בֹּא אֶל־אֵשֶׁת אָחִיךָ וְיַבֵּם אֹתָהּ וְהָקֵם זֶרַע לְאָחִיךָ׃

9  But Onan, knowing that the seed would not count as his, let it go to waste whenever he joined with his brother’s wife, so as not to provide offspring for his brother.

ט  וַיֵּדַע אוֹנָן כִּי לֹּא לוֹ יִהְיֶה הַזָּרַע וְהָיָה אִם־בָּא אֶל־אֵשֶׁת אָחִיו וְשִׁחֵת אַרְצָה לְבִלְתִּי נְתָן־זֶרַע לְאָחִיו׃

10  What he did was displeasing to Hashem, and He took his life also.

י  וַיֵּרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה וַיָּמֶת גַּם־אֹתוֹ׃

11  Then Yehuda said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Stay as a widow in your father’s house until my son Sheila grows up”—for he thought, “He too might die like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s house.

יא  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה לְתָמָר כַּלָּתוֹ שְׁבִי אַלְמָנָה בֵית־אָבִיךְ עַד־יִגְדַּל שֵׁלָה בְנִי כִּי אָמַר פֶּן־יָמוּת גַּם־הוּא כְּאֶחָיו וַתֵּלֶךְ תָּמָר וַתֵּשֶׁב בֵּית אָבִיהָ׃

12  A long time afterward, Shua’s daughter, the wife of Yehuda, died. When his period of mourning was over, Yehuda went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, together with his friend Hirah the Adullamite.

יב  וַיִּרְבּוּ הַיָּמִים וַתָּמָת בַּת־שׁוּעַ אֵשֶׁת־יְהוּדָה וַיִּנָּחֶם יְהוּדָה וַיַּעַל עַל־גֹּזֲזֵי צֹאנוֹ הוּא וְחִירָה רֵעֵהוּ הָעֲדֻלָּמִי תִּמְנָתָה׃

13  And Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is coming up to Timnah for the sheepshearing.”

יג  וַיֻּגַּד לְתָמָר לֵאמֹר הִנֵּה חָמִיךְ עֹלֶה תִמְנָתָה לָגֹז צֹאנוֹ׃

14  So she took off her widow’s garb, covered her face with a veil, and, wrapping herself up, sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah; for she saw that Sheila was grown up, yet she had not been given to him as wife.

יד  וַתָּסַר בִּגְדֵי אַלְמְנוּתָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ וַתְּכַס בַּצָּעִיף וַתִּתְעַלָּף וַתֵּשֶׁב בְּפֶתַח עֵינַיִם אֲשֶׁר עַל־דֶּרֶךְ תִּמְנָתָה כִּי רָאֲתָה כִּי־גָדַל שֵׁלָה וְהִוא לֹא־נִתְּנָה לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה׃

15  When Yehuda saw her, he took her for a harlot; for she had covered her face.

טו  וַיִּרְאֶהָ יְהוּדָה וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לְזוֹנָה כִּי כִסְּתָה פָּנֶיהָ׃

16  So he turned aside to her by the road and said, “Here, let me sleep with you”—for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. “What,” she asked, “will you pay for sleeping with me?”

טז  וַיֵּט אֵלֶיהָ אֶל־הַדֶּרֶךְ וַיֹּאמֶר הָבָה־נָּא אָבוֹא אֵלַיִךְ כִּי לֹא יָדַע כִּי כַלָּתוֹ הִוא וַתֹּאמֶר מַה־תִּתֶּן־לִּי כִּי תָבוֹא אֵלָי׃

17  He replied, “I will send a kid from my flock.” But she said, “You must leave a pledge until you have sent it.”

יז  וַיֹּאמֶר אָנֹכִי אֲשַׁלַּח גְּדִי־עִזִּים מִן־הַצֹּאן וַתֹּאמֶר אִם־תִּתֵּן עֵרָבוֹן עַד שָׁלְחֶךָ׃

18  And he said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your seal and cord, and the staff which you carry.” So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she conceived by him.

יח  וַיֹּאמֶר מָה הָעֵרָבוֹן אֲשֶׁר אֶתֶּן־לָּךְ וַתֹּאמֶר חֹתָמְךָ וּפְתִילֶךָ וּמַטְּךָ אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדֶךָ וַיִּתֶּן־לָּהּ וַיָּבֹא אֵלֶיהָ וַתַּהַר לוֹ׃

19  Then she went on her way. She took off her veil and again put on her widow’s garb.

יט  וַתָּקָם וַתֵּלֶךְ וַתָּסַר צְעִיפָהּ מֵעָלֶיהָ וַתִּלְבַּשׁ בִּגְדֵי אַלְמְנוּתָהּ׃

20  Yehuda sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite, to redeem the pledge from the woman; but he could not find her.

כ  וַיִּשְׁלַח יְהוּדָה אֶת־גְּדִי הָעִזִּים בְּיַד רֵעֵהוּ הָעֲדֻלָּמִי לָקַחַת הָעֵרָבוֹן מִיַּד הָאִשָּׁה וְלֹא מְצָאָהּ׃

21  He inquired of the people of that town, “Where is the cult prostitute, the one at Enaim, by the road?” But they said, “There has been no prostitute here.”

כא  וַיִּשְׁאַל אֶת־אַנְשֵׁי מְקֹמָהּ לֵאמֹר אַיֵּה הַקְּדֵשָׁה הִוא בָעֵינַיִם עַל־הַדָּרֶךְ וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֹא־הָיְתָה בָזֶה קְדֵשָׁה׃

22  So he returned to Yehuda and said, “I could not find her; moreover, the townspeople said: There has been no prostitute here.”

כב  וַיָּשָׁב אֶל־יְהוּדָה וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא מְצָאתִיהָ וְגַם אַנְשֵׁי הַמָּקוֹם אָמְרוּ לֹא־הָיְתָה בָזֶה קְדֵשָׁה׃

23  Yehuda said, “Let her keep them, lest we become a laughingstock. I did send her this kid, but you did not find her.”

כג  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה תִּקַּח־לָהּ פֶּן נִהְיֶה לָבוּז הִנֵּה שָׁלַחְתִּי הַגְּדִי הַזֶּה וְאַתָּה לֹא מְצָאתָהּ׃

24  About three months later, Yehuda was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has played the harlot; in fact, she is with child by harlotry.” “Bring her out,” said Yehuda, “and let her be burned.”

כד  וַיְהִי כְּמִשְׁלֹשׁ חֳדָשִׁים וַיֻּגַּד לִיהוּדָה לֵאמֹר זָנְתָה תָּמָר כַּלָּתֶךָ וְגַם הִנֵּה הָרָה לִזְנוּנִים וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוּדָה הוֹצִיאוּהָ וְתִשָּׂרֵף׃

25  As she was being brought out, she sent this message to her father-in-law, “I am with child by the man to whom these belong.” And she added, “Examine these: whose seal and cord and staff are these?”

כה  הִוא מוּצֵאת וְהִיא שָׁלְחָה אֶל־חָמִיהָ לֵאמֹר לְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר־אֵלֶּה לּוֹ אָנֹכִי הָרָה וַתֹּאמֶר הַכֶּר־נָא לְמִי הַחֹתֶמֶת וְהַפְּתִילִים וְהַמַּטֶּה הָאֵלֶּה׃

26  Yehuda recognized them, and said, “She is more in the right than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Sheila.” And he was not intimate with her again.

כו  וַיַּכֵּר יְהוּדָה וַיֹּאמֶר צָדְקָה מִמֶּנִּי כִּי־עַל־כֵּן לֹא־נְתַתִּיהָ לְשֵׁלָה בְנִי וְלֹא־יָסַף עוֹד לְדַעְתָּה׃

27  When the time came for her to give birth, there were twins in her womb!

כז  וַיְהִי בְּעֵת לִדְתָּהּ וְהִנֵּה תְאוֹמִים בְּבִטְנָהּ׃

28  While she was in labor, one of them put out his hand, and the midwife tied a crimson thread on that hand, to signify: This one came out first.

כח  וַיְהִי בְלִדְתָּהּ וַיִּתֶּן־יָד וַתִּקַּח הַמְיַלֶּדֶת וַתִּקְשֹׁר עַל־יָדוֹ שָׁנִי לֵאמֹר זֶה יָצָא רִאשֹׁנָה׃

29  But just then he drew back his hand, and out came his brother; and she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was named Peretz.

כט  וַיְהִי כְּמֵשִׁיב יָדוֹ וְהִנֵּה יָצָא אָחִיו וַתֹּאמֶר מַה־פָּרַצְתָּ עָלֶיךָ פָּרֶץ וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ פָּרֶץ׃

30  Afterward his brother came out, on whose hand was the crimson thread; he was named Zerach.

ל  וְאַחַר יָצָא אָחִיו אֲשֶׁר עַל־יָדוֹ הַשָּׁנִי וַיִּקְרָא שְׁמוֹ זָרַח׃

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Genesis 37
Genesis 39

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  • I have a plaque on my wall with the poem, "Footsteps" on it. The poem tells of a man looking back on his walk with the Lord. In both the beginning and the end, he sees two pairs of footprints in the sand. In the middle, he sees only one set of prints. The man asks Elohim why there was only one set of prints when going through the worst time of his life. That was, Adonai said, was when I was carrying you. When I read the line, "God ensures that precisely when life seems to be unraveling, He is carefully nurturing our redemption", I think of this poem.

Genesis 38

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