וַיַּכֵּ֣ר יְהוּדָ֗ה וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ צָֽדְקָ֣ה מִמֶּ֔נִּי כִּֽי־עַל־כֵּ֥ן לֹֽא־נְתַתִּ֖יהָ לְשֵׁלָ֣ה בְנִ֑י וְלֹֽא־יָסַ֥ף ע֖וֹד לְדַעְתָּֽהּ
Then Yehuda recognized them, and he said, "She is right, [it is] from me, because I did not give her to my son Shelah..." (Bereishis 38:26)
Tamar married Er, the oldest son of Yehuda, who passed away before they could have children. Yehuda's next son, Onan, performed the Mitzvah of Yibum and married Tamar but he too died before they could have children. Yehuda told Tamar "Remain as a widow in your father's house until my son Shelah grows up," for he said, "Lest he too die, like his brothers." (Bereishis 38:11) Eventually Tamar realized that Yehuda was not going to allow her to marry Shelah so she took matters into her own hands. Dressing up as a harlot on the side of the road she covered her face so she would not be recognized and seduced Yehuda. Having no money to pay her, Tamar took collateral instead in the form of Yehuda's signet, cloak and staff. When Yehuda returns to pay her, he finds that the harlot (Tamar) is gone.
Several months later Tamar is found pregnant and Yehuda sentences her to death by fire. Rather than embarrassing Yehuda, Tamar says him, "From the man to whom these belong I am pregnant," and she said, "Please recognize whose signet ring, cloak, and staff are these?" (Bereishis 38:25) Recognizing his own collateral, Yehuda confesses that it was he who unknowingly impregnated his daughter in law.
This is a complex story to say the least. There is a tremendous amount that lies beneath the surface but for now let us ask one simple question. From where did Yehuda get the strength to confess to his misdeeds? Bear in mind that this event took place in front of his father and the other Shevatim. Tamar made it clear that she had no intention of telling people that the child belonged to Yehuda. Yehuda had no external reason to say צָֽדְקָ֣ה מִמֶּ֔נִּי and yet that's exactly what he does. On a simple level we could argue that Yehuda had no choice. Should an innocent woman be put to death simply because Yehuda would be embarrassed to tell the truth? Of course there is much truth to this argument and yet it still takes a tremendous amount of courage to admit when we are wrong. What gave Yehuda his strength?
The juxtaposition of this story to the next one is very telling. Yosef has been sold down to Mitzrayim and is now leading the House of Potiphar. The Wife of Potiphar has taken an inappropriate interest in Yosef and Yosef is continuously harassed by her. One day, when the entire home has gone out to celebrate their avodah zara, the wife of Potiphar stays home so she can seduce Yosef. She is nearly successful but ultimately Yosef runs out naked into the streets of Mitzrayim rather than betray his core values.
One cannot help but notice the similarities in the two stories. Yosef is alone in the house. No one would have known of his betrayal. By fleeing the house, Yosef leaves Eishes Potiphar in a bind. Now, in order to exonerate herself, she accuses Yosef of attempted rape and Yosef ends up in jail. Had he stayed quiet she would have had no reason to tell anyone about the affair. Of course, we are not suggesting that Yosef should have had an affair and kept it quiet. Still, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to put yourself in a position where you know you will be thrown in jail and yet you continue to do the right thing. Just as Yehuda was embarrassed in front of his family so too Yosef was disgraced in front of his adopted family in Mitzrayim. How do Yosef and Yehuda stay authentic in such difficult circumstances?
Abundance Mentality vs Impoverished Mentality
In life people have various mentalities. Ways of seeing the world if you will. Some people have an "impoverished mentality" and others have an "abundance" mentality. Sometimes we have both.
An impoverished mentality has nothing to do with the amount of money that we have. There are people who have extraordinary wealth and yet they have an impoverished outlook on life. An impoverished mentality means that we have the feeling that we don't have "enough." In a marriage one spouse might be doing an enormous amount for the other but somehow it is not enough for them. It is not necessarily an indication that they are doing anything wrong. It may be that the spouse just has an impoverished mentality and nothing will be enough for them. It is like trying to fill a bucket that has no bottom. It is not a question of effort, it is simply impossible to fill up the bucket. Marriage is just one example of this but in truth there are many. The person who suffers from an impoverished mentality will never have enough in any of their relationships. In work they will never be appreciated enough or paid enough money. Their friends won't spend enough time with them or give them enough support. Their children won't give them enough respect or help out enough around the house. It is sad to see these people who are so needy that life can never give them enough to be happy.
On the other hand, there are people who have an abundance mentality. Again, it has nothing to do with wealth. It has everything to do with how you see the world. People who have an abundance mentality know that no matter what happens they will be OK. They are enough for themselves and therefore whatever they get in their life is enough. When their marriage is challenging they don't behave inappropriately because they are enough for themselves. If they aren't being paid a fare wage they have the courage and confidence to respectfully ask for a raise. When their children misbehave they don't take it personally but rather they are able to see what the child needs. This is not to say that life isn't challenging for these people. It certainly is. But armed with the confidence of being "enough" they are able to navigate some difficult obstacles.
The secret to perseverance is the knowledge that no matter what comes our way. we are "enough."
Parenting Our Children To Feel Enough
So she grabbed him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me!" But he left his garment in her hand and fled and went outside. (Bereishis 39:12)
The Gemara (Sotah 36b) teaches, The verse states: “And she caught him by his garment, saying: Lie with me” (Bereishis 39:12). At that moment his father’s image [deyokeno] came and appeared to him in the window.
What gives Yosef the strength to run from Eishes Potiphar? The image of his father in the window shocked him back into reality. After seeing his father's face, Yosef had the courage to do whatever needed to be done in order to remain true to his values. But what was it that made Yaakov's face pop into the window at that moment? Was it a miraculous message from God? Was it, as some suggest, the image of Yosef himself (he looked like his father) and the window was acting as a mirror?
וַיָּקֻ֩מוּ֩ כָל־בָּנָ֨יו וְכָל־בְּנֹתָ֜יו לְנַֽחֲמ֗וֹ וַיְמָאֵן֙ לְהִתְנַחֵ֔ם וַיֹּ֕אמֶר כִּֽי־אֵרֵ֧ד אֶל־בְּנִ֛י אָבֵ֖ל שְׁאֹ֑לָה וַיֵּ֥בְךְּ אֹת֖וֹ אָבִֽיו:
And all his sons and all his daughters arose to console him, but he refused to be consoled, for he said, "Because I will descend on account of my son as a mourner to the grave"; and his father wept for him. (Bereishis 37:35)
וַיְמָאֵ֓ן | וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ אֶל־אֵ֣שֶׁת אֲדֹנָ֔יו הֵ֣ן אֲדֹנִ֔י לֹֽא־יָדַ֥ע אִתִּ֖י מַה־בַּבָּ֑יִת וְכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־יֶשׁ־ל֖וֹ נָתַ֥ן בְּיָדִֽי:
But he refused, and he said to his master's wife, "Behold, with me my master knows nothing about anything in the house, and all he has he has given into my hand. (Bereishis 39:8)
What gave Yosef the capacity to "refuse" the advances of Potiphar's wife was the knoweldge that his father refused to give up on him. Yaakov Avinu would not accept that Yosef was dead and refused to be consoled. Though Yosef is far away in Mitzrayim he can feel the faith that his father has in him. And the distance wasn't just physical, it was spiritual as well. Mitzrayim is ervas haaretz, a place where the inappropriate is commonplace. Where idolatry reigns supreme. Yosef is the paradigmatic tzaddik. In a place like Mitzrayim his loneliness was not limited to missing his family, he felt like he did not belong. Mitzrayim, as a country, stands for everything he opposes. And yet, in a moment of weakness, when he has given in to the feeling that he can't fight anymore, he wells up with vigor and strength as he recalls his father who will never give up on him. Armed with the knowledge that his fathers love will never wane, that he is enough for his father even in the lowest depths of Mitzrayim, Yosef finds the courage to leave the house of Potiphar no matter what the cost. The greatest gift that Yaakov gave to Yosef was his unconditional love. The message that Yosef can feel, even though he is so far away, is "you are my child everywhere you go." It is this feeling of being enough for his father that allows Yosef to see his fathers image in the window and stay true to his values.
הַפַּ֨עַם֙ אוֹדֶ֣ה אֶת־יְהֹוָ֔ה עַל־כֵּ֛ן קָֽרְאָ֥ה שְׁמ֖וֹ יְהוּדָ֑ה וַתַּֽעֲמֹ֖ד מִלֶּֽדֶת:
And she conceived again and bore a son, and she said, "This time, I will thank the Lord! Therefore, she named him Yehuda, and [then] she stopped bearing. (Bereishis 29:35)
The Gemara (Berachos 7b) relates that from the day Hashem created the world, no one thanked Him until Leah thanked Him for the birth of Yehuda.
The meaning behind this Gemara is difficult for us to understand? Our Avos did not thank Hashem before Leah did? Sarah didn't thank Hashem for the birth of Yitzchak? The classic answer to this question is that the name Yehuda means thankful. Every time Leah called out to her son Yehuda she was thanking God. Until now people had thanked Hashem but no one had ever named their child "thankful" so that they would thank Hashem every time she called out to him.
But I would like to focus on a different aspect of this story. What was it like for Yehuda to grow up with a mother who every time she called him was expressing her thanks to Hashem for his birth? What is the psychological impact on a child who knows deeply that his parents believe that he is a gift from God and he constantly hears them expressing their gratitude? I would like to think that a child who grows up with a name like Yehuda will feel like he is enough. What greater message could we give to our children? You are a gift from God. I am grateful to Hashem every time I call out your name. Leah role modeled the concept of "enough" for her child and imbued it in his very essence. Years later this would be the quality that would allow him to ascend to the Malchus of Klal Yisrael. Faced with the choice between protecting his honor or taking a hit to his dignity, Yehuda is enough for himself and does the right thing. I can't imagine what it must have been like to stand in front of his father and brothers and admit that he engaged a harlot on the side of the road. Especially in light of the fact that he had just convinced his brothers to sell Yosef and they were now watching their father who refuses to be consoled. Yehuda's stature must have been at an all time low. But those who are enough have the capacity to know that while they will certainly take a hit, they will be ok. Better to be honest and authentic and lose a little bit of honor than lose the dignity that comes with cover ups and lies.
It is interesting to note that we identify Mashiach with the tribes of Yehuda and Yosef. Perhaps the message is that when we are enough, when we know that the infinite spark of God inside of us can never be extinguished, when we can express gratitude to Hashem for everything he has given us and fear no evil for He is with us, then and only then will we be zocheh to greet Mashiach Tzidkeinu.