This week’s parasha is all about ups and downs. Yehudah goes down from his brothers, Yosef goes down to Egypt and then there are the spiritual ups and downs. Yehudah is seduced by Tamar, his former daughter-in-law, and Yosef is seduced by the wife of Potiphar. It is noteworthy that the name יהודה contains the Name of HaShem and the letter ד, while Yosef is granted another letter in his name to read יהוסף. The Gemara (Sota 36b ) teaches us that Yosef receive this extra letter in his name because he sanctify his name in public. We can suggest that the letter ד represent the four exiles that the Jewish People have endured, and Yehudah, despite the ups and downs of the Davidic dynasty, will endure.
Indeed, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 5a) states that the blessing that Yaakov gave Yehudah (Bereishis 49:10) לֹא יָסוּר שֵׁבֶט מִיהוּדָה, the scepter shall not depart from Yehudah, was fulfilled even in the exiles, as the princes and leaders in Babylonia served as substitutes for the Davidic kingdom. The letter ה in Yosef’s name symbolizes the world that was created with the letter ה. Yosef was always living in this world and was always reflecting HaShem’s manifestation in this world. The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 86:5) states that when Yosef’s master requested hot water, Yosef was able to instantly serve him hot water, and when his master desired cold water, Yosef served him cold water. This was a clear sign of how Yosef was able to control the materialism of this world. Yehudah, however, was essentially removed from this world, and this is reflected in his name where four out of the five letters comprise HaShem’s Name. These allusions teach us that we have two models to strive for, Yehudah and Yosef. These two pious men represent our existence in this world, as we seek to bring sanctity into the mundane and secular and we simultaneously strive to ascend the spiritual ladder.
HaShem should grant us the strength and fortitude to resist temptation and live our lives with holiness and purity.
Have an Ascending, Pure and Holy Shabbos!