Judah

Jacob’s son Judah, guilty about selling his brother Joseph as a slave, leaves his father’s home to try to start a new life.
“When my eyes are open, the colors stain my view, distorting all that I see. These are the shades of betrayal, of guilt.”

The colors of the famed “technicolor dreamcoat” worn by Judah’s brother Joseph sparked the opening image of this piece.

The obvious choice for a monologue by Judah would have been to use the story of Judah and Tamar, since it’s neatly self-contained in Genesis 38.

Trying to write it, however, I found that the story involved a lot of surprising assumptions that would have had to be understood and explained in the context of the story. The status and role of prostitutes, both sacred and otherwise, in that society was one tricky aspect. Levirate marriage (in which a childless widow would become the wife of the late husband’s brother) was also difficult. Getting these straight would involve so much exposition that there would be little room for any emotional content in the brief format that I had chosen for this project.

So I backed up a step and looked at Judah’s role in the story of Joseph. I was surprised to see that Joseph comes across in the text as a lazy, arrogant jerk. The brothers’ resentment of him is, while taken to extremes, understandable.

But I got to imagining the aftermath of the deed, when the brothers have to live with the enormity of their actions, not only having sold their brother into slavery but having to keep up the pretense that he was killed, not letting their father know the truth. Judah had saved his brother’s life, but he couldn’t let his father know. The guilt stayed with him throughout his life, until he tried to redeem himself by surrendering himself rather than his youngest brother to an Egyptian leader (not realizing that that leader was Joseph himself).

This seems to give a reason for Judah’s abruptly leaving the scene at the beginning of the next chapter of Genesis, beginning a new family and trying to forget what had happened.

Questions

Have you had to hold secrets that grew more complex and burdensome over time? Would it have been or would it now be better to reveal the secrets? Or has keeping the secrets been a wise and compassionate choice?

 

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