Judah, Judah, Judah

      No Comments on Judah, Judah, Judah

Your Humble Blogger has no new insights on the Khanike story. Well, I do have a new and ridiculous decision to become a crank who insists that the correct English transliteration is the YIVO-approved Khanike. But the actual thing, no. I still generally approve of lights during this season of the year, whether they are Khanike candles or Christmas baubles. It gets dark early and stays dark, and we need all the lights we can get.

I did have a kind of insight on the parshah from last Saturday, in which we read (among other things) the Tamar story, inserted awkwardly into the Joseph saga. Only—and I suspect that this is completely wrong—if we read the end of Exodus not as the story of Joseph but as the story of Judah, how he goes from being a terrible young asshole to becoming the head of the primary tribe. Or, if you want to think about it this way, the story of why one of the names for the whole Jewish people is derived from such a terrible young asshole. From this point of view, Joseph is a supporting character. A terrific supporting character, but a supporting character. Judah is saddled with an obnoxious younger brother, conspires with his brothers to sell him into slavery, then there’s the Tamar story to kind of cap the prodigality part. Then we detour into what Joseph is up to, setting up the humiliation of Judah and his brothers and their redemption. Or something like that. Eventually Judah takes charge of his brothers, and it’s Judah who deals with Jacob the Blind and Judah who seems to lead his brothers in the reconciliation with Joseph.

This holiday that we’re in the middle of is about another Judah, the Maccabee. He’s a very dull character as a character. His father, Mattathias, is a little more interesting, being a fanatic. I’ve never really found the story of the Maccabees and their colonial revolt all that compelling, although it’s always possible to get bits and pieces out of them.

Why is the Hammer called Judah? Why does Mattathias, or Matisyahu, the son of Jonathan the Kohen, name his son Judah? For that matter, why does Jonathan name his son Matisyahu, which strikes me as a Hellenic-sounding name? Then Matisyahu the arch-anti-Hellenist names his five sons: Jonathan (presumably named after his grandfather), Eleazar (a solid Biblical name), Jochanan (there are a bunch of minor Jochanans in the Chronicles), and Judah and Simon (who are presumably named for Joseph’s brothers) . On the other hand, we don’t actually have the original Hebrew text. If there was an original Hebrew text. What we’ve got is (if I understand correctly) a few Greek texts, some of which are or purport to be translations into Greek of Hebrew originals. Maybe the names are not historical. Maybe the names are Hellenized. Now that I think about it, it’s kinda funny that we have the story of the Great Anti-Hellenic Rebellion only in Greek texts that purport to be translations of putative Hebrew originals of which we have no independent evidence. Take that, Hellenizers!

Anyway, why call a boy Simon? Why would you name a kid Naftali? And why Judah?

Was Judah the Hammer a young asshole, like the Judah for whom he was (I suppose) named? If he had lived, would he have matured into a better leader, like Judah did?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.