SALT - Motzaei Shabbat, December 17, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Torah in Parashat Vayeshev tells the story of Tamar, Yehuda’s daughter-in-law, who was married first to Yehuda’s oldest son, and then, upon that son’s premature death, to Yehuda’s second son, who also then died.  Tamar anticipated marrying Yehuda’s third son (in accordance with the custom of yibum), but Yehuda, fearful that she somehow was causing his sons to die, refused.  Later, Tamar disguised as a prostitute and sat along the road where Yehuda was traveling.  Not recognizing the woman as his daughter-in-law, Yehuda solicited her services in exchange for a young goat which he promised to deliver upon his return home.  When he returned home, he sent the goat with Chira, a comrade who was introduced to us earlier, at the very beginning of this story (38:1).  Chira was unable to find the woman, who had returned to her parents’ home, and so he brought the goat back to Yehuda.

            In describing Yehuda’s attempt to deliver the goat to the woman, the Torah writes, “Yehuda sent the young goat with his friend, the Adulamite…” (38:20).  It has been noted that the Torah here does not identify Chira by his name, but rather by his relationship to Yehuda: “rei’eihu ha-Adulami” (“his friend the Adulamite”).  The reason, as some have suggested, is that the Torah seeks to emphasize Chira’s friendship with Yehuda because this is what enabled Yehuda to assign him such a task.  Sending payment to a prostitute whose services one had solicited is not a favor which a person could ask of anybody.  Only with a close, loyal friend would a person feel comfortable sharing such unflattering personal information.  And thus the Torah emphasizes that Yehuda sent the payment with “rei’eihu” – his close, trusted comrade, whom he knew would continue liking and respecting him despite the unseemly stains on his record.

            The Mishna in Avot (1:6) famously instructs, “…kenei lekha chaver” – that we should “acquire” a friend.  Something we “acquire” remains under our ownership in all circumstances, through thick and thin, as long as we keep it safely in our possession.  Chazal urge us to find friends who will remain loyal despite discovering our failings and weaknesses, friends to whom we can safely and comfortably divulge even embarrassing personal information.  True friendship is one in which the parties are mindful of not only each other’s admirable qualities, but also their faults, and are prepared to work together to grow and improve.  It is the kind of friendship that existed between Yehuda and Chira, with whom he entrusted the most unflattering aspects of his private life, and this is the kind of friendship which we are advised to “acquire” for ourselves.

(Based on an article by Rav Yissachar Frand)