Daf Yomi Nedarim 57
Yehuda’s life was in tatters. Realizing he’d messed up by selling Yosef into slavery, he leaves his family and finds a Canaanite wife. Bearing him three sons, she then passes away. Subsequently, the first two sons die; who knew what might happen to the third if he too were to marry his brothers’ ‘black widow?’
One day, he is out and about and spots a harlot by the roadside. He consorts with her and promises to compensate her for her services; but alas, later he cannot find her and becomes gripped with fear that he would be made a further mockery of. Three months later, he finds out his daughter-in-law is pregnant and commits her to death by burning. She then presents his staff and signet ring and asks if he recognizes them.
If a person says: ‘I vow to abstain from these fruits;’ ‘they are off-limits for my mouth;’ or ‘they are off limits to my mouth,’ he is forbidden to partake of their substitutes or their outgrowths.
If he says, ‘I shall not eat;’ or ‘I shall not taste,’ he is permitted the substitutes or outgrowths of a fruit whose seed is destroyed (decomposes). But regarding a fruit whose seed is not destroyed, he is forbidden to partake of even the outgrowths of the outgrowths.
How does a fruit tree grow? You place a tiny little seed into the ground. The seed then rots. And then, lo and behold, a tree begins to grow in the place of the rotted, destroyed seed.
Imagine how that little seedling feels right before it transforms into a beautiful fruit-filled, life-giving tree. It feels rotten. It feels worthless. It feels that this is the end. I’m under the earth, I don’t remember the last time I saw the sun. I’m rotting away. I feel as if I’ve been buried alive. There’s no hope.
That’s how Yehuda felt. He had lost everything. His brothers despised him for leading them down the ill-advised path of Yosef’s sale. He had caused a state of life-long grief to his father. His children had died one after another. He was in such a terrible place in life that he was willing to commit impulsive acts of immorality. And then to top it all off, his daughter-in-law had apparently acted unfaithfully to his remaining son and she too would have to die.
At that point he was faced with a tough decision. Do I give up and follow my sons and daughter-in-law? Or do I turn my life around? And with unbridled courage, he rises up and declares that he is ready to lead the children of Israel once more. He restores his position as prince among his brothers, paving the way to the kings of Israel that would sprout forth from his descendants, from Kings David and Solomon until the ultimate King Moshiach, may he come speedily in our days.
Often in life, you feel like you’re under the earth, you can’t even reach the surface. You’re feeling tiny, worthless. You’re feeling absolutely rotten and destroyed, like there’s no hope in sight.
It is precisely that moment that the Almighty has been preparing you for to enter your incredible growth phase. Sometimes you cannot reach the next level until that decomposition has taken place. Yehuda became the king of his brothers after experiencing the near-complete devastation of his entire life. His seed had rotted and he was left gasping for air beneath the earth’s surface. But he held on and his life bloomed into the most magnificent tree.
Do you feel helpless? Hopeless? That your life has not gone the way you planned? Don’t give up! That’s G-d preparing you for the incredible blossoming that is about to take place. They say that the night is darkest before the dawn. Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom and witness destruction before your life can shift into a new phase and the great things you were destined for can occur.
Don’t ever give up! Maintain your faith in Heaven. The Almighty is merely testing your tenacity. May your hope be emboldened by the challenge and may you merit becoming that awesome tree you were destined to be very soon!