I am the great grandson of Umberto Cassuto, Benyamin Enzo Rocca, and 5 days ago my wife and I were blessed with a son (3rd child). With his upcoming bris in a few days I would like to know if anyone has any experience or knowledge of Cassuto's writings. Did he have any special interpretations with the stories of Yehudah?

  • 9
    Mazal Tov, and welcome!
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 19, 2014 at 19:06
  • 8
    There's an extended quote from his 1929 article "The Story of Tamar and Judah" here (section G).
    – Fred
    Dec 19, 2014 at 19:13
  • 4
    Ben, I edited out the part of this post with your personal contact information. You're welcome to put that in your profile. (While you're at it, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features.) I hope that your question here gets some interesting answers that that anyone who reads this page can enjoy.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 19, 2014 at 19:23
  • @Fred page not found Nov 14, 2017 at 13:59
  • @rikitikitembo Here's an archived link: web.archive.org/web/20150315061026/http://www.vbm-torah.org/…
    – Fred
    Dec 25, 2017 at 1:11

1 Answer 1


Nechama Leibowitz used Rabbi Cassuto as a source for his view of the story of Yehudah and Tamar as a punishment for the sale of Yoseph.

3) Measure for Measure

Cassuto also believes that Yehudah’s problems in chapter 38 are related to his behavior in the episode of the sale of Yosef. A comparative analysis of the two narratives reveals a number of linguitic and content parallels that lead Cassuto to the conclusion that in chapter 38, Yehuda is being punished measure for measure (מדה כנגד מדה) for his flawed behavior in chapter 37:

מה שהביאני לידי דעה שאין להפריד בין הפרשה שלנו (פרשת יהודה ותמר)ובין מה שקדם לה הריהי ביחוד העובדה כי בין מעשה תמר ויהודה וביןמכירת יוסף יש להכיר מעין קשר פנימי המשתקף בהקבלת הניבים המורים על אותם הפרטים.[1]

What has brought me to the view that our chapter (the story of Yehudah and Tamar) cannot be separated from what preceded it is the fact that there is a kind of internal connection between the episode of Tamar and Yehudah and the episode of the sale of Yosef. This is reflected in the parallelism between a number of details in one episode to details in the other…

Cassuto’s use of the concept “measure for measure” is reflected in the following Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 85:9), which he cites:

וישלח יהודה את גדי העזים ביד רעהו" (בראשית לח:כ): …התורה היא משחקת על הבריות. אמר הקב"ה ליהודה: "אתה רמית לאביך בגדי עזים, חייך שתמר מרמה בך בגדי עזים.

And Yehuda sent the young goat in the hand of his friend” (Bereshit 38:20): … The Torah mocks mankind. God said to Yehudah: “You deceived your father with a young goat, by your life Tamar will deceive you with a young goat.”

Because Yehudah and his brothers stained Yosef’s coat with the blood of a young goat in order to trick their father into believing that Yosef had been killed, Yehudah was tricked by Tamar with a young goat. This is but one of the parallels between the two narratives that support Cassuto’s interpretation. The following are a number of additional corresponding elements in the two stories:

ויהי כאשר בא יוסף אל אחיו ויפשיטו את יוסף את כותנתו…

(בראשית לז:כג)

ויגד לתמר לאמר הנה חמיך עלה תמנתה לגז צאנו. ותסר בגדי אלמנותה… (בראשית לח:יג-יד)

And it was told to Tamar saying: “Behold your father-in-law is going up to Timna to shear his sheep.” And she removed her widow’s garments …

(Bereshit 38:14)

And it was when Yosef came to his brothers, and they removed Yosef’s coat from him…

(Bereshit 37:23)

וישלחו את כתונת הפסים ויביאו אל אביהם ויאמרו זאת מצאנו הכר נא הכתונת בנך הוא אם לא.

(בראשית לז:לב)

הוא מוצאת והיא שלחה אל חמיה לאמר לאיש אשר אלה לו אני הרה ותאמר הכר נא למי החותמת והפתילים והמטה האלה.(בראשית לח:כה)

When she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law saying: “By the man to whom these belong I am pregnant.” And she said: “Identify please whose are these signet, cord and staff.

(Bereshit 38:25)

And they sent the coat of many colors and brought it to their father, and said: “This we have found. Identify please if it is the coat of your son or not.”

(Bereshit 37:32)

This comparison indicates that the deceptions in the sale of Yosef and the story of Yehuda and Tamar were parallel from beginning to end. It is interesting to note that the following Midrash, found in the Schechter Genizah, also utilizes the parallel appearance of the young goat to explain the sale of Yosef as a “measure for measure” punishment for Ya’akov:

"וישחטו שעיר עזים"(בראשית לז:לא): משלם הקב"ה לבני אדם מדה כנגד מדה,ואפילו לצדיקי עולם משלם מדה כנגד מדה. יעקב אבינו רימה באביו בעורותגדיי עזים ובניו רימו בו בגדי עזים... (תורה שלמה, וישב לז:קפא)

And they slaughtered a young goat (Bereshit 37:31) - God repays man measure for measure, and even pays the righteous of the world measure for measure. Our father Ya’akov deceived his father using the skins of a young goat, and his sons deceived him with a young goat …(Torah Shleimah, Vayeshev 37:181)


A combined look at the commentaries on the stories of Yosef and Yehudah reveal an important common thread between the two events – that both stories must be viewed from both the human and Divine perspectives. Each story involves a drama in which human frailty leads to tragedy, and confrontation with that frailty leads to regeneration. In both stories, as well, the human drama unfolds within a larger picture that is driven by a Divine plan. As such, we can understand that ultimately from these two episodes emerged the two redeemers of Israel – Mashiach ben Yosef, and Mashiach ben David.[2]

[1] קסוטו, ב. ד., "מעשה תמר ויהודה" בציונים, הוצאת אשכול, ברלין תרפ"ט, דפים 93-100.

[2] There is a tradition among Jewish thinkers that there will be two stages to the messianic redemption involving the advent of two messianic figures – Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David. Mashiach ben Yosef is described as a warrior who will effect the national reunification of the Jewish people prior to the arrival of Mashiach ben David.

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