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June 2: The Tribe of Judah

June 1, 2015

lion-1According to the Biblical calendar, as calculated by the Lubavitcher hasidim and other believers in Biblical infallibility, Judah, the fourth son of Jacob and Leah, was born on this date in 1565 BCE and died on the same date 119 years later. Judah is best known for several scenes in the book of Genesis: He convinces his brothers to sell Joseph into slavery rather than kill him (“Let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our flesh”); he is seduced into impregnating his aggrieved daughter-in-law Tamar (“She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah”); he pleads with Joseph, now chancellor of Egypt, for their brother Benjamin’s life (“please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers”); and for being selected by his father Jacob on his deathbed as leader (“The scepter shall not depart from Judah”). When King Solomon died in the 10th century BCE and his kingdom split into Israel (to the north) and Judah (to the south), only the Judeans survived: The northern tribes were conquered by Assyria and scattered, while the Judeans conquered by the Babylonians and ultimately allowed to return from exile.

“Over time, the terms ‘Judean’ and ‘Jew’ — which originally referred to a member of the tribe of Judah — became synonymous with ‘Israelite’ and was used to refer to the descendants of all of Jacob’s twelve sons — i.e., the Jewish people.” —