Yehuda and Yosef’s struggle for leadership of Yaakov’s family and the future nation of Israel reaches a climax in our parasha. Last week, we saw how both took falls. Yosef literally found himself in a bor (pit) twice. Once, where his brothers threw him; second, when he was put in jail after Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him. Yehuda also fell, in his case, from prominence. His brothers blamed him for the sale of Yosef, and his daughter-in-law caused him to make an embarrassing admission. (Notice the Torah’s use of the phrase, "haker nah," in both contexts).
In the end, Yosef reached great prominence and success. He ruled over Egypt and made his brothers capitulate to his every demand, as his dreams began being fulfilled. The key to his success, as the King of Egypt said about him, was: "There is none as wise and clever as you." Yet, before his death, Yaakov gave the future kingdom of Bnei Yisrael to Yehuda’s descendants (Bereishit 49:10). Yosef and his descendants did not lose all, as they retained a special status in Yaakov’s blessings.
History shows that there can be very fruitful cooperation between the two leading tribes of the nation, Yehuda, the son of Leah, and Yosef, the son of Rachel. When the townspeople of Beit Lechem, of the Tribe of Yehuda, blessed Ruth and her husband, Boaz, they said that she should be like Rachel and Leah, giving precedence to the "rival" matriarch. Yet, when Yehuda’s success reaches its peak, under the rule of Shlomo Hamelech, it was Yeravam, the leader of the Tribe of Ephrayim, Yosef’s son, who eclipsed his dynasty.
Who was to blame for the fallout? Chazal blame Yeravam, who was offered to stroll with Hashem and David Hamelech in Gan Eden but rejected the offer because David would be leading. On the other hand, simple reading of the p’sukim puts the blame on Shlomo, whose sins caused him to lose control of much of the nation. It was Hashem who hand-picked Yeravam and informed him that he would rise to the throne of the Ten Tribes. The following explanation can reconcile the difficulty.
Upon ascending to his father’s throne, Shlomo made the correct request of Hashem. While giving him more than he ever asked for, Hashem declared: "There will be no one more wise and clever than you, neither before you nor after you" (Melachim I, 3:12). Shlomo may have taken this language, reminiscent of Paroh’s declaration about Yosef, as a sign that the Eternal King had overruled Paroh’s empowerment of Yosef. From now on, only Shlomo and his family would possess a ruler’s wisdom. He might have also interpreted his father’s death wish for Shimi Ben Geira, called "first of the house of Yosef," as the end of the cooperation between these tribes.
A joining of forces of Yehuda and Yosef will apparently have to await the prophecy of Yechezkel, who took a staff representing Yehuda and one representing Yosef and held them together (37:15-16). May it happen soon!