(Torah Portion Vayaitzai) It Happened Right Here!
Greetings from the holy City of Jerusalem! Malki and I are in Israel for a short but uplifting and electrifying visit. As of now, the war is going on in Southern Israel and Gaza, and here in Jerusalem for the first time in many years, siren warnings of rocket attacks went off just about an hour after Shabbat descended upon us. At the time, I was praying at the Kotel, and although we did not hear the siren we were instructed by security personal to quickly head into the covered building on the side of the Kotel. Everyone ran to the closest bomb shelters. Mid afternoon Tuesday the siren sounded again. Thank G-d, all is safe here. We pray for the safety of all in Israel and Klal Yisroel!
While at the Kotel this week, I began reviewing the Portion of the week. Our forefather Yaacov had a prophetic dream of a ladder with angels going up and down. G-d reassured Yaacov that He would protect him and provide for all his needs. A certain sense of the reality of the story hit me, because this event occurred on the Temple Mount, a mere few feet from where I was standing!
G-d gave this assurance to Yaacov, because he was leaving the Land of Israel and going to his mother’s family in the Land of Charan to find a wife. Yaacov met his match Rachel, but his future father in law Lavan set a condition that Yaacov first had to work seven years for Lavan before he would be able to marry Rachel. The Torah relates that Lavan placed his older daughter Leah under the wedding canopy instead of Rachel. Because of the modesty they observed, it wasn’t until the next morning that Yaacov realized that he had married Leah.
After confronting Lavan about the deception, Lavan claimed that he was only following the custom of his city, where the older daughter marries before the younger. After waiting seven days, Yaacov married Rachel and then had to work for Lavan for an additional seven years!
The question raised is how did Leah justify going along with her deceitful father’s plan and stand in place of her sister?
The Talmud relates that the people of Charan would say, “Lavan has two daughters and his sister Rivka has two sons, the cousins are destined to marry; the older boy Aisav to the older daughter Leah and the younger boy Yaacov to the younger daughter Rachel. The thought that she would marry the wicked Aisav was as source of much pain to Leah.
Leah had a strong desire to build the house of Israel and be with Yaacov. When Yaacov discovered that it was Leah, the Medrash relates that he told her, “You are a deceiver the daughter of a deceiver. Last night I called you Rachel and you answered to it.”
Leah retorted, “When you went for the Blessings, your father asked if you were Aisav and you answered “yes.” Just like you (Yaacov) wanted the Patriarchal blessings and impersonated your brother Aisav in order to build the Jewish Family, so too, I impersonated my sister in order to be a part of building the Jewish Family.” Yaacov saw Leah’s sincere determination and kept her as a wife.
A question is raised. How did Yaacov marry two sisters, something that is forbidden in the Torah? There are a number of answers offered:
One is that Rachel and Leah were considered converts to the monotheistic beliefs of Avraham, and it was as if they were reborn, and were essentially not legally related to each other any longer.
A second answer is, they shared a common father, but had different mothers.
A third answer offered is that Yaacov married two sisters since the laws of the Torah weren’t officially given until Mount Sinai; Yaacov only observed what the Torah was going to eventually demand, while he was within the Land of Israel, and not outside its borders. In fact, immediately upon entering the land of Israel, the Torah relates that Rachel died and he remained married only to Leah.
The Torah tells us that Yaacov loved Rachel more than Leah, and the verse also relates that G-d saw that Leah was hated. Furthermore, when her son Shimon was born, Leah exclaimed, “Because G-d heard that I am hated.”
The question is raised, is it possible that the holy, humble and devout Yaacov, transgressed the Torah law of “Do not hate you brother in your heart?” Additionally, our Sages tell us that one has to love and respect his wife more than himself!
Rabbi Shimon Schwab o.b.m. explains with a significant insight into relationships; of course Leah was not hated by Yaacov in the colloquial meaning of the word hate! The hatred the Torah describes here is not the same hate that at times exists between two individuals. Yaacov certainly treated Leah like royalty and with the utmost respect, and we know that Leah bore seven of his children. However, since Leah lived with Rachel as a co-wife, who Yaacov had intended to marry and in reality loved more, she felt as though she was hated.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks