The Torah relates that Yaacov wanted to marry Rochel, the daughter of Lavan, but being aware of Lavan’s sly and devious nature, he suspected that Lavan would likely switch Rochel with her older sister Leah at the wedding ceremony, so he drew up a contract with Lavan specifying his desire to marry his younger daughter Rachel. Yaacov was still not satisfied with this arrangement and devised a seemingly foolproof secret code between himself and Rachel.
However, even this proved fallible, as we see in the Torah’s account, that Lavan did in fact switch Rachel with Leah. How was this able to occur? Didn’t Yaccov have a good system in place?
The answer is, that when Rachel became aware that her sister Leah was being substituted she couldn’t bear seeing Leah exposed and embarrassed in front of all the guests. She therefore whispered the code to Leah thus giving up her first rights to marry Yaacov.
This took a great amount of courage on Rachel’s part. However, how was she able to do this at the expense of Yaacov?
Let’s first see Yaacov’s reaction to the situation. The Torah relates that he did not become enraged at Lavan; rather, he stated, “What did you do to me? Didn’t I work for Rachel? So why did you deceive me?” Lavan gave an excuse and told Yaacov he could marry Rachel in a week’s time on the condition he works for him for another seven years.
Moreover, Yaacov was not upset at Rachel for giving over the code to Leah. On the contrary, the Torah testifies that Yaacov’s love for Rachel was very deep.
Commentators explain that Yaacov wasn’t smitten with love by the physical beauty of Rachel; rather, his primary interest was in a wife who would imbue within his home and children a sense of care, compassion and sensitivity to others. When it became clear what Rachel did in order to spare her sister from embarrassment, Yaacov’s love for Rachel only intensified.
The Torah relates that Leah’s son Reuven brought home special flowers. Rachel, who at that time was barren, asked Leah if she could have the flowers. Leah responded, “Is it not enough that you took my husband from me, you also want the flowers that my son picked for me?”
Now, how is it possible for Leah to say such a thing? After all, didn’t Rachel unselfishly give up her slot for Leah? Leah should have been indebted and grateful to Rachel, rather than taking her to task.
I came across an answer which highlights Rachel’s purity of character. From Leah’s response, we have a glimpse of how Rachel gave the code to Leah. She did it in such a convincing manner, that Leah felt that indeed she was the intended bride!
Leah was generous and caring to her sister Rachel as well. Our Sages tell us that our foremothers, Rachel and Leah were aware that between the two of them and their maidservants Bilah and Zilpah they would give birth to 12 sons. After Leah bore six sons, and Bilah and Zilpah had each borne 2 sons, the Torah relates that Leah became pregnant. Our Sages tell us Leah knew she was pregnant with a son and she prayed to G-d that it be switched to a girl. G-d listened and Dinah, a daughter, was born to Leah.
Our Sages explain Leah’s intention as follows: “If I were to have a seventh son, that would mean that all that is left for my barren sister Rachel is one son, which would be less than the two sons that each of the maidservants have. Due to Leah’s sensitivity towards Rachel, she prayed that the fetus turn into a girl and, in fact, Rachel eventually gave birth to two sons, Yosef and Binyamin.
The Torah relates that G-d ‘remembered Rachel’ and opened her womb and she became pregnant. Our Sages explain that ‘G-d remembered’ how Rachel unselfishly gave over the code to her sister and due to this magnanimous act she merited the ability to have children.
In this week’s Parsha the Torah relates a disturbing incident where Dinah, the daughter of Leah, was abducted and assaulted by a prince, Shechem the son of Chamor.
The Torah details how Dinah’s two brothers, Shimon and Levi, killed all the male inhabitants of the city of Shechem and rescued Dinah.
Dinah became pregnant by Shechem, and gave birth to a daughter named Osnath. Having her around wasn’t a good reminder of this incident, and her grandfather Yaacov gave her a gold cameo with special words written on it. She was sent off to Egypt with the angel Michael where she became the adopted daughter of Potifar the officer of the Pharoh.
Years later Yosef became viceroy of Egypt. He was very successful and handsome and Egyptian women, craving his attention, would toss personal items toward him for him to notice. Yosef, who was a Tzadik – pure and righteous, would not consider an Egyptian wife.
When Osnath threw her cameo toward Yosef he opened it and saw that it said, “I am a descendant of Yaacov.” Eventually, Yosef married Osnath.
So as a result of Leah’s prayer for a daughter, Rachel was able to give birth to her son, Yosef. When Osnath was born due to the horrible episode that Dinah went through, little did Dinah know she was destined to become Yosef’s mother in law!
Seeing how all these events are worked out and intertwined, we see that no good deed that one does goes unnoticed by the Almighty!