(Torah Portion Vayaitzai) Wedding Plans…
Imagine being engaged to be married to a fine gentleman. Your father tells your fiancé to work for him for seven years and only then could he marry. Your fiancé works diligently for the seven years, generating huge profits for his future father-in-law.
The wedding day finally arrives. Your fiancé has been cheated far too many times over the years by your father and he is concerned that your father may substitute your older sister giving her over to marriage instead of you. Since you and your older sister look very much alike, a secret code is made up between you and your fiancé. He will ask for the code under the Chupah to verify your true identity. Seems like a fail proof arrangement.
At the wedding, your living nightmare begins to unfold. Your deceitful father is at it again, he has taken your sister down the aisle instead of you! As much as you and your fiancé had anticipated this, you are in a state of shock. Then you think to yourself, how clever it was that you planned for this and formulated a code between the two of you, for in just a few moments your fiancé will demand that the code be given over.
But suddenly, a frightful thought occurs to you. “What if I were in my sister’s position? Would I ever be able to live through the embarrassment of being exposed as an impostor?” You quickly decide that preventing your sister’s embarrassment is more important than your own aspirations and dreams of your future, and you build up the courage and pass on the secret code to your sister.
Seems like an unlikely story or a fictional novel? Yet this is what actually happened with our matriarchs Rachel and Leah. Rachel, the younger daughter of Lavan was supposed to marry Yaacov after he worked for Lavan for seven years, and the deceitful Lavan switched Leah with Rachel at the wedding ceremony. Rachel spared Leah from embarrassment by giving her the code.
The next day Yaacov confronted Lavan over the switch and Lavan claimed he acted in a rightful manner since, “In this city the older daughter always marries before the younger.”
Lavan was a well known conniver. He actually manipulated the townspeople to cover the cost of his daughter’s wedding. The undeterred and brazen Lavan made a deal with Yaacov that he could also marry Rachel on the condition that after their marriage he works for him an additional seven years. Rachel and Leah became co-wives to Yaacov.
Imagine if Lavan’s fiasco would be broadcast on today’s social media; one can only picture the opinions that would appear on the blogs and tweets. I am sure, very few would focus on Rachel’s sensitivity towards her sister – because displays of sensitivity, compassion and caring isn’t what is eye catching, newsworthy or what ‘sells’.
Our Medrash however, gives us an idea of how Rachel’s extraordinary actions impacted upon her future descendants.
In the Book of Jeremiah the prophet speaks and warns the Jewish people that the Temple would be destroyed and Israel would be exiled if they would not abandon their idol worship and return to G-d.
Jeremiah also promises that eventually the Jewish people would be redeemed and return to Israel for good. In his words he mentions, “So says Hashem: A voice is heard on high – wailing, bitter weeping – our Matriarch Rachel weeps for her children.”
Rashi cites the Medrash which is an enduring source of inspiration for Israel: When the wicked King Menashe of Judah set up an idol within G-d’s Temple, G-d decided that the Temple would be destroyed and the people exiled from Israel. The souls of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs pleaded with G-d to rescind His decree, but G-d rejected their pleas.
Finally, Rachel came weeping before G-d. “Surely Your mercy is greater than the mercy of a mortal human being! Look at the mercy I displayed, when my father Lavan substituted my sister Leah under the Chupah. Not only did I remain silent, I even gave her the password, thus allowing a rival into my household. You, O G-d should do the same. Although Your children have brought a rival (an idol) into Your Temple, may You be silent.” G-d told Rachel, “You have defended them well.” G-d promised Rachel that the Jewish exile would eventually end and the Jewish people will be returned to their land!
Yes, Lavan’s actions caused a stir and he was certainly a fraud. But the lesson we take from the story is just how great the positive and beneficial impact is when one spares another from embarrassment.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks