By Dovid Rifkind
"And Hashem saw that
Leah was hated and He opened her womb while Rachel was barren "(Gen.
Simply understood, the Torah is telling us that
Yaakov Avinu hated Leah. While even in and of itself this would
be hard to fathom, this verse becomes even more difficult to understand
when taken in context with the immediately preceding verse, "And
he came to Rachel and he loved Rachel even more than Leah"
(Gen. 29:30). From this it is clear that, although his love for
Rachel was deeper than that of for Leah, Yaakov did indeed love
Leah as well.
in Bava Basra (123a) illuminates the matter. The Gemara opens by
explaining (Gen. 29:17) "And Leah's eyes were tender."
Rav explains that Leah had heard it said that as Rivka had two sons,
Yaakov and Esav, and Lavan had two daughters, Rachel and Leah, that
it would be fitting for the elder (Leah) to marry the elder (Esav)
and for the younger (Rachel) to marry the younger (Yaakov). When
Leah learned, however, of the differences between the two brothers,
she cried until her eyelids tore. This, the Gemara explains, is
why Leah's eyes were, tender.
on this, the Gemara explains the above verse as well. The verse
which, simply reads, "And Hashem saw that Leah was hated"
can also be translated as "And Hashem saw that Leah hated."
This, the Gemara explains, is the correct interpretation, and what
the Torah is telling us, is that when Hashem saw how abhorrent Esav's
ways were to Leah, He granted her children.
We see this concept later
in the Parsha as well.
And Rachel saw that she had
not borne children to Yaakov, and Rachel became envious of her sister.
She said to Yaakov, "Give me children; if not I am dead."
Rashi, quoting the Midrash,
explains that Rachel's envy was really of Leah's good deeds, for,
she said to herself, were Leah not more righteous than I, she would
not have been worthy of bearing sons.
The Be'er Yoseph asks, if
Rachel was concerned that Leah was more righteous than she, the
proper and more effective thing to do would have been to emulate
Leah's ways. Why then was Rachel so despondent? He answers, based
on the above Gemara: Being that the special merit that Leah had
was the despair she expressed over the thought of marriage to Esav,
Rachel assumed that she, who had never been destined to marry Esav,
could not emulate this facet of Leah's behavior. This, then, was
the cause of her concern. Ironically, we find that Rachel did end
up following Leah's example. In Gen. 30:22, we find "And The
Lord remembered Rachel, and The Lord listened to her and opened
her womb." Rashi, quoting the Midrash, says that when Rachel
saw that she was unable to bear a child, she feared that Yaakov
would divorce her and that she would fall to Esav, and that indeed
this was Esav's intent. This caused Rachel severe anguish. It was
this anguish which Hashem "remembered" and in the merit
of which Rachel was granted children.
We see then that both Leah's
and Rachel's ability to bear children, and to thereby attain their
status as Matriarchs of the Jewish people, was dependent upon their
abhorrence of the evil ways of Esav. It was not enough that they
themselves acted righteously. It would seem that being that Rachel
and Leah, along with the other Matriarchs and Patriarchs were responsible
for instilling a set of morals into the newly forming Jewish nation,
which would remain the bedrock of Judaism until this day, it wasn't
sufficient that they merely follow a righteous path. In order to
be successful at this monumental task, it was necessary that righteousness
be the very fiber of their lives. It was for this reason that before
determining that they were worthy of Matriarchal status, Hashem
had to see that the mere thought of living any other way of life
was enough to literally drive them to tears.
In a similar vein, we find
that upon Yaakov relating to Rachel and Leah that an angel of G-d
had told him to leave the house of Lavan and return to the land
of his birth, that they give a very interesting response.
"Then Rachel and Leah
replied and said to him 'Have we still a share and an inheritance
in our father's house? Are we not considered by him as strangers,
for he has sold us? And he has even totally consumed our money.
Rather all the wealth that G-d has taken away from our father belongs
to us, so now whatever G-d said to you, do.'" (Gen. 31:15-17)
On the surface, it is difficult
to understand their response.. Were they predicating their acceptance
of G-d's word on the fact that they had nothing to lose? Should
not their response have been, "If that is the will of G-d,
we will obey"? Rav Elya Lopian zt"l explains that what
Rachel and Leah were really saying was "We are not going just
out of a sense that we must obey the word of Hashem. Rather we go,
happily, understanding that if this is the will of Hashem, it is
then, by definition, for our good, and there is therefore no room
for expression of regret for all that we are leaving behind."
Once again, we see an expression of the unswerving faith of Rachel
and Leah, this time at the very point that they are leaving behind
their old surroundings, and in a sense, embarking on their career
as Matriarchs of a new nation. Once again, it was this ability to
sever all ties to their past, without any trace of sadness, that
translated into their success at imbedding their values so deeply
into their children, that they have survived over all the ensuing
generations. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l used to comment that
one of the reasons so many immigrant children of the '20's and '30's
didn't follow in their parents' footsteps, even after seeing the
tremendous sacrifice their parents made to keep Shabbos, was because,
after being fired yet again for not showing up for work on Shabbos,
they would hear their father sigh, "Ess is shver tzu zein a
yid" "It's difficult to be Jewish."
It is important for us to
keep in mind as we strive to impart our values to our children,
that the ones which will ultimately endure are those which they
sense are truly part of ourselves. And, therefore, perhaps the first
step in being a successful parent or teacher is to look inward at
where we ourselves are lacking, and to take steps to rectify those