After his dream of "The Ladder", Yaakov (Jacob) finally arrived at his
destination of Aram Naharayim, birthplace of his mother, Rivka (Rebecca) and
his paternal grandparents, Avraham and Sara. He had left his parents
fourteen years earlier but had spent the intervening years in the Yeshiva
(Torah academy) of Shem and Aiver, toiling in study, preparing himself for
what would become a twenty-year exile in a heathenish environment. Yaakov
stood with the shepherds at the well, where as a group they would remove the
stone from the mouth of the well. "And it was, when Yaakov saw
Rachel...Yaakov came forward and rolled the stone off the mouth of the well
and watered the sheep of Lavan his mother's brother. Then Yaakov...raised
his voice and wept." (Beraishis/Genesis 29:10-11) Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo
Yitzchaki, 1040-1105, the commentator par excellence, whose commentary is
considered basic to the understanding of the text) explains that these were
not tears of joy for meeting his destined life's-mate. Yaakov cried because
he prophesied that they would not be buried together.
Firstly, what is the significance of being buried separately that Yaakov saw
it as a tragedy? Further, whatever bothered him about this eventuality, how
could his sense of joy not come to the fore? He came to this land knowing he
would now marry and bear the children who would become the Tribes of Israel.
His focus should be on the life they will share and the children they will
raise. How can he focus on their deaths at such a euphoric moment?
Michtav Me'Eliyahu (collected writings and discourses of Rabbi Eliyahu
Dessler (1891-1954) of London and B'nai Brak, one of the outstanding
personalities and thinkers of the Mussar movement) explains that only
someone with such purity of soul as our Forefather Yaakov could have cried
at this ecstatic moment. Yaakov understood that if their marriage would be
perfect, if they would share a complete spiritual unity, there could be no
separation in the physical world. He absorbed that their eternal physical
disconnection indicated there would be some lacking in their relationship.
The Talmud (Tractate Kesubos 8a) explains that Adam was originally created
as a hermaphrodite, with all the spiritual and physical components of both
man and woman, including the ability to reproduce. The separation of Eve
from Adam was not the creation of the female gender; rather, it was a
removal of the female characteristics - spiritual, intellectual and
physical - from Adam. The union of man and woman became necessary for them
to achieve the perfection of creation. Yaakov was keenly aware that marriage
is about more than having a best friend, a partner to share in life's trials
and tribulations. It is about the pursuit of spiritual excellence. He strove
for that flawlessness and was crushed by the prospect of anything less.