A New Role
And it was in the morning, and behold it was Leah!" (29:25)
According to the Talmud, Yaakov gave Rachel a secret message
that would identify her on their marriage night. He did this in order to
prevent Lavan from substituting Leah for Rachel. When Rachel realized that
Leah would be publicly humiliated if she could not give Yaakov the message,
Rachel revealed the secret words to her. The Daas Zekainim cites a
Midrash which says that in the morning, when Yaakov realized that the woman
with him was Leah and not Rachel, he asked her, "Why have you tricked me
into believing that you were Rachel?" Leah responded, "It is from you that I
learned to do so. Did you not pose as your brother in order to receive the
blessings?" How do Yaakov's actions substantiate Leah's?
Later in the parsha, Reuvein, Leah's eldest son brings her Duda'im, a plant
that, according to some commentaries, increases the chances of conception.
Rachel asks Leah to give her the Duda'im, to which Leah retorts, "Is it not
enough that you took my husband? Now you want to take my son's Duda'im?"
How could Leah make such a statement when the only reason that she was
married to Yaakov was Rachel's kindness toward her?
To begin answering the aforementioned questions, we must first answer
another question: Why are there four Matriarchs and only three Patriarchs?
The answer is that there were supposed to be four Patriarchs. Eisav had the
potential to become an Av, but since he made the wrong choices he lost this
right. Yaakov filled the void created by Eisav, functioning as two Avos. He
was therefore given a second name, Yisroel.
Rashi teaches that Leah was originally destined to marry Eisav, and Rachel,
Yaakov. When Leah saw that Yaakov took over the mantle of Eisav, Leah
realized that Yaakov became her soul mate. This is what she alluded to when
she told Yaakov, "It is from you I learned"; since you substituted for
Eisav, taking his blessings and birthright, you have become my soul mate.
Leah argued that her marriage to Yaakov was not due to Rachel's kindness; it
was Leah's right once Yaakov had assumed Eisav's role. Therefore, Leah felt
justified in criticizing Rachel for having taken away her husband.
It is interesting to note that the children who issued forth from Leah
possessed many of Eisav's characteristics and propensities. Dovid Hamelech,
a descendant of Leah's son Yehuda, is described as "Admoni" - "of ruddy
complexion". This is the same description the Torah gives for Eisav.
Shimon and Levi were involved in shedding blood, and were admonished by
Yaakov for having used Eisav's craft. Leah praised Reuvein for perfecting
character flaws which his uncle Eisav displayed. A perusal of the verses
with Rashi's commentary shows many examples of this nature. The reason for
this phenomenon is that Leah was initially Eisav's soul mate. Therefore, she
possessed of the same propensities found within Eisav. Whereas Eisav was not
able to channel these propensities correctly, it was left up to Leah's
offspring to do so.
4.32:29 See Michtav Me'Eliyahu Parshas Vayeishev who cites the Gra and the
Ramchal who say that Yaakov connects to Rachel and Yisroel to Leah.
5.29:17 6.Shmuel 1 17:42
8.49:5 See Rashi
Dealing With The Out-Laws
Yaakov told Rachel that he was her father's brother..." (29:12)
The Torah relates that when Yaakov met Rachel, he
identified himself as "achi aviha" - "her father's brother". The Talmud
questions Yaakov's response, for Lavan was Yaakov's uncle, not his brother,
and then proceeds to explain that Yaakov knew, as soon as he met her, that
Rachel was destined to be his wife. Rachel accepted Yaakov's proposal but
voiced her concern that her father, a notorious swindler would manipulate
Yaakov into marrying Leah, her older sister. Yaakov assured her that this
would not occur for he was her father's brother, i.e. Lavan's equal in
The Ohr HaChaim asks how a tzaddik such as Yaakov could even suggest that he
would be willing to stoop to the level of a swindler. Although the Talmud
cites a verse which states "with a crooked person one may deal
underhandedly", thus validating Yaakov's position, the Ohr Hachaim
nevertheless opines that Yaakov would not have acted in a compromising
manner. Rather, he would have used his tremendous intellect to avoid
succumbing to Lavan's machinations.
The Targum Yonasan offers a slightly different interpretation. He states
that Yaakov told Rachel "ana ramai vchakim yatir minei" - "I am both a
greater swindler and wiser than he is." According to the Targum, Yaakov then
added the statement "v'leis lei reshu l'avisha li" - "and he has no
permission to cause me harm". Yaakov was referring to the assurance that
Hashem had given him in Beis El, when leaving Eretz Yisroel, that he would
be protected from all evil. If Yaakov had this assurance from Hashem, why
did he need to preface his comments with the statement that he was a greater
swindler and wiser than Lavan?
The Torah records that Yaakov did not send Binyomin with his brothers when
they traveled to buy provisions "shema yikra lo ason" - "lest disaster
befall him". The Midrash notes that if it is Hashem's will that a person
die, it can occur both in the home or on the road. Of what then, was Yaakov
afraid? The Midrash answers that although a person may merit Hashem's
protection from evil, if he places himself in dangerous circumstances
"HaSatan mekatreg besha'as hasakana" - "Satan prosecutes at a time of
danger". A person who compromises his safety loses his Divine protection.
Engaging a man such as Lavan was flirting with danger and therefore, it
could not be automatically assumed that Yaakov would be Divinely protected.
It was only because Yaakov had the natural capacity to contend with Lavan,
which mitigated the danger involved, that he could expect Divine protection.
The Targum is teaching us that Yaakov, the "Ish Emes" - "Man of Truth" did
not place himself in a situation that could undermine his integrity; rather,
to ensure Divine protection he had to have the potential to save himself.
6.Bereishis Rabbah 91:9