Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sharing the Signs

And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep: for she kept them. And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's brother, and that he was Rebekah's son: and she ran and told her father. Genesis 29:9-12

After describing the initial meeting of Yaakov and Rachel (Bereshit 29:9-12) [Note: In Hebrew, Genesis is pronounced Bera-sheet], which may be the unique case in the Bible of “love at first sight,” the Torah introduces us to both sisters (Bereshit 29:16-17).

And Lavan had two daughters; the name of the older one was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in face and form.”

Having stated this brief physical description, the Torah leaves it to the young women to reveal their characters by their actions. But the Midrash is not willing to let the Torah’s description be misunderstood.

“Leah was as beautiful as Rachel.” (Midrash Tanchuma 2; VaYetze 12) The Tanchuma continues, “At the same time as Rivkah gave birth to Yaakov and Esav, there were born to Laban two daughters (also twins [probably identical] ), Leah and Rachel.

They exchanged letters and agreed that Esav would marry Leah and Yaakov would marry Rachel. Leah wept continually about this wedding arrangement that linked her with Esav HaRasha,” Esav the wicked, until ‘her eyes became weak(Bereshit 29:17).” (M.T. 2; Vayetze 12)

Yaakov contracted with Lavan that he would work for him for seven years, in exchange for the hand of Rachel in marriage. For fear of deceit on the part of Lavan, Yaakov gave Rachel signs so that he could distinguish her from Leah.

But on that fateful night, as we learn in the Talmud (Bava Batra 123a), Rachel thought, “I know my father will give Leah in marriage instead of me. Now my sister will be humiliated.” So she told Leah the signs.

Because of her exceptional “tzniut,” (modesty and humility) the Talmud in Megilah 13b tells us that Rachel had the merit that Shaul, the first king of Israel, who according to I Samuel 10:22, was “hidden among the vessels,” when Shmuel came to anoint him as king, descended from her.



  1. Can't wait for you to tell us more. :)

  2. This is great! I love your blog. I'm learning so much.

  3. I always felt a bit sorry for Leah. Couldn't have been a great marriage for her, with a husband who probably resented her because she'd been forced on him.