Friday, November 20, 2015

Torah Thoughts on Vayetze

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayetze (Gen. 28:10-32:3) Jacob runs away from his home in Beersheba to escape his brother’s fury.  He flees to Haran and meets his cousin, the daughter of Rebecca’s brother Laban, at the well.  He falls in love with her immediately and offers to work for Laban for seven years for her hand in marriage.  Laban agrees.  At the end of seven years, Laban makes a feast and in the evening (presumably after dark) brings his older daughter, Leah, to Jacob’s bed.  In the morning, Jacob awakens to find that he has married not his beloved Rachel, but her older sister.  He confronts Laban, who tells him that it is the custom that the elder daughter is married before the younger, but he offers Jacob Rachel’s hand in marriage as soon as Leah’s wedding week is over, for another seven years of work.

The Torah tells us that Jacob loved Rachel, and that “Leah was hated”, but doesn’t tell us why.  A midrash fills in the blanks: “The whole of that night he called her ‘Rachel’ and she answered him.  In the morning however, ‘Behold, it was Leah’ (Gen 29:25).  Said he to her, ‘What, you are a deceiver and the daughter of a deceiver!’ ‘Is there a teacher without pupils, ’she retorted; ‘did not your father call you Esau, and you answered him!  So did you too call me and I answered you!”  By drawing his attention to his own deception, Leah earns Jacob’s disfavor.  Unfortunately, that is not an uncommon consequence for those who tell the truth.

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