Vayetze by Rabbi Riskin

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Isaac ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama. 
Our story must begin in the magnificent love-at-first-sight affair between Jacob and Rachel, when the itinerant relative single-handedly removes a heavy stone from the well- which usually required the concerted effort of all the shepherds together in order to impress the approaching Rachel (Genesis 29:10).
He agrees to work for her father Laban in order to procure her hand in marriage, "And Jacob worked for the sake of Rachel for seven years, and they seemed in his eyes as but several days because of his love for her" (Genesis 29:20). But alas, the deceptive Laban substituted the beautiful of stature, beautiful of appearance Rachel for less comely, weak-eyed elder sister Leah. Jacob agrees to the marriage of both sisters, obligating himself to work yet an additional seven years for Rachel. "But he loved Rachel more than Leah And when G-d saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb, whereas Rachel was barren" (Genesis 29:31). And so the stage is set, with the beloved wife Rachel and her "hated" rival Leah. In a very poignant and subtle manner, the Bible describes the silent heroism of Leah: "And Leah conceived and gave birth to a son; she called his name Reuven (Literally: See-a son), because she said, 'because G-d has seen into my affliction; perhaps now my husband will love me'" (Genesis 29:32). The usage of the ablative form, "into or through my affliction" rather than simply "my affliction" (be'onyi and not et onyi) suggests that Leah did not wear her pain on her sleeves; much the opposite, she only sobbed into her pillow at night -probably every night that she was rejected in favor of the more beautiful Rachel. This nuance is clearly perceived by Targum, who renders the phrase in his Aramaic translation, 'since my shame has been revealed before G-d' before G-d, but not before no one else! This image is reinforced by the very next verse: "And she (Leah) conceived again and bore a son. And she said, "because G-d heard that I was hated, so He gave me also this (one); and she called his name Shim-on (literally, He hears on, affliction - Genesis 29:33). The world may see a radiantly smiling mother of sons, but G-d hears her cries of hurt and rejection. The truth of her feelings are underscored by the fact that she and not her husband names her two eldest sons; it seems as though Jacob couldn't have cared less - since they were not born to his beloved Rachel!
By Rabbi Riskin

Dedicated in memory of Avrohom Ber ben Yosef Efraim HaLevi
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