Rachel and Leah

Vayeitze 5775

It’s easy to detect the competition between Rachel and Leah for Yaakov’s affections in Parashat Vayeitze.

Though Yaakov married both sisters, it’s clear that Rachel was his favorite.

Look at Bereshit 29 (Artscroll translation):

30 He consorted also with Rachel and loved Rachel even more than Leah; and he worked for him yet another seven years.
31 Hashem saw that Leah was unloved, so He opened her womb; but Rachel remained barren.

After giving birth to four sons, Leah stopped having children.

Dudaim

In Bereshit 30:14-15 the Torah records the incident of Reuvain (Leah’s oldest son) finding the dudaim. Rachel asks for some. Leah gives them to her in trade for the opportunity to sleep with Yaakov that night.

Leah is rewarded:

Bereshit 30:17 God hearkened [Hebrew: shin mem ayin] to Leah; and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son.

Finally, Rachel has a son:

Bereshit 30:22 God remembered [Hebrew: zayin kaf reish] Rachel; God hearkened [Hebrew: shin mem ayin] to her and He opened her womb.

Notice that Rachel requires both God’s remembering and hearkening.

Even though Leah had come to a point in her life where she was no longer bearing children, she only required God’s hearkening before she had another child.

No doubt, both women were praying to God to have children.

But, Rachel had been pushed so far to the side that before her prayer could be answered she needed God to first “remember” her.

Rosh Hashanah Musaf

In our musaf tefillot on Rosh HaShanah we mention three major themes: God’s kingship, His remembering, and the sound of the shofar.

Here are the verses from the Torah that we say during musaf about God’s remembering:

Bereshit 8:1 God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the animals that were with him in the ark
Shemot 2:24 God heard their moaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
Vayikra 26:42 I will remember My covenant with Jacob and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham I will remember, and I will remember the Land.

Of course, God does not forget and later suddenly recall something.

The idea of remembering is as if God brings that person to the front of His mind.

All of the verses from the Rosh HaShanah musaf deal with a situation where a group has been exiled. That is, they are taken away from what is natural and put in a difficult situation. Then, God remembers them and they are redeemed.

So too with Rachel. She had been “exiled” when God closed her womb, because the natural status of a young woman is to be able to bear children.

When it is time for her to finally have children, God remembers her and hears her prays and opens her womb.

By way of contrast, Leah was never “exiled” so God did not have to first remember her.

Picture credit: Jacob greets Rachel
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