In the beautiful photo above, Lily celebrates her Bat Mitzvah with her JGU Sisters!

In Parsha Vayeitze, we learn about our Foremothers Rochel and Leah, two sisters who go beyond what is expected of them to turn a situation from darkness to light. We will see from their example how prayer, compassion, love and sometimes tears, can turn a negative into a positive and create positive change in our world.

What do we see from Leah’s life?

Leah prays to Hashem to change her fate: “Please let my lot not fall with the evil Eisav.” People used to say that since Rivka had two sons and Lavan two daughters, the elder daughter would be married to the elder son, while the younger daughter was destined to marry the younger son. So Leah was destined to marry Eisav and her sister Rochel was to marry Yakov. This made Leah cry so much her eyes were red and weak. (Vayeitzai 29:17) 

Leah was unwilling to settle for what she was being handed. She knew she could achieve better with Hashem’s help. And as a result of her tears and prayer, she changed her destiny: She married Yakov and mothered six of the twelve tribes. Leah had the courage to strive beyond her destiny.

How did Rochel go beyond the expectations of a sister? 

Some Mitzvot may be hard to do, but we do them anyways because they are expected of us. This is what Bat Mitzvah is all about, I am now obligated to fulfill G-d’s Mitzvot.

We learn from our mother Rochel not only to do what we must, but to go beyond our obligations when it comes to caring for another.

What did Rochel do?

Rochel spared her sister, Leah shame on her wedding day by giving her Yakov’s secret signs after her father Lavan, put Leah as the bride instead of Rachel. Rochel stretched herself just to save her sister from great embarrassment.

Later on Rochel she is rewarded for her selfless act and one in the merit of her actions all the darkness in the world will be turned to light with the coming of our Redemption.

At the time of the Babylonian Exile, when the Jews were being chased out of our holy land and exiled to Bavel, Avraham, Yitzchok, Yakov, and Moses all prayed from Heaven that the Jewish people should return to Eretz Yisroel, but Hashem would not change his mind and agree to return us to our land with the Holy Temple rebuilt.

Rochel Imeinu stepped up and cried to Hashem: “Do you remember when I spared my sister embarrassment and let her marry my beloved Yakov? I was not jealous. On the contrary, I gave my sister Yakov’s secret signs under the wedding canopy. Why then, should G-d be so zealous in punishing His children for bringing idols into His Temple? Please Hashem, return my children to their promised land!”

Rochel’s selflessness aroused G-d’s mercy. He accepted her plea and promised that Israel would be redeemed eventually and the third Holy Temple would be rebuilt in the merit of Mama Rochel.

Hashem replied: “Refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there’s a reward for your efforts and your children will return to their land.” (source: Midrash Aicha)

Rochel is buried alone on the road in Bais Lechem. She is not buried with the other Imahot (mothers) or with her husband Yakov. Yakov told Yosef, “I buried your mother on the road because I was commanded by Hashem. When her children pass her grave, she will rise and pray for mercy on their behalf. And Hashem will accept her prayers and change their destiny.

As I turn Bat Mitzvah, I learn from Rochel and Leah that I can go beyond what is expected of me and even small acts of kindness make a big difference to create positive change in our world. I learn that my prayers are not just words but can really change the future.

I pray that Hashem answer Mama Rochel’s prayers and bring peace to our Holy Land with the coming of Moshiach!