Coming off of last week’s seemingly simple storyline, this week’s parasha is packed! This week’s Torah portion tells us a lot about the third of our forefathers, Yaakov Avinu.
Following the giving of the blessings to Yaakov and Eisav. Rivkah Imeinu suggests to Yaakov Avinu that he flee from his brother’s wrath to the house of her brother Lavan. Yaakov Avinu stops on the way to learn for fourteen years at the Yeshiva headed by the Torah leaders of the generation, Sheim and Eiver. After yeshiva, Yaakov Avinu stops to take a nap on Har HaMoriah, the place where the Bais Hamikdosh (Temple) would eventually stand, and has a dream about the Jewish people’s future. He then makes his way to Charan, where he meets his future wife Rochel Imeinu at the well. Lavan, Rochel’s father, welcomes Yaakov Avinu in and employs him. After seven years, Yaakov Avinu marries Ro-well, Leah Imeinu, as Lavan switches his two daughters and gives Yaakov Avinu the wrong one! Yaakov Avinu subsequently marries Rochel Imeinu a week later. The four wives of Yaakov Avinu – Leah Imeinu, Bilhah, Zilpah, and Rochel Imeinu – each eventually have children, making for a total of eleven sons and a lot of daughters! Yaakov Avinu decides to leave; Lavan tricks him again. Finally, Yaakov Avinu and his family make a plan of escape. They flee; Lavan eventually catches up and demands the return of some idols he can’t find. The two come to an agreement and Lavan finally leaves Yaakov Avinu and his family alone to return to Eretz Cana’an!
There is an overwhelming amount of lessons we can learn from every detail in this week’s parasha. Let’s talk about Rochel Imeinu and her beautiful act of kindness that is woven into the story.
Upon Yaakov Avinu’s arrival in Charan, he and Rochel Imeinu met. It was obvious to both of them that they were soulmates and they decided to marry. Yaakov Avinu and Rochel Imeinu’s father, Lavan, worked out a seven-year deal: Yaakov Avinu worked for him for all those years, and at the end he was ready to marry Rochel Imeinu.
Yaakov Avinu knew his father-in-law-to-be/uncle’s tricky nature, so he set up signs with his kallah, bride, Rochel Imeinu, so he’d know he had the right girl.
The wedding was a grand affair. The whole city came. Everyone danced and sang and drank. Yaakov Avinu asked for the signs and got them. And when he got home that night with his new wife, what did he discover but that he’d married the wrong girl! This was impossible – he’d prepared for this very eventuality! How had it happened?
Suddenly we discover the greatness of Rochel Imeinu.
She knew her father’s plan. And she knew that she and Yaakov Avinu had a plan to outwit him. What possessed her to give up the amazing life she had ahead of her? She was about to enter a life of pure goodness and richness, to mother the Jewish people, to be the wife of one of the generation’s Torah greats and the greatest ba’al middos (man of good character) around! And then she made the seemingly crazy decision to give it all up, to let her sister marry him instead. She had no idea that she’d get to marry him later.
What was Rochel Imeinu thinking?!
She was thinking about the other. She was thinking outside of herself. She thought how incredibly embarrassing it would be for Leah Imeinu to stand under the chuppah, the marriage canopy, and not know the answer to Yaakov Avinu’s determining question. Of course she thought about the fantastic life she was about to miss out on.
Yet she did it anyway. To save her sister. It was an act of pure lovingkindness that had no obvious reward in the near future.
To top that, do you know that Rochel Imeinu never even told Leah Imeinu that it was all a trick? That she was supposed to marry Yaakov Avinu? She came up with some way to tell Leah Imeinu the signs without her figuring out the real plot behind the storyline. Can you imagine doing such a thing? Giving up your whole future to your sister, and not even being able to use it against her when you’re mad at her? Leah Imeinu never had any idea!
You might know that when the Jews cried out for help to the patriarchs and matriarchs, Rochel Imeinu’s prayers were the ones that were answered. Why? “Can it be that a mother of flesh and blood has more mercy than You, our Heavenly Father?” she asked Hashem. He acknowledged her incredible deed, and promised that the Jewish people will return to their borders; all hope is not lost.
The power of giving in is so strong! Letting a sibling finish that favorite ice cream flavor. Giving a friend the jump rope for the rest of recess. They seem small, but these are actions that have immeasurable worth in Hashem’s world calculations.
So I ask you… what is a situation where you can put somebody else’s needs first?
Check out Baruch Levine’s music video of his awesome song that I’m listening to, Uforatzto, which is made up of words from this weeks’s parasha! I can’t imagine that you won’t love it as much as I do!