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Yaakov and Leah

By: SFW Students & Alumna
Naomi Cohen ('SFW 09)

In this week’s Parsha we are told:

“Vayar Hashem ki snuah Leah vayiphtach et rachmah vRachel akarah.” (29:31)

If we look carefully at this passuk, we can separate it into three parts:

  1. Hashem saw that Leah was hated.
  2. Hashem let Leah have children.
  3. Rachel was barren.

The obvious question here is whether or not these are three unrelated facts, or if there is a common thread between all three.

The word Snuah, which is used to describe Leah, is a difficult description of Yaacov’s feelings for Leah. It is hard to imagine that Yaacov Avinu could have really hated Leah. Furthermore it is hard to understand why Hashem allowed her to have children, just because she was hated.

In Bereishit Rabbah we are told that the passuk is not informing us that Yaacov hated Leah. Rather, we can interpret the word in two different ways. The first way to explain the word snuah is that Leah’s actions were like those of the snuim (the hated) when she tricked Yaacov into marriage. A second way to interpret this word is that Leah was destined to be married to Eisav. Leah believed that if she was destined in Shamayim to be Eisav’s wife, she must be hated in Hashem’s eyes, for why else would He choose to match them together?  This explains Leah’s actions. She tricked Yaacov into marriage because she feared spending the rest of her life with a Rasha like Eisav, and therefore felt that this was the only way to separate herself from him.

Chazal teach us that the Torah is very careful with the specific language it uses. The Torah would never have used the word Snuah to describe Leah. We know that the Torah is even careful as to what words it uses to describe an impure animal. Rather than simply referring to it as a “Behemah Tmeah” (an impure animal), it says “Asher Lo Tehorah” (that is not pure). If the Torah is particular as to which words are used to describe an animal, kal vachomer it would be careful as to which words it uses to describe Leah Imenu.

Rather, when we are told “Vayar Hashem ki Snuah Leah”, the passuk is saying that Hashem saw that Eisav’s actions were hated in Leah’s eyes. Since He saw this, “Vayiphtach et rachmah.” Leah’s actions were l’Shem Shamayim and, as a result of this, Hashem blessed her with children.

Furthermore, the Ramban quotes Bereishit Rabbah saying, that once Yaacov realized that Leah had tricked him, he was ready to leave her. Only after he saw that Hashem had given her children did he realize that there was Yad Hashem in the matter, and he knew he should not leave her.

All of this helps to explain the connection between the first two parts of the passuk, but it is still unclear as to why we are told that Rachel was unable to have children in this same passuk.

In Bereishit Rabbah, Chazal interpret the word Akarah (barren) as Ikarah (the essential). The question is asked, regarding the Imahot, as to why they were all barren? Chazal tell us that the reason for this is because Hashem desires the Tfilot of Tzadikim. Hashem wanted the Avot to daven so that they could have children, because He loves their Tefilot.

“Vayar Hashem ki snuah Leah vayiphtach et rachmah”:

Leah was not the beloved one in Yaacov’s eyes, and therefore it was obvious that he would not daven for her to have children. Hashem stepped in and gave her children.

VRachel akarah”:

Yaacov, however, would surely daven on Rachel’s behalf, for she was the Ikar, the essential, in his household.

Like Leah, who did something seemingly wrong, but for a good, greater purpose, may all of our actions be l’Shem Shamayim. Like Yaacov, who was able to see past the surface level of this incident, may we all be zocheh to see Yad Hashem in every aspect of our lives. And lastly, like Rachel Imenu, upon whom Hashem bestowed his Rachamim, may Am Yisrael merit to see Hashem’s Rachamim, Yeshuah, Vegeulah Bimhera b’Yameinu.


Shabbat Shalom!


Categorized under: 1: Parshat Shavua > Vayetze