Yaakov’s Power, Upset and Jewish Reliance
1) Yaakov Opens The Well
Yaakov comes down from the field (Bereishis 22:2) and finds the three shepherds standing there just waiting for everyone to gather around the rock, and he rebukes them because he thinks that they’re wasting their time. Why aren’t they pulling off the rock. Meanwhile, the real answer is that the rock weighed too much, and they weren’t able to do it, but Yaakov goes over to the rock and pulls it off himself, and is able to give water to Rochel’s sheep, and the Ramban comments that what’s the purpose of this story?
Kovei Hashem Yachlifu Koach
What is it teaching us? Says Ramban: “Ki kovei Hashem yachlifu koach”. Those who trust in Hashem have strength. Even though Yaakov traveled the whole day, and he was obviously very tired, he concentrated and focused on getting this job done and he said: I know I said Hashem’s going to take care of me and give me the strength to do it, and he was able to do it.
Concentration Plus Siyata D’ShmayaBbrings Success
Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz has an entire essay just on this idea of “yichad lev,” when we concentrate on something we have the ability to do it. Our effort starts the process and brings us siyata D’Shmaya and Hashem completes our efforts. “Hashem yigmor ba’adi”. Hashem completes the things we start. He is always looking to help us and to help us succeed.
2) Yaakov’s Upset
We find the pasuk (Bereishis 29:31) describes that Hashem saw “ki sanuah Leah”, that Leah was hated, and, therefore, he gave her children. Ramban says that Yaakov had a tayna, complaint, against Leah, and that is that you should have told me or hinted to me that you’re Leah. I was trying to marry Rachel, and your father Lavan tried to dupe me. Yaakov was upset in his heart about Leah not speaking up and this is what the Torah calls “Leah was hated.”
Ramban says: But, Hashem knew that Leah had been l’Sheim Shamayim, and, therefore, He had rachmanus on her, and he gave her a child. Ramban quotes the Midrash Rabbah (71:2): Once Yaakov saw the actions of Leah, that she had fooled him, he thought to divorce her, but once Hashem blessed her with children he said: I can’t divorce a mother of these children. Ramban is understanding this to mean that since Hashem allowed her to get pregnant, she’s going to be one of the Imahos of Klal Yisrael, and thus she must have had the purest intentions in not telling me she was really Leah.
Just to elaborate. There’s another fascinating Midrash that says that Yaakov asked Leah explicitly: How could you do this, you fooled me? Leah answered: Is there a book that doesn’t have a reader? What does that mean? The Midrash explains that: ‘I learned from you. You fooled your father, and stole the brachos that he wanted to give to Eisav, and so I learned from you and I did the same thing!’ What does this mean?! Was she simply taunting Yaakov?
Leah’s Lot Changed with Prayer
Rav Moshe Wolfson, Shlita, explains a brilliant idea based on the sefarim hakedoshim that she wasn’t just teasing him and saying something hurtful or humorous. She was saying something very profound. Chazal tell us, Rashi brings this down in Chumash, that Leah was the oldest child, (according to some Midrashim Rachel and Leah were actually twins just like Eisav and Yaakov) and she was supposed to marry Eisav, the older son. When she inquired about his actions and found out that he was a rasha, she cried and cried begging Hashem to ensure that she would not marry him. (Parenthetically, she didn’t ask what he looks like or how much money he had, she only had one question, “Ma Maasav,” Describe this man’s actions. That’s what I need to know. That’s the question that we know when we’re making a commitment to someone to marry them.) She used to cry, and that’s why “einei Leah rakos”. Her eyes were very weak from all the tears that she, all the teffillos that she put in. Yaakov who was the younger son, was destined to marry Rachel the younger daughter. Leah cried and cried and Hashem answered her.
Yaakov’s New Lot
When Yaakov stole the brachos what he did was take over Eisav’s life mission. Eisav could have been the fourt Av, but he failed and didn’t make it and thus Yaakov got the berachos and had to do both his and Eisav’s mission. It was at that moment that Eisav lost Leah. So Leah was just explaining to Yaakov that with the stealing of the berachos, Eisav’s blessings and life mission transferred to you and so I am here to help you as your eizer for the Eisav part.
That’s the brilliance of what’s being said here. Eisav maintained that hatred, and that desire to have Leah. In fact, even at the end of their life, when Leah died, and she was buried in Maaras Hamachpeilah Esav came to fight for the plot next to her and he want to be buried next to her because she was my mission, and I was supposed to be married to her, and Yaakov stole her. The brothers corrected Eisav and said, ‘you sold the bechorah, and you lost the blessings, and, therefore, Leah is Yaakov’s wife, rightfully.
The sefarim bring down that there was still a small tayna that the forces of evil still wanted to get Leah back, and that’s what happened during the story of how Dina, Leah’s daughter was taken Shechem.
What About Rachel?
Another interesting question we must ask is why did Rachel give away the simanim to Leah? Yaakov trusted her and even told her, “I know what your father is going to try to trick me. Therefore, here are the simanim.” How could Rachel betray this trust? I saw a fascinating explanation for this. Rachel understood the amount of embarrassment that her sister Leah was going to go through when her father was still going to push her through to marry Yaakov, when she would not have the simanim. Rachel reasoned, if I don’t give her the simanim she’s going to be embarrassed, and if I’m going to cause my sister to be embarrassed that’s not what Klal Yisrael is built on. Klal Yisrael is not built on the embarrassment of other people, and, therefore, I know in my heart that that’s not what the Rebono Shel Olam wants, and I forfeit my ability to marry Yaakov.
It’s interesting because one Midrash states that really Rachel was meant to be baren and she would have never been able to bear children, but in the merit of her compassion for her sister, Hashem allowed Rachel to have two tribes.
3) Power of the Duda’im
Reuven found the duda’im (Bereishis 30:14). What were they and what was their power? Seforno has a very interesting idea stating that they really have no power but at the time the standard medical protocols ascribed fertility help to them. Rav Avigdor Miller explains this further that one has an obligation to pursue accepted medical interventions that professionals in your time ascribe to even if in years to come it will be disproven.
Ramban says explicitly that they have no medicinal value whatsoever. Rachel asked for them because she liked the smell. Rachel knew that it was only through tefillah that Hashem would grant her children. In fact, Ramban says Reuven brought the flower of the Dudaim, but he did not bring the root, and, if anything, the root is the only thing that some people say had some medicinal value. There is a source in the Zohar that states that they hinted to the power of prayer and it also states that the smell created arousal.
4) What Were the Terafim?
Rachel stole the terafim (31:19). Ramban explains that he believes that the terafim were a form of a time keeping device which people used via a magical formula to be able to tell the future, and, therefore, the reason they’re called terafim (weak) is because they weren’t very accurate. It was kind of like an oracle. Rachel took them away from her father to banish avodah zarah from his house.
Rasha’im Try To Bypass Hashem; Tzaddikim Turn Towards Hashem
The Terafim were an attempt to get information from the powers that Hashem created in the world without going to Hashem. Rashaim are always looking for ways to bypass Hashem, and to get what they want and find out about the future in ways that forsakes Hashem, but the tzaddikim are always looking to turn their tefillos towards Hashem. This is the contrast.
Avos and Imahos Akaros
Chazal tell us why were the Avos and Imahos akaros, unable to conceive? Because Hashem was misaveh l’teffilasam. Hashem wanted them to daven. When we daven we turn to Hashem; Hashem answers our tefillos. This is part of our DNA as Jews. Avraham eino molid. Chazal say that Avraham and Sarah physically were unable to have children. Yitzchak and Rivkah as well had trouble having children. Rachel begged Hashem, and said: “V’im ayin meisah anochi.”
The Avos and Imahos were granted children miraculously. The entire Jewish nation is based on ‘ein mazel b’Yisrael.’ Al pi derech hatevah we have no existence, but the Rebono Shel Olam allows us to exist through His rachamim and through the tefillah that carries our nation. That’s what we are built on and that is how we live, turning towards Hashem in prayer.