Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
e-mail rebiyosil@earthlink.net

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Bereishit (Genesis) 28:10 - 31:3
Haftorah - Hosea 12:13 - 14:10

According to some commentaries that the tragedy in last week's Parsha was that the breach between of Ya’acov and Eisav had devastating results because BOTH were meant to be patriarchs. Eisav was originally destined to be a partner with his brother who together would bring redemption to the world. But on the day of his grandfather's death, he succumbed to great temptation and was unworthy of his special role in the world.

We continue with this theme in this week's Parsha's discussion of Ya’acov marrying the two sisters, Rachel and Layah. Rabbis Mendel Kessin and Azriel Tauber both do extensive analysis of this interesting chapter in the lives of our ancestors.

Rabbi Mendel Kessin teaches that in the original plan for mankind, the Divine Purpose was to bring holiness into the world. This is called in Hebrew Hitpashtut HaKedushah (the spreading of holiness). However, when the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, was eaten (and thereby internalized), the Yetzer Hara entered into our beings and became part of us. Because of that act, an additional purpose was given to mankind, namely, K'Fiyat Hara (the destruction of Evil). After both the generations of Noach and Babel failed to fulfill these purposes, Avraham and his children were chosen to bring about these two objectives. Thus, comes our status of a "Chosen People."

Avraham spread holiness in the world by going out and teaching, through his example, the ways of Hashem. Yitzchak was a solitary man who endeavored to perfect himself and thereby, destroy evil. Remember that Eisav was a man of the field, Ya’acov, a dweller of tents. Eisav, had he been true to his fate, would have conquered the physical and material world, thereby spreading holiness, by making the mundane holy. Ya’acov, like his father, tried to perfect his entire being, and disallow evil to exist in his proximity.

Rabbi Azriel Tauber gives us a parable to better understand Eisav. Imagine that a person was born into the home of a powerful mafioso. The negative influence and pressure that this child would bear was tremendous. If he grew up to be a good wholesome person, it could only be because of a colossal act of self discipline. Rabbi Tauber says that Eisav was born with enormous impediments to holiness, a strong inclination to materialism, and powerful lusts. Had he channeled and redirected those feelings, Eisav would have become a powerful spiritual force. Eisav, however, succumbed to the temptations of the material world and instead of spreading holiness, he became the embodiment of Evil itself. Ya’acov then attempted to take on Eisav's duties (of Hitpashtut HaKedushah) in addition to his own (of K’Fiyat Hara).

"Now Lavan had two daughters; the name of the older was Layah and the name of the younger was Rachel. Layah’s eyes were tender (Rakot), while Rachel was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance."

(Bereishit 29:16,17)

RaShI brings a Midrash (Rabba 70:15) that explains that Layah's eyes were tender (from weeping during prayer) because it was decreed that she marry the evil Eisav.

"People used to say that Rivkah had two sons and Lavan had two daughters, the elder daughter would be married to the elder son, while the younger daughter was destined to marry the younger son."

When Layah heard of Eisav's downfall, she wept in prayer, because instead of marrying a Tzaddik (a righteous man), she would have to marry a Rasha (an evil man). Layah prayed (and her prayers were answered) for an annulment of the decree.

But the manner in which her prayers were answered is most interesting. Ya’acov made an arrangement to marry Rachel after completing seven years of servitude to his uncle Lavan. Distrusting Lavan, he gave Rachel signals to use under the Chupah (the marriage canopy), so that he would know that the veiled bride was, in fact, Rachel. When Lavan switched Layah for Rachel, Rachel gave her sister Ya’acov’s signals so that Layah would not be embarrassed. When Ya’acov discovered that he was married to Layah, he protested:

"...So he said to Lavan, 'What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I worked for you? Why have you deceived me?' Lavan said, 'Such is not done in our place, to give the younger before the elder. Complete the week of this one (seven days of Sheva Berachot) and we will give you the other one too, for the work that you will perform for me yet another seven years.' "

(Bereishit 29:25-27)"

The Lekutei Basar Lekutei brings a Chazal (a rabbinical teaching) that explains that when Ya’acov said to Lavan:

"Why have you deceived me?" Layah replied; "But didn't you deceive your father when you said, 'I am Eisav your firstborn?'"

The Lekutei Basar Lekutei found it very strange that Layah would defend Eisav, whom she despised. Rather, her words should be understood as thus:

"if your claim to the birth right is true, then Eisav's claim for me, as his wife, has also been claimed by you. Do not deceive yourself, your father, or me, by taking only part of his birthright.

Layah became the mother of six tribes and a daughter Dinah; and through her maidservant Zilpah, she was accredited with yet another two tribes. Rachel, on the other hand, became the mother of only two tribes; and through her maidservant Bilhah, also with another two tribes. Layah's prayers were answered, she married a Tzaddik and become a most significant partner in the birth of the nation of Israel.

Our Parsha began with Ya’acov leaving Eretz Yisrael to find a wife. It ends after he becomes the father of a fledgling nation and begins his return home. Rachel and Layah also became the foundation of this future nation blending their strengths as they fulfilled the true destiny of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig

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