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Running on Jewish Time

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Leah - The Woman Who Didn't Marry Her Basheret

[a piece of mussar for myself]

Rivka has two sons. Lavan has two daughters.
The elder for the elder. The younger for the younger.

Rachel was beautiful and Leah had eyes tired and weak from crying.
You'd be upset too if your bashert committed murder, idol worship and adultery on his thirteenth birthday.

This is the will of G-d. This is bashert. This is what is meant to be.
and Leah's answer to this looming destiny was..... So, what?

So what if there have been signs, they're just signs.

So what if Ya'akov and Rachel have made histadlut, it's just histadlut.

You, G-d, are the One I'm asking, and You decide.

Leah lived in the world of Avraham's laughter, there is nothing beyond G-d. A world separate from the bounds of destiny and fate and beshert. A world that is separate.

And so G-d listened.

Leah, looking at her first child, born without the long years of barrenness that all the other Foremothers were haunted with, realizes
Hashem has seen my pain[29:31]
Now Ya'akov will realize that this was meant to be as well, but with the second child comes the knowledge
Hashem has heard that I am hated.[29:32]
But with the next child something changes....
This time, my husband will accompany me[29:33]
and the fourth child comes the praise, the unabashed acknowledgement, the quiet certainty born of struggle, born of all that she had endured.
This time, I will praise G-d.[29:34]
What is praise but the heartfelt knowledge that everything is as it meant to be.

Bashert.

31 Comments:

  • Nice angle on Leah, but my first thought when reading this was what a bad deal for Rachel. Here she is, finally, with her bashert -- and along comes her sister and has to butt in and take a part of him.

    By Blogger Me & My Yetzer, at 10:01 PM, January 19, 2006  

  • the world started from chava.
    she poisened her husband.

    By Anonymous ben chavah, at 11:18 PM, January 19, 2006  

  • nicely written masmida. although wonder what would have happened if leah would indeed have married esav. maybe she would have improved him.

    By Blogger Mata Hari, at 12:19 AM, January 20, 2006  

  • Me and My Yetzer-
    I know. When I really figure out the dudaim and the whole complex relationship. I'll post on it

    Ben Chavah-
    You just love your momma. no?
    You're right, Chava gave the pri etz hadat to adam and therefore was curesed. The foremothers on the other hand are described as exempt from the curse. Implying that they overcame Chava's flaws

    Mata Hari-
    Thank You. The commentaries seem to assert that Leah could have changed him and that in fact her daughter dinah had the same ablity. But it seems that was not what Leah wanted

    By Blogger Masmida, at 4:26 PM, January 20, 2006  

  • It also struck me, upon further reflection, that Leah's coup in free will, so to speak, caused Yakov enormous pain.

    He didn't love her, and perhaps even hated her, at least at first. He may have changed, and in a cosmic sense, it may have been the best thing for him, or at least klal Yisrael and the universe, but what hell he had to get through till reaching that point.

    There also is a Midrash I once saw which said he resented Leah till the day he died. Another Midrash says he wanted to divorce her, but didn't in the end because she was the mother of his children.

    The point of all this is that her imposing herself, if you will, on his life with Rachel caused enormous emotional pain for him, as well as others.

    Maybe in the end it was all good, but her utilization of free will, which you described really well I might add, has to be seen in the context of all this pain it caused. That doesn't make it wrong necessarily -- obviously, Leah is a tzadekes, one of the true emahos -- but her gain wasn't without its price for others. We can tinker with the Divine Plan, and even are expected to perhaps, but there are going to be repercussions, possibly very painful direct repercussions.

    By Blogger Me & My Yetzer, at 6:52 PM, January 21, 2006  

  • The curious thing about Leah is that she wasn't davening to marry Ya'akov. She was davening to avoid Eisav.

    She was allowing herself to be swept into the marriage by her father. She didn't even ask her sister for the signs.

    There's a great midrash that describes the morning after[paraphrased]
    Ya'akov says to Leah,"You Liar, the daughter of a Liar!"
    Leah answers,"I had a great teacher, you lied to your father to get the brachot."

    The key to understanding the midrash is that Leah did not resist the deception for the same reasons that Ya'akov perptrated a deception. They wanted to have the 'bechora' and all that means from eretz yisrael to torah at this point in history.

    Ya'akov had beome the bechor and with that got the bechor's shiduch: i.e. Leah.

    You're right. This turn of events caused enormous pain. The effects we still feel today because all arguements and hate in klal yisrael have their roots in the children of Rachel and the children of Leah.

    Free-will has far-ranging consequences, part of why G-d gave us teshuva also

    By Blogger Masmida, at 7:15 PM, January 21, 2006  

  • masmida - i'll tell you...if i had a bas kol tell me whom to marry, i'd be extremely happy.

    By Blogger Mata Hari, at 9:09 AM, January 22, 2006  

  • mata hari- I'm with you. I still feel bad for Rachel but I guess for Leah this entire strange situation was very comforting-she KNEW this was right.
    I guess that's the main lesson here. The situation sucked and she knew it. Her husband thought she was a liar and only desired her sister, and despite that she never changed her mind. She was in a bad spot right then but she knew it was right and, in the end, the best thing for her.

    By Blogger araya(uh-ray-uh), at 10:21 AM, January 22, 2006  

  • So if you know something is right, you should do it even if it hurts, hm...?

    By Blogger Stx, at 4:36 PM, January 22, 2006  

  • The curious thing about Leah is that she wasn't davening to marry Ya'akov. She was davening to avoid Eisav.

    Are you sure? Do we have a source for it? I have to look it up.

    By the way, I enjoy your take on this subject, which has a lot of personal meaning to me.

    I never got the Midrash of Leah lied b/c Yaakov lied, tit-for-tat. First, halachically, I don't believe one is allowed to lie just because another has.

    Second, Yaakov lied, but it was really his mother who set the wheels in motion for him to get the brachos. Why, then, should he be penalized for doing kibud aim?

    Third, Rashi explains that Yaakov mitigated the lie: He answered, "I am," pause "Esav is your firstborn." I don't think Leah did.

    Anyway, I look forward to your thoughts.

    By Blogger Me & My Yetzer, at 4:41 PM, January 22, 2006  

  • Mata Hari-
    If I had a bas kol telling me who to marry, I would probably run directly the other way.

    Araya-
    That is exactly the point i was trying to get to. Leah was in an extremely difficult situation. Unlike the rest of the imahot she didn't need to work on children, she needed to work on her marriage

    M&MY-
    No, its not tit for tat. Leah is saying that You, Ya'akov got the bechora and therefore you got the bechor's shidduch i.e. Leah. So if Leah's a liar then so's Ya'akov! She

    I'm glad you got some personal meaning out of it.

    By Blogger Masmida, at 5:16 PM, January 22, 2006  

  • STX-

    If it hurts you, yeah. Unless the damage to you is so severe that it no longer becomes the right thing to do.

    if it hurts others, then are you really sure its the right thing to do?

    By Blogger Masmida, at 5:21 PM, January 22, 2006  

  • Was Lea really Bashert for Esav, or was it just what people reasoned it should be?

    By Blogger Pragmatician, at 7:03 AM, January 23, 2006  

  • According to the Midrashim and Ma'haral it seems that Hashem original plan was for eisav to marry leah, i.e. zivug rishon. So he was in fact her basheret in that sense.

    By Blogger Masmida, at 11:10 AM, January 23, 2006  

  • Amazing! Masmida I really luv how your mind works. I also feel the sadness within you... :-(

    By Blogger FrumGirl, at 1:59 PM, January 23, 2006  

  • No, its not tit for tat. Leah is saying that You, Ya'akov got the bechora and therefore you got the bechor's shidduch i.e. Leah. So if Leah's a liar then so's Ya'akov!

    I think you're confusing the bechora with the berachos. Yaakov did not obtain the bechorah through any lie; Esav sold it to him. It was the berachos that the question of not being truthful applies.

    Hence, I still don't get why it equates Leah's act with Yaakov's. Leah lied to get married to Yaakov. Yaakov took part in a lie, at the behest of his mother, that in any event had nothing to do with him becoming the bechor.

    Please don't mistake my questioning for criticism. I'm trying to learn and I respect your thought processes.

    By Blogger Me & My Yetzer, at 3:12 PM, January 23, 2006  

  • Frumgirl-
    Thanks. This idea haunts me. Like any idealist, it is a struggle to admit to less than ideal circumstances.

    M&MY-
    I finally have the midrash in from of me

    Ya'akov says" Liar the daughter of a liar, all night I called you rachel and answered me"
    Leah replies,"Is there no teacher without students, for hasn't your father called you eisav, and you answered him."(Breshit Rabba 70:19)


    The brachot and the bechora are more than just linguistically linked. The brachot are the tools that come with the bechora.

    When Eisav sold the bechora to Ya'akov, he also ceded the brachot. If you look at the text when Yitzchak tells Eisav that someone has been there before him, Eisav yells:
    Twice, he has decieved me!
    What two things? the sale of the bechora and the taking of the brachot.

    Ya'akov has in fact never decieved Eisav, Yitzchak is a different discussion. What Eisav is saying is that had he known that the bracha came only with the bechora, he never would have sold it.

    As to your earlier question:
    The exact wording of the Midrash (Breshit Rabba 70:15) is

    She [Leah] cried and said, "It should be your will that I should not fall to the lot of an evil man." and she nullified the decree, and even more so she stood before her sister.

    By Blogger Masmida, at 5:05 PM, January 23, 2006  

  • Ya'akov says" Liar the daughter of a liar, all night I called you rachel and answered me"
    Leah replies,"Is there no teacher without students, for hasn't your father called you eisav, and you answered him."(Breshit Rabba 70:19)


    Clever girl, Leah.

    But there's still a major difference. Marriage is a different relationship than parent-child. Marriage is founded on trust, as well as mutual interest. Leah, lying to Yaakov, is the antithesis of the way a marriage should begin. She totally loses her trustworthiness; how can he be intimate with a woman who willfully impersonates someone else? And that's without getting into the other important factor: mutual interest.

    A parent-child relationship is different. First, as you yourself said, it's possible to interpret Yaakov's actions as not constituing a lie. But even if they were the child eventually leaves the parents' house.

    Yaakov doesn't have to have sex with his parents and share intimacies. Yet, he's forced to do this with a woman who impersonated the one he loved.

    I think Leah's lie is categorically worse.

    When Eisav sold the bechora to Ya'akov, he also ceded the brachot. If you look at the text when Yitzchak tells Eisav that someone has been there before him, Eisav yells: Twice, he has decieved me! What two things? the sale of the bechora and the taking of the brachot.

    Is there a source for that? I'm too lazy to look it up right now.

    My understanding is that they are not necessarily linked. Rav Dessler has a whole piece on this. Even after selling the bechorah Esav could have become a Zevulun to Yaakov's Yisachar. But he totally lost even the smallest spark of kedusha, and so even the berachos for material blessing had to go to Yaakov. However, if not for the fact that Esav's rishus played itself out until nothing good was left, Esav would have gotten the berachos and used them to help Yaakov achieve spiritual heights.

    So, my understanding, is that the two were not hermetically linked.

    By Blogger Me & My Yetzer, at 9:02 PM, January 23, 2006  

  • >But there's still a major difference. Marriage is a different relationship than parent-child. Marriage is founded on trust, as well as mutual interest. Leah, lying to Yaakov, is the antithesis of the way a marriage should begin. She totally loses her trustworthiness; how can he be intimate with a woman who willfully impersonates someone else?

    Consider Yehuda and Tamar, Yehuda thought he was sleeping with a prostitute [how we level that one, I'm not entirely sure] Tamar did not tell him who she was.

    In the case of all these generations is the looming ruach ha'kodesh and spritual sensitivity that changes the calculations.

    The fact that Ya'akov didn't realize that it was the wrong woman until the morning implies that as far as he could spiritually sense, this woman was intended to be his wife.

    Leah is not lying on a higher level of spiritual reality. But, truthfully I am not satisfied with this answer, I need to understand it more completely, so begging of until we can get at more sources.

    Is there a source for that? I'm too lazy to look it up right now.
    Shame on you ;) Gen. 27:36 Pshat
    "My Bechora he took, and here now he has taken my bercha"

    Rashi "Hachi Kara Shemo": Why was Yitzchak afraid? He had sinned by switched the order of the blessing. Once Eisav starts crying, he realizes that Yitzchak gave the bechor's bercha to the real bechor.
    and therefore
    "so shall he be blessed..(27:23)

    I haven't seen that Michtav, which sefer is it in?

    By Blogger Masmida, at 1:36 PM, January 24, 2006  

  • Consider Yehuda and Tamar, Yehuda thought he was sleeping with a prostitute [how we level that one, I'm not entirely sure] Tamar did not tell him who she was.

    LOL. You read my mind. I woke up this morning thinking you would mention that.

    There's also the case of the wife of Yishai, who dressed up as her non-Jewish maid-servant to get Yishai to sleep with her after he (mistakenly) thought she was assur (due to the sudden self-doubt that Boaz was actually forbidden to Rus). Of course, just like Yehudah and Tamar, the Davidic line came from that union (David himself, in fact, in the latter).

    However, there are important difference between these cases and Yaakov's.

    Meforshim tell us Yehuda was supposed to marry Tamar, after his sons died. He was wrong for not doing so. Tamar was his bashert. Leah was not Yaakov's; Rachel was. Leah was thus imposing herself on Yaakov-Rachel; Tamar was not imposing herself.

    As for the wife of Yishai, she was already married to him. She impersonated someone else but was already married to the man she tried to deceive.

    I think the bottom line, to me, is that despite knowing what we know -- that Leah was the foremother of klal Yisrael -- I can't justify her actions. I can only see Yaakov's anger.

    The fact that Ya'akov didn't realize that it was the wrong woman until the morning implies that as far as he could spiritually sense, this woman was intended to be his wife.

    Theoretically, I don't disagree with you. Obviously, we are here today because Leah was one of the emahos.

    However, I have problems with that explanation. And I fully appreciate the Midrashim that Yaakov was mad as hell at her.

    Leah is not lying on a higher level of spiritual reality. But, truthfully I am not satisfied with this answer,

    Me too.

    I'll have to get you the exact place in Michtav M'Eliyahu. It's in the second volume, though, in the section on the different parshios and it makes sense off-hand that it's on parashas Toldos.

    Good stuff.

    By Blogger Me & My Yetzer, at 4:36 PM, January 24, 2006  

  • Let me ask you a question: If you were counseling Leah and Yaakov today, and Yaakov came to you saying, "I can't stay married to her; she deceived me and I'm so angry at her" -- what would you advise?

    By Blogger Me & My Yetzer, at 4:38 PM, January 24, 2006  

  • Tamar was his bashert. Leah was not Yaakov's; Rachel was. Leah was thus imposing herself on Yaakov-Rachel; Tamar was not imposing herself.

    You're right. Leah was Yisrael's beshert. Because Ya'akov is essentially two people.

    The whole post was intended to challenge what the conventional idea of the bashert who falls in love at first sight with a case of bashert where it is not so simple.

    >However, I have problems with that explanation. And I fully appreciate the Midrashim that Yaakov was mad as hell at her.

    Where are these midrashim? I'm sure they exist but I've never read through them.

    >Let me ask you a question: If you were counseling Leah and Yaakov today, and Yaakov came to you saying, "I can't stay married to her; she deceived me and I'm so angry at her" -- what would you advise?


    If Leah and Ya'akov came to me for conseling, after failing to get them to go to their parents, rebbeim or at the very least, aharon ha'cohen.....

    But I don't think Ya'akov ever said such a thing at least according all the standard mefarshim on chumash.

    In fact it seems that Rachel is the one who is really under threat of divorce, according to Rashi and Ramban. See ch. 29 "Rachel was jealous",
    "Give me children or I will die"

    Now tell me, why do I think this is more than just a theorectical intrest

    By Blogger Masmida, at 5:05 PM, January 24, 2006  

  • [big grin]
    more than 20 comments, the most I've ever gotten on one post.

    By Blogger Masmida, at 5:05 PM, January 24, 2006  

  • You're right. Leah was Yisrael's beshert. Because Ya'akov is essentially two people.

    Uncanny. We are on the same wavelength. I was thinking the same thing after I posted last.

    Would you agree with this? Yaakov fluctuated between a Yaakov madrega and a Yisrael madrega, even later in life after Hashem gave him the name Yaakov (the Gemara says even after Hashem gave him the name Yisrael he can still be called Yaakov). While Yaakov was in a Yaakov state he hated Leah. It was only when he was in a Yisrael state that he loved her. Presumably that came much later(more on that below).

    Where are these midrashim? I'm sure they exist but I've never read through them.

    The Ramban (21:31) cites the Midrash (71:2) that Yaakov wanted to divorce her but decided against it after she got pregnant.

    Rabbi Ellie Munk (Call of the Torah, Ber. p 398) writes that Yaakov "harbored resentment toward Leah... even after Rachel died. And it was only on his deathbed... that he paid homage to Leah's great and sincere devotion." He cites the Midrash Rabbah and Tanchuma for that.

    The Michtav M'Eliyahu piece is in Vol. 2, p. 206, Birchas Yitzchak.

    Now tell me, why do I think this is more than just a theorectical intrest

    Either you're very bright or I'm very transparent or both. Having said that, would you care to venture an hypothesis, Dr. Holmes?

    By Blogger Me & My Yetzer, at 10:45 PM, January 24, 2006  

  • Okay. Classes started again so have been busy.

    Yaakov fluctuated between a Yaakov madrega and a Yisrael madrega, even later in life after Hashem gave him the name Yaakov (the Gemara says even after Hashem gave him the name Yisrael he can still be called Yaakov). While Yaakov was in a Yaakov state he hated Leah. It was only when he was in a Yisrael state that he loved her.

    I'm not sure that Ya'akov flucuated as such. If you notice, very soon after Ya'akov becomes Yisrael, Rachel dies. Leah is the one in fact buried with Yisrael because Ya'akov Avienu lo met- didn't die.

    Ramban
    Apologies have not loooked at it yet will soon hopefully. likewise michtav and rabbi munk. But I will definitely have access to those sefarim on monday. so that's the latest.

    Having said that, would you care to venture an hypothesis, Dr. Holmes?
    hmmm. married. so that's not issue. but hesitate to speculate anything about the nature of marriage.

    stickler for truth maybe?
    disatisfied... certainly?
    what less than ideal situation are you trying to turn around?

    By Blogger Masmida, at 11:14 AM, January 26, 2006  

  • I'm not sure that Ya'akov flucuated as such.

    Berachos 13a: After discussing why we can't call Avraham by his original name, Avram, the Gemara says that once Yaakov's name was changed to Yisrael it should be forbidden to call him Yaakov any more, yet we do. In response, the Gemara answers that since the Torah itself called him Yaakov after Hashem said he was Yisrael, then it is OK.

    I saw it explained that since he is called Yaakov several other times as well after getting the name Yisrael it indicates he was sometimes in a Yaakov state and sometimes in Yisrael.

    Ramban
    Apologies have not loooked at it yet will soon hopefully. likewise michtav and rabbi munk. But I will definitely have access to those sefarim on monday. so that's the latest.


    Look forward to your thoughts.

    what less than ideal situation are you trying to turn around?

    Not for the faint of heart. I'd consider emailing you, if you really want to know.

    By Blogger Me & My Yetzer, at 12:17 PM, January 26, 2006  

  • [thoughtful]
    Thank you for the trust implied. I have never believed curiousity to be sufficent reason to ask for someone else's confindence. Therefore...

    If you think that it would help and there is not someone more appropriate such as your rabbi or teacher or close friend to discuss this with, then please email.

    By Blogger Masmida, at 12:34 PM, January 26, 2006  

  • Okay got the Ramban and the Midrash...

    The Ramban adds some intresting qualifications to his description of Ya'akov's hatred
    (Where do you look for the halachic definition of hatred as prequisite to divorcing a wife? Since that must be the minimal standard if Ya'akov in fact considered it a legitamate reason for divorce.)

    The two qualifications are (1)she was hated in comparision to Rachel (2) that Hashem saw she was hated implying that no one did.

    however in the midrash that the ramban brings it says that in far distant places which heard about Leah they said 'if she was righteous she would have never have heremota (decieved/tricked) her sister' furthermore, leah decieved ya'akov not rachel.

    In fact rachel is the one who made this whole deception possible and yet it seems that ya'akov holds no grudges against rachel for this whole incident. Possibly because he understood that rachel was doing it in order that leah not be embaressed.

    ....but Ya'akov divorcing leah wouldn't be embaressing?

    I want to look at the Abarbenel next because he generally puts together a complete picture.

    Kol tuv.

    By Blogger Masmida, at 4:55 PM, January 26, 2006  

  • ya'akov holds no grudges against rachel for this whole incident. Possibly because he understood that rachel was doing it in order that leah not be embaressed.

    ....but Ya'akov divorcing leah wouldn't be embaressing?


    Yaakov could forgive Rachel because her actions were rooted in right motivations. Leah's actions, from Yaakov's perspective at least initially, were not based on right motivations; she was in cahoots with her father in the deception.

    Hence, he felt compelled to divorce the woman who deceived him, and she would have had to deal with whatever consequences her actions brought about. He would not be embarrassing her for embarrassment's sake, but because he believed it was the right thing to do.

    Thus, he respected Rachel for her not wanting to embarrass another, but he was not concerned of possible embarrassment to Leah, because she did an unconsciencable act that affected him directly and set the course of his response.

    Of course, over time he came to realize that Leah was truly a tzadekes and, indeed, as we discussed, a bashert for his Yisrael potential/self.

    If you think that it would help and there is not someone more appropriate such as your rabbi or teacher or close friend to discuss this with, then please email.

    I've been doing my hishtadlus. That's not the issue. The issue is if you really want to know; in that case I am willing to share.

    In truth, there's also another consideration. One never knows where answers come from. Sometimes it's from teachers, sometimes from peers, sometimes from students. One also can never be sure where yeshua comes from; what other human being has been placed in a situation specifically to give help and insight that no one else can.

    By Blogger Me & My Yetzer, at 10:13 AM, January 27, 2006  

  • To decline a third time would be overly humble.

    I glanced at the Michtav but didn't work all the way throught

    however if you look at parshat v'yeshev there is a sub-topic in yosef and ya'akov entitled rachel and leah that says exactly what you were suggesting.

    By Blogger Masmida, at 12:03 PM, January 29, 2006  

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    Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:29 PM, November 14, 2009  

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