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  KD MAGAZINE!                      ב"ה     
 

 

The Power of Hidden Love 

This past Tuesday, 11 MarCheshvan, the Jewish world commemorated the yahrtzeit of Rachel Imeinu and was rocked with the sudden passing of one of the most inspiring and incredible Jews of our time, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt"l - the beloved Rosh Yeshiva of the biggest yeshiva in the world.  

Both personalities were legendary for their extreme love, sacrifice and care for people.  

We present the following selection from the new sefer in tribute. It is one of my personal favorites and I have great hakaras hatov to Rabbi Avraham Willig for it. May it serve as an aliyas neshama      

This story tells, perhaps, of the greatest act of selflessness in Biblical lore[1].Rachel is ready to marry Yaakov, a union they have been pining for, for seven long years, Lavan has a more sinister plan:

Lavan gathered all the local people and he made a [wedding] feast. When it was evening, he took Leah, his daughter, and brought her to him [Yaakov]. . When it was morning, behold it was Leah![2] 

On that last line, the midrash comments:

But, during the night she was not Leah? For Yaakov had given Rachel [certain] signs and when Rachel saw that Leah was being brought to him she thought: "My sister may now be humiliated," [whereupon] she transmitted those signs to her.

A classic midrash teaches that Yaakov is to marry Rachel but being aware of Lavan's character, and perhaps suspecting that he might swap Rachel for Leah, Yaakov developes a system of signs for Rachel..

Rachel is horrified by the prospect of Leah's humiliation, and sacrifices her own happiness by giving Leah those signs. Remarkably, the midrash doesn't portray even a whiff of Rachel's internal dilemma; giving one the sense that this moment was long in the planning. The magnitude and reverberations of Rachel's personal heroism are perhaps best reflected in the following classic midrash[3] 

The midrash[4] portrays Yirmiyahu, post the destruction of the Temple, [at Hashem's behest] imploring the giants of our past to do something. Yirmiyahu wakes Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov and Moshe who fight mightily, drawing on their personal heroism in defense of the Jewish people. These are valiant battles - but Hashem rejects them all. Then, Mama Rachel speaks:

"If I, a mere mortal, was prepared not to humiliate my sister and was willing to take a rival into my home, how could You, the eternal, compassionate God, be jealous of idols that were brought into Your home, which have no true existence Will You cause my children to be exiled on this account?" ... Immediately Hashem is imbued with mercy: for you Rachel I shall return Yisrael to their place.

To understand the magnitude of Rachel's act, consider that Rachel didn't passively spare Leah shame. She actively handed signs that were given exclusively for her use, to her sister, even though ...

  1. Rachel waited for seven years for her Yaakov!

  2. Rachel gave up her husband without knowing at the time she would ever marry him

  3. Rachel gave up her portion as the mother of Klal Yisrael [without ever knowing she might get some back]

  4. Rachel exposed herself to the real possibility of having to marry Eisav

Incredible! But all is not well - for this grand act of Rachel's mesiras hasimanin (giving away the signs) narrative - an fact in Talmudic and Midrashic literature - raises troubling questions in light of the text:

1. First, the enigmatic story of the dudaim, those unnamed flowers that (years later), Reuven brings to his mother Leah. Rachel wants and asks for some. Note Leah's reaction [Bereishis, 30:15].

Leah said to her, "Isn't it enough that you took my husband? Would you also take my son's dudaim flowers?"

Consider our midrash and then think about Leah's reaction. Is it not unbelievably audacious? MY HUSBAND! One is almost tempted to yell out, but Leah - How dare you! And yet we see in Rachel's reaction not even a hint of censure; a reaction of heroic proportions.

Rachel said, "Therefore, he shall be with you tonight in exchange for your son's dudaim flowers.

We shall return to this point.

2. Our midrash tells us what happened before the wedding night, but what of the morning after? Was Yaakov really bound to this marriage? Why would Yaakov not simply divorce Leah? A midrash has Yaakov castigating Leah for her deeds. Leah responds that she learned deception from Yaakov - the Rebbe of deception.

One aspect emerging from this difficult midrash is Leah's moral role in the simanim episode:

For even as Rachel heroically hands the signs to Leah, we might rightfully ask how Leah could have accepted them?!! Did she not know that she was taking Yaakov from Rachel and Rachel from Yaakov ?

It is unlikely that Leah was merely Lavan's pawn. Nor is it fathomable that Leah, matriarch of Klal Yisrael, would be so motivated by self-interest (to avoid marrying Eisav) that she would willingly go along with such deception

3. Further on, we find that Yaakov registers a protest with Lavan: [29:25-26]

What have you done to me? Did I not work with you for Rachel? Why did you deceive me?

Lavan's response:

It is not done so in our place, to give the younger [daughter in marriage] before the firstborn.

In this dialogue. Lavan's attitude is outrageously cynical.Hey Yaakov, in our part of town, we let the older go first, not like people from YOUR home.

Lavan sounds [like his name], white, na´ve, pristine - even as he is so incredibly deceitful. Yaakov is timid and one wonders why. Perhaps even more significantly, at the end of twenty years heavy with Lavan's abuse of power, Yaakov finally, in front of his family, lets loose [31:36-42]

Yaakov was angry and he argued with Lavan. Yaakov replied and said to Lavan, "What is my crime? What sin did I commit that you were in such hot pursuit of me? ... These twenty years that I was with you, your ewes and she-goats never miscarried, .. You demanded compensation from my hand whether [an animal] was stolen from me by day or whether it was stolen from me by night. I was consumed by the burning heat by day and ice at night. My sleep was taken from my eyes. These twenty years that I have been in your house, I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your sheep, but you changed my wages ten times.

And yet, he doesn't mention the greatest injustice of them all. Lavan's Rachel-Leah swap is omitted! Again one wonders why.

4. Years later, the siblings get into the picture. Reuven disrespects Yaakov [according to the midrash] by moving his bed from Bilhah's [Rachel's maidservant] to Leah's. Of course this act pales in comparison with the incredible resentment and attacks, that Leah's children have showered on Yosef. Where is the regard for Rachel's incredible mesirus nefesh, that had opened the door to Leah in the first place? And why don't Leah's children show any gratitude to Rachel and her children?

5. One last question is based on a beautiful piece of Talmud[5] 

Because of Rachels tznius [transmitting the signs], Shaul HaMelech was descended from her. And because of Shaul's tznius, Esther and Mordechai were descended from him.

The Talmudic language is troubling. Shaul and Esther were modest insofar as they kept important secrets [Shaul did not immediately divulge his anointment as King(,) while Esther was renowned for not revealing her Jewish identity.] Rachel's grand act of giving away the signs was in fact a revelation! Would it not have been more correct to label Rachel's actions as chesed or sacrifice?

In sum we have posed seven basic questions:

  1. How could Leah have accused Rachel of taking her husband?

  2. How could Leah have allowed Rachel to give her Yaakov?

  3. Why did Yaakov not protest to Leah or divorce her?

  4. Why did Yaakov not protest to Lavan more vigorously?

  5. Why did Yaakov omit the colossal wrong he suffered by having been given the wrong wife, in his recap with Lavan?

  6. Why do Leah's children not act deferentially to Rachel?

  7. Why does the gemara call Rachel's grand act tznius as opposed to chessed or mesirut nefesh?

Rav Shalom Schwadron records a remarkable single sentence answer that resolves all our questions: Leah never knew!

Rabbi Avraham Willig's approach is based upon this premise[6] 

Consider the notion that only three people knew of the impending Yaakov-Rachel marriage: Lavan, Yaakov and Rachel.

Follow the thread: Lavan negotiated privately with Yaakov. He then celebrated publicly with the townspeople at the Leah-Yaakov wedding. Were he to reveal his duplicity, it would make him look like the cheater he really was. Yaakov and Rachel of course anticipated Lavan's wily ways - a point the midrash makes; this was after all, the whole basis for establishing the sign system. Now follow the logic: As surely as Rachel considered that Lavan would dupe Yaakov, she also contemplated how unbelievably embarrassing this would be for Leah [to be substituted for the real bride in front of a whole town!]. Leah is, innocent of all knowledge of this, -- most likely being told by Lavan that she is the intended bride[7]. Given these realities, Rachel responds.

But first a word from a classic Rambam[8] which speaks of eight levels among tzedaka givers; we skip to the top two:

There are eight levels in charity, each level surpassing the other.

The highest level is a person who supports a Jew who has fallen into poverty [by] giving him a present or a loan, entering into partnership with him or finding him work so that his hand will be fortified so that he will not have to ask others ...

A lower [level] ... this is one who gives charity to the poor without knowing to whom he gave and without the poor person knowing from whom he received. For this is an observance of the mitzvah for its sake alone. This [type of giving was] exemplified by the secret chamber that existed in the Temple. The righteous would make donations there in secret and poor people ... would derive their livelihood from it in secret.

 

What is the highest of the high? To find someone a job without the recipient even knowing that it was a gift. The recipient achieves self sufficiency without losing honor. This was Rachel's goal: to transmit the signs without divulging the plan - to get Leah in the know without her really knowing the whole story[9].

And what were those signs? To Da'as Zekeinim, they were the 3 classic mitzvos of the home: nidah, challah and candlelighting. Thus Rachel taught Leah [perhaps in explicit preparation for her upcoming marriage] the three primary mitzvos of the home. Some time later, Yaakov, in the yichud room, gave his wife-to-be a bechina [test] - which of course Leah passes with flying colors - not even knowing that these were the signs!

The next morning, Yaakov realizes what has transpired. He too does not want to embarrass Leah. Thus, he cannot vigorously protest Lavan's assertion. Privately, he raises the issue. Lavan responds smugly and self righteously. For Yaakov, there is no use continuing. Too much protestation may publicize the matter and bring Leah the unending embarrassment of forever being the unwanted wife. Of what purpose is protest, - as the matter is a fait accompli[10](?) Years later, when Yaakov finally unloads on Lavan in the presence of his wives and children, he certainly cannot raise the matter. For Yaakov, it is now a matter of acceptance.

Since Leah does not know the background, she only sees Rachel - the 'second wife' - gaining favored status, a situation that culminates in her dudaim comment [you already took MY husband]. Leah's children of course see the same thing; hence their response.

Far from being a one-time act of sacrifice. Rachel's greatness is her ongoing refusal to divulge- a grand act of continuous hidden love. That ongoing every-waking-moment-of-her-life hidden love that Rachel demonstrates for her sister is all the more remarkable in light of the bizyonos (shame), of Leah's upset and the insults given her by Leah's children.

Rachel's claim is the ultimate winner when appealing to Hashem on behalf of Jews in need of mercy. Why? Whereas Avraham evoked the ten tests, and Yitzchak cited his willingness to be bound, and Moshe embodied his unbelievable tenacity and faithfulness, these grand acts were all manifest .

Rachel however says to Hashem: my act of hidden love for my sister came even as I suffered disgrace. Hashem - can't you do the same for your people?

May Hashem reveal his infinite acts of hidden love to all His people who wait faithfully for a world of open love and an end to all evil.


 

[1] [Note: What follows is a beautiful piece of Torah I heard from my chaver Rabbi Avraham Willig of Ramat Beit Shemesh Israel.]

[2] Bereishis 29:22-25

[3] based on Yirmiyahu [31:15-16] - Thus says Hashem, A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping Rachel is weeping for her children; refusing to be comforted for her children .. Thus says Hashem, Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; For your work will be rewarded," declares Hashem, And they will return from the land of the enemy.

[4] Pesichta Eicha Rabah 24

[5] Megillah 13b

[6] Although it is not completely in synch with this startling comment.

[7] Especially according to the midrash that indicates that Lavan would redirect all of Yaakov's presents that he sent during the seven years to Leah! The midrash praises Rachel's and her son Binyamin's silence [the latter for not revealing mechiras Yosef]

[8] Matnos Aniyim, 10:7-8

[9] Two questions still need to be addressed: If Rachel knew that Leah would be embarrassed, and she would have to transmit the signs - why did she accept the signs from Yaakov in the first place? Once Rachel agreed to Yaakov's sign system - how could she violate Yaakov's will?

[10] Additionally, Yaakov certainly saw the hashgacha in the whole story.

 

Good Shabbos

Asher Brander  


 
   
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