Friday, 2 December 2011

The Greatness of Leah: How Far Would You Go to Care for Another?

This weeks Parsha - VaYetzei, tells us about the stories concerning the births of the 12 children of Jacob - to become the tribes of Israel. It seems like the entire episode regarding the births is somewhat strange; maybe even twisted somewhat. 

Jacob loves Rachel - and works for Lavan for seven years for her. Then he's swindled - and it is in fact Rachel that gives up her husband so as not to embarrass her sister Leah. One would expect Rachel to be well rewarded. But instead, it is Leah who is rewarded with four beautiful children - all because - it seems, that Jacob does not show enough love to his "first" wife. Meanwhile, Rachel pines for her own children. The story continues and tells us that Bilah and Zilpah are blessed with two children each, and once again - thereafter, Leah is blessed with another two children. But Rachel still waits for blessing...

Leah falls pregnant again - and a glance at Rashi tells us something strange. Leah knows that the child inside her is a boy. She also knows that there are to be 12 children - 12 tribes. She has already given birth to 6 of them - and the two "maidservants" Bilhah and Zilpah have already given birth to another 4 of them. That being the case, there are only two children left to completing the entire "House of Israel." Leah begins to think fast, and realises that if her sister Rachel is not blessed with the remainder of the two children, she will be considered even more inferior to even the maidservants!

Leah may well have married Jacob first. She may even have taken away the opportunity of Rachel to spend her "Onah" night with Jacob - when Rachel was prepared to trade in the night in exchange for the Dudaim that Leah's son Reuven had found that day. But when it came to as serious an issue as a child being born - and rightly so - to her sister, she began to pray to G-d. And this is what she said:

"G-d, I care for my sister. I see her distress - even with everything we have been through in terms of our marriage to the same man. I remember how much I wanted what I did. And I thank You for Your wondrous blessings of not just 4, but 6 of the tribes of Israel. But I fear, the child inside me is another of the tribes - a tribe that should be destined for my sister - for she has NO children of her own. She has prayed, but You have not answered. She too is deserving of blessing in her life. I could not bear to contemplate the embarrassment she would suffer, were she to have even only one of the tribes of Israel - when even the maidservants have two each! In fact, she saved me from embarrassment on the night of my own marriage - should that not count for something?! I give up my right for this child and ask you to place it inside the womb of my sister Rachel."

Her sincere prayer was answered - and Leah was blessed with a girl - Dinah (who upon close examination displays many more manly behavioral traits in her life) - and Rachel was blessed with a boy - Josef (who displays many more feminine qualities in his life...)

It was this powerful prayer of Leah that sealed Rachel's fate of being blessed with Josef. And indeed, through it - ultimately - her (Leah's) own children were saved the pains of starvation in the years to come...

We turn to our own lives now, and we begin to contemplate... Are you? So many Jewish women are blessed (Bli Ayin HaRa) with children. After a child is born, immediate pregnancy comes about again and many Irish twins are born! Many are blessed with wealth too. No matter what they do - they are the offspring of Midas himself.

And yet many lack. Many cry. Many have no children. They try everything and anything. Just as those without wealth - will try everything and anything. Yet, for some reason nothing happens. Costly fertility treatments result in nothing. Fights in the home can be a common thing. Sleep is lost. The emotional feelings are impossible to describe to anyone who has taken "having children" for granted - for believing that the ability to have and prevent children lie in their hands. For such a couple - finding themselves with such tragedy day in and day out for years, divorce may even result. And why? Because they have no children there...

But Leah - with all her "faults" shines through. She teaches us a value that outweighs anything we can ever conceive (sic). When it comes to real life - life is not about battles, about jealousy, about laughing at the other, insulting them and hurting them wherever we can (after all G-d doesn't own you anything - even if I do have 15 children!) Life is about a caring that goes beyond any limit we can think of.

Leah could give it up. She could give up the blessing of a child that was to be hers - all so that her sister could have so much blessing in her own life.

And now we turn to ourselves and ask... Could we be as willing to pray to G-d and ask Him that though we may now be blessed with millions of dollars more in wealth - that we ask Him to exchange it - to give it to another in need?! Could we be as willing to pray to G-d to ask Him - that if we are to be destined with another child - that we give it up - all in the hope that another who cries every day - and every night - finally be blessed - too, with something they desire so much.

How far would you really go in praying for another? How much love do you really have - for another? Who knows, it may well be that very love, that in the future will be the very thing that comes back to bring blessing to all of your descendants in years to come...

It's no wonder that Moshiach will be a direct descendant from Judah - the fourth son of Leah - who Leah thanked G-d for. When a woman (and man) is prepared to appreciate what they have and to add to this the yearning and desire that another be blessed equally - and even with what is rightfully theirs - it is this very thing that awakens Moshiach and brings redemption to the world - and to each and every one of us.

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