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ותאמר אל יעקב הבה לי בנים ... ויחר אף יעקב ברחל ויאמר התחת אלקים אנכי

She said to Yaakov … “Give me children” … Yaakov’s anger flared up at Rachel and he said, “Am I in the place of G-d?” (30:1,2)

Rachel Imeinu pleaded with Yaakov Avinu to grant her children. Chazal (Midrash Rabbah 71:7) explain that she was asking that he pray on her behalf as his father, Yitzchak Avinu, had prayed on behalf of his mother, Rivkah Imeinu. Yaakov was brought to anger by virtue of her implication that he had the ability to give or withhold children. Then he added what appears to be a callous statement: “You say I should be like my father. He had to pray for my mother, because she, too, had no children. (If she would not have conceived, he would also have…

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ויהי בבוקר והנה היא לאה

And it was, in the morning, that behold it was Leah. (29:25)

Yaakov Avinu was acutely aware of Lavan’s corrupt nature. He made it a point to spell out clearly, b’Rachel bitcha ha’ketanah, he wanted to marry Rachel, Lavan’s younger daughter. Not trusting Lavan to adhere to his word, Yaakov made up simanim, signs, which would signal to him whether Lavan had, in fact, made a switch. Rachel, however, was uncomfortable with the notion that her sister would be humiliated. So, she shared the simanim with her. She was certain that Yaakov would agree that it was wrong to allow Leah to be so shamelessly treated. Therefore, she did not ask, she…

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ויאהב יעקב את רחל ... ויהיו בעיניו כימים אחדים באהבתו אתה

Yaakov loved Rachel … and they seemed to him a few days because of his love for her. (29:18,20)

Targum Onkeles translates va’yahav, and (he) loved… u’r’cheim, and (Yaakov) was sympathetic towards (Rachel). The accepted translation of ahavah is love. Onkeles seems to equate love with rachamanus, compassion/sympathy. Horav Gamliel Rabinowitz, Shlita, explains that true love is derived from compassion/empathy. Furthermore, one whose love is not founded in sympathy loves only himself. He does not really love the other person. The well-known aphorism from the Kotzker Rebbe, zl, comes into play here.  A chassid once remarked to the Rebbe that he loved fish. The Rebbe countered that veritably he loved himself, and fish satisfied him. If he truly loved…

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וידר יעקב נדר לאמר אם יהיה אלקים עמדי ... וכל אשר תתן לי עשר אעשרנו לך

Then Yaakov took a vow, saying, “If G-d will be with me…and whatever You will give me, I shall repeatedly tithe to You.” (28:20,22)

The word leimor, saying, is an implication to future generations, that they, too, shall vow in times of distress. Chazal (Midrash Rabbah, Bereishis 70) say, “Yaakov was the first to vow, thus all those who vow in the future should attach their vow to him.” Yaakov Avinu merited that all sincere vows be connected and attributed to his vow. He paved the way for people to vow to Hashem. Thus, when anyone commences a mitzvah, a project, an endeavor that will help others or increase service to Hashem, the merit all reverts to he who took the first plunge, who…

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ויפגעו בו מלאכי אלקים

And the Angels of G-d met him. (32:2)

The word va’yifga connotes an unexpected encounter. When the angels encountered Yaakov Avinu, it was an unusual experience for them. As Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, explains, Yaakov Avinu was the first of the Avos, Patriarchs, who merited to have mitaso sheleimah, that all of his children were righteous and followed in his ways of serving Hashem. Even after living for twenty years in the home of the evil Lavan, they emerged spiritually unscathed. The level that Yaakov achieved was incredible for the angels to behold. It was a momentous experience for them to see such a family on earth…

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ועיני לאה רכות

And the eyes of Leah were soft. (29:17)

Why were Leah’s eyes soft? Chazal (Bava Basra 123) explain that Leah heard the conversation of people who would talk among themselves. “Rivkah had two sons; her brother, Lavan, had two daughters. The older daughter is (apparently) promised to the older son, and the younger daughter to the younger son.” Leah asked concerning the nature of the older son’s endeavors. (Obviously, if she were destined to marry him, it would be nice to know what type of life she was destined to have.) The response was: “The older son is an evil, base person, a thief who preys on the…

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ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה

Yaakov departed from Beer-Sheva and went towards Charan. (28:10)

Chazal (Bereishis Rabbah 68) address the concept of Heavenly intervention with regard to shidduchim, matrimonial matches. We derive from Yitzchak Avinu’s shidduch that mei’Hashem yatza ha’davar; “The matter stemmed from Hashem” (Ibid. 24:50). The Midrash states: “There are those for whom their zivug, pair/spouse, comes to them (as was manifest in the case of Yitzchak Avinu), and there are those who must go to their spouse (as was evinced with Yaakov Avinu, who had to travel to Canaan to seek his designated spouse). What is Chazal teaching us with this statement? It is a fact of life that some people…

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ויען לבן ויאמר אל יעקב הבנות בנתי והבנים בני... וכל אשר אתה ראה לי הוא

Then Lavan spoke up and said to Yaakov… “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children…And all that you see is mine.” (31:43)

With an arrogance that is simultaneously astounding and becoming, Lavan lashes into Yaakov Avinu with a diatribe, asserting himself to be the victim and Yaakov to be the aggressor. We are accustomed to it. Throughout the generations, we have contributed to the success of our host nations and, at the end of the day, not only did we not receive our due, but we were also blamed for attempting to undermine them. In Maamar Yechezkel, authored by Horav Yechezkel, zl, m’Kuzmir, he cites his father, Horav Tzvi Hirsch, zl, who explains the word roeh (v’chol asher atah roeh, “All that…

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ויזכור אלקים את רחל וישמע אליה אלקים ויפתח את רחמה

Hashem remembered Rachel; Hashem hearkened to her, and He opened her womb. (30:22)

Hashem remembered the extraordinary empathy that Rachel Imeinu manifested for her sister’s plight. Lest she be discovered as Leah, Rachel gave her the predesignated signs that Yaakov Avinu (sensing that Lavan would pull off such a stunt) had originally given to her. Rashi explains that now that she was aware that she was barren, Rachel feared that Yaakov would divorce her, and she would be compelled to marry Eisav. (This is based upon the commentary that quoted people as saying that Lavan had two daughters, and his sister Rivkah Imeinu had two sons; the older son (Eisav) would marry the…

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ויהי בערב ויקח את לאה בתו ויבא אתה אליו

And it was in the evening that he took Leah, his daughter, and brought her to him. (29:23)

True to his reputation as a swindler, Lavan did not keep his word to give Rachel Imeinu to Yaakov Avinu. He substituted Leah Imeinu for Rachel. This ruse would not have worked had Rachel not given over to her sister the designated signs that Yaakov had arranged with her. The Patriarch knew what kind of thief his prospective father-in-law was. He did not, however, count on the extraordinary love that Rachel harbored for Leah. The relationship between siblings should serve as a paradigm for the relationship between friends. When we speak of a relationship between two friends, the friendship between…

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