Sedra: Vayetze
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Sedra: Vayetze

Rabbi Jonathan Tawil looks ahead to this week's portion of the Torah

Jacob has fled left his parents’ home, away from Esau’s anger, travelling to the house of Laban.

He meets Laban’s younger daughter, Rachel, falls in love with her and proposes a deal: I’ll work for you for seven years on condition you grant me Rachel for marriage. However, on the wedding night, Laban substitutes Leah for Rachel.

When Jacob discovers the deception and protests, Laban replies: “It is not the accepted thing in our place to give the younger before the elder” (a reference to Jacob’s deception of Isaac, of the younger taking the blessing of the elder, Esau).

Laban agrees that in return for a further seven years’ labour, Jacob may marry Rachel.

He won’t have to wait until the end of the seven years, but must wait seven days until Leah’s wedding celebration is complete, alluding to the Sheva Brachot custom.

Through Leah, Jacob is blessed with six children. Each son born was given a name that seemed to signify her distress at the lack of love and attention Jacob paid her.

We are told  “Jacob loved Rachel …more than Leah” and “God saw that Leah was hated”. She had a hard and bitter life, but saw a ray of light when Judah (meaning “praise”) was born.

Jacob married four women and had 12 children (each wife was expected to have three). Once Leah was blessed with her fourth child, she realised this was an unexpected gift and thanked God for her lot – and was blessed with two more.

As our foremother, Leah taught us to appreciate every moment as a gift. The nation of gratitude – Judaism – was thus born.

Rabbi Jonathan Tawil is the founder and director of Torah Action LifeListen to this week’s episode of the Jewish Views podcast! 

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