To Be a Mother or To Be a Wife

Parshas Vayeitzei

“Hashem saw that Leah was not loved as much as Rochel, and He opened her womb; and Rachel was barren”

Question

It would seemingly be sufficient to tell us the that Hashem perceived Leah’s plight and Hashem made her concieve. Why is Rochel’s barrenness mentioned in conjunction with Leah’s story? The verse could have finished with Leah’s fertility confirmed; why the contrast?

Answer

The motivation for children may stem from one of two different drives. One: It may be the maternal instict to bear progeny and to be giving. There is no one more dependent on her than her child. Two: Offspring cement the bond between husband and wife. Children are the indivisible product of two separate humans becoming one, living testimony to that unity.

Both Leah and Rochel desired to be mothers. But their drive differed.  Leah, when naming her first son Reuvain, stated “Now my husband will love me”. Her primary goal in bearing children was to establish a firm relationship with her husband, Yaakov.

Rochel’s conviction was, were she to have no children, “I am as one who is dead.” Her maternal instinct was driving her to seek fulfillment of this purpose in life. Rochel was eventually blessed with children.

Hashem is partial to promoting harmony, especially between husband and wife, it is for this reason that Hashem permits His Holy name to be erased in the Sotah waters. Hashem is prepared to overlook His honor for the sake of peace. Although the Matriarchs were barren so that they develop a deeper relationship with Hashem through prayer for children, Leah’s prayers for children were answered expeditiously. She merited this as she was striving thereby to build a strong relationship with her spouse. Since Rochel’s desire for children was missing that bond-strengthening component, she remained childless longer. That is why the verse contrasts Leah and Rochel “Hashem saw that Leah was not loved as much as Rochel, and He opened her womb; and Rachel was barren”.

Lesson
What can we “overlook” to promote peace? [Especially between couples].

Story

Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky (1891-1986) was a high caliber leader of American Jewry, and still was known for his great humility. He especially deplored people rising to his honor when he entered into a room. Reb Yaakov was once attending a convention organized by Agudath Israel and arrived together with Rabbi Shneur Kotler (1918-1982). As they paused just outside the doorway leading into the sumptuously decorated hall Reb Shneur commented “If we go in this way, everyone will stand up for us. Let us go in a side door, so that we do not inconvenience the crowd.” Reb Shneur too ran from honor, preferring to remain modestly in the background.

To Reb Shneur’s utter amazement and incredulity, Reb Yaakov disagreed and insisted on using the main door. This was so out of character that Reb Shneur felt compelled to ask for an explanation certainly, there was something to be learned here.

Reb Yaakov’s response was another brick in the edifice of his home “Our wives are inside. It will give them such pleasure to see us being honored this way”.

Weekly Halacha

One may cut food into simple shapes on Shabbos such as circles, squares and triangles.

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