Shaya Cohen -


We only Value that which is Hard to Achieve

The Torah does not tell us that Rachel loves Yaakov!

At first glance, this might seem strange: after all Yaakov is often associated with love – he loves both Rachel and Leah (albeit the former more than the latter). He loves his son Yosef, and Benjamin.

But when we think about it, it becomes more clear. Yaakov falls in love with Rachel at first sight. She does nothing to earn it: she just has to be there, as the passive recipient.

After falling in love, Yaakov works for his wives – seven years for Leah, and fourteen for Rachel. He invests many years of his life at back-breaking labor to gain their hands in marriage. And the things that come hard, that require effort, are always worth more to us. It is why people who make their own money are much more careful about spending it, than people who win the lottery: easy come, easy go.

Because Yaakov works harder for Rachel than he does for Leah, it is no surprise that he loves Rachel more. And because Leah does not have equal love from Yaakov, she in turn is dedicated to gaining it. Leah names her children partly in praise of Hashem, connected with her desire to help gain her husband’s love.

But Rachel has Yaakov’s love from the very beginning! She does not have to do anything, or give of herself. Rachel’s unhappiness comes from being childless, not from lack of love from her husband. Indeed, when she delivers Yosef, Rachel does not refer to her husband at all! Instead she says “G-d has taken away my disgrace,” and “May Hashem add on for me another son.” In stark contrast with Leah, Rachel does not make it about her husband, or even a reciprocal relationship with Hashem!

Marriage between man and woman is the model for marriage between ourselves and Hashem. And what was not complete in the relationship between Rachel and Yaakov appears to have been reflected in the relationship between Rachel and Hashem as well! After all, when the family left for the land of Canaan, Rachel took her father’s idols! Why? One might suggest that when she left , she had not fully separated from her father, that she wanted some remembrance and connection with her childhood home.

In order to have a complete relationship with Hashem, one must first have a complete marriage with one’s spouse. Rachel’s marriage was incomplete in that she did not love Yaakov, and so her relationship to Hashem was also incomplete. Hence she kept the idols of her father: clinging both to her father and his gods, instead of to Yaakov and Hashem. The way she arranges herself on top of the idols is also highly problematic.

At the end of Rachel’s life, the loops all close. Her dying breath is to name her newborn son Ben-Oni, but Yaakov, in his first disagreement with Rachel, gives him the name Binyamin. This is the first child that Yaakov names, and he seems to do so as his first (and last) disagreement with Rachel.

And then she is buried. But instead of being laid to rest at Machpelah, the burial place of all those who built the bridge between the worlds that enabled the Beis Hamikdash, Rachel is buried by the side of the road. Because she did not invest in her marriage (naming a son “the son of my sorrow” may have been about regrets), she did not build a house. Rachel did not love her husband, she wrestled with her sister, she retained a connection to her father’s idols, and even when she was blessed with children, Rachel connected it to herself, and not to her marriage. It was a life that ended in bitterness, perhaps all because Yaakov loved Rachel unconditionally, without any investment required on her part.

Note: If Rachel’s goal in stealing the idols had merely been to reform her father, then she could have destroyed the idols. No observant Jew today would dream of owning such things – which helps explain why Yaakov was so certain that no member of his family would have taken them.

Yaakov loved many people, but he was not always so perceptive about the effect that he had on other people. He did not imagine that anyone would have the idols, any more than the Torah ever tells us that Yaakov was aware of the repercussions of his uneven affections on those whom he loved less: Leah and Yosef’s brothers.

Another Note: Yaakov REALLY likes naming things. All over the place, he does this. Is it because he sees the connection between names and their underlying nature? Is it connected to his angelic point of view?

Comments are welcome!

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