Parashat Vayeitzei: Jacob’s two wives – Leah and Rachel « Wonders from Your Torah
Feed on
Posts
Comments

“Isaac loved Esau because of the game in his mouth, tadalafil but Rebecca loves Jacob.” The sages of all generations have tackled the many questions that arise from this verse: Why did Isaac love Esau? Was he not aware of Esau’s conduct? Why did he want to bless Esau and not his brother Jacob, search a tent-dweller dedicated to Torah? And why, after learning that Jacob had “stolen” the blessings did Isaac respond, “Indeed, he shall be blessed”?

Following in the footsteps of the sages, we too will meditate upon these questions in the light of traditional Chassidic interpretations.

Abraham: Spreading light

The key to understanding parashat Toldot lies in the persona of Isaac and in his unique way of serving God. In order to understand how this is so, we will compare the two patriarchs, Isaac and Abraham.

During the first moments of creation, when the world was steeped in darkness, God said, “Let there be light” and the sages teach us that Abraham’s advent similarly illuminated the world with a new light. Abraham wandered from place to place, teaching monotheism to people entrenched in ignorance and vanity. He called out in God’s Name, teaching them faith in God and all-encompassing love.  But, what weight does Abraham place upon mundane reality? The mundane seems to trouble him very little. The world is still far from recognizing God, from following God’s will and Abraham’s main mission in life remains to fill reality with as much light as possible. If, “a small amount of light can dismiss a great deal of darkness,” then even more light can dismiss huge amounts of darkness, illuminating all of reality with Divinity. Abraham ensconced everyone he met in the light of his “mitzvah campaigns” and enlightened them with his Torah, mitzvot and good deeds. Abraham’s only interest in the big wide world is to help it discover God’s oneness, the secret of the Divine nothingness.

Perhaps it is unclear how Abraham’s method could eventually lead to the ultimate rectification and to the advent of Mashiach, but it is obviously true that the world has to be awakened and illuminated. In fact, this is the teaching that the Ba’al Shem Tov learnt from Mashiach himself. The Ba’al Shem Tov asked, “When will you finally come, sir?” and Mashiach replied, “When your wellsprings [i.e., the Ba’al Shem Tov’s Chassidic teachings] are disseminated outwardly.”

Isaac: Digging wells

Isaac’s service of God was totally different from Abraham’s, so much so that it is surprising that Isaac is Abraham’s son. Indeed, the Torah makes a point of stating that Isaac is Abraham’s son, as the verse states, “This is the chronology of Isaac, the son of Abraham; Abraham bore Isaac,” as if there is a need to emphasize that despite the essential difference between them, surprisingly enough, Abraham did indeed bear Isaac.

Isaac did not illuminate the world with mitzvah campaigns. In fact, they seem to have no place in his life. Isaac dug wells. If we meditate on the deeper meaning of digging wells, we can say that Isaac saw the crude material world for exactly what it is, but he also perceived God’s existence in everything, even in coarse matter. Isaac’s goal was to expose the fact that, “God is all, and all is God.” Even the brightest light can only illuminate reality from outside but Isaac desired to penetrate the inner substance of the world and uncover the Divine spark that vitalizes it. Isaac’s consciousness was at the highest realm of truth and he recognized that there is truly “nothing apart from Him.” Although the physical world appears to be an entity separate from its Creator, appearances are misleading. The true nature of reality is exactly the opposite—it is one with God— and the truth must be revealed. Isaac digs and drills deeper and deeper into the earth to reveal that the earth which seems so dry, barren and far-removed from the Divine, is actually a fresh-water well waiting to be revealed; dark and dry reality actually conceals God Himself.

This then is why Isaac loved Esau. He knew that Esau was a full-blooded and tempestuous man of the field, that he lived and breathed the crudeness of the mundane, and that is exactly what Isaac loved about him. Isaac’s greatest desire was to take hold of a hunk of material reality and reveal how it—the created substance of reality (??? ?????)—perfectly reflects the Divine—the true substance of reality (??? ??????). That is why Isaac wanted to bless Esau. Isaac believed that by the power of his blessings, Esau would be transformed into a new man and his very crudeness would expose the true Divinity that vitalizes the world. Whereas Abraham illuminated reality with candles and flashlights, Isaac was searching for the main power switch that would convert night into day in one fell swoop.

Jacob: Long-term clarifications

Having contrasted Isaac with his father Abraham, let us continue to compare between Isaac and his son, Jacob. Jacob’s mission of Divine service was neither to illuminate reality from above, like his grandfather, Abraham, nor to follow Isaac’s philosophy by digging and delving into reality to reveal that everything is Divine. Jacob sets out to clarify and refine reality. On the one hand his philosophy is similar to Isaac’s, because he sullies his hands with physical reality and is not content with illuminating it from the outside. Yet Jacob’s goal is to refine darkness by gradually identifying and gathering more and more sparks of holiness that have fallen into the physical world, and to redeem and elevate them as he did when he salvaged his own herd from Laban’s flocks.

In Chassidic terms this is called the “service of clarifications.” Almost all our Torah study and performance of mitzvot is aimed at achieving this end—to elevate reality piece by piece. This service is by nature protracted and demands patience, as Jacob said to Esau when he tactfully refused his invitation to join him on his journey to Se’ir, “I will move on at my own slow pace… until I reach my master at Seir.” As alluded to by the numerical value of, “I will move on at my own slow pace” (?????? ????), which equals “Israel” (?????)—the name Jacob received from Esau’s own archangel, suggesting that Esau’s essence succumbs to Jacob’s plan—Jacob’s method is to progress slowly and gradually, until reality has indeed been refined and all its good points have been gathered together like flocks at a well. This is Jacob’s program for bringing redemption; a long-term plan that slowly but surely refines reality until all clarifications are complete and we merit the advent of Mashiach.

Delivering a knockout?

But let’s get back to Isaac. He is not at all impressed with Jacob’s service. Isaac does not see Jacob’s plan as fulfilling the purpose of life, because even after all reality has been refined and all the fallen sparks of holiness have been gathered up, the lowest reality itself remains dark and distant from the Divine. In fact, what has happened is that it is now completely empty of all the good that it previously contained and there is nothing left to be done with the empty shells and the refuse that have been left behind during the refining process. Rather, Chassidut teaches us that Isaac’s service was not the service of clarifications but the service of unifications, meaning that his goal was to unite the mundane (all of it) with God Himself.

Whereas Jacob carries on slowly but surely, Isaac’s philosophy is to overcome lower reality in one fell swoop by dealing it a triumphant blow, one hard punch that will knock it out and turn it all into pure Divinity. In our case, this blow is in the form of the superlative blessing that Isaac intended to give to Esau; a blessing that was intended to penetrate so deep into Esau’s psyche that it would reveal the essential Divinity that vitalizes his coarseness. Jacob can continue to sit in his tents, which is all well and good, but Esau’s reformation was Isaac’s primary goal.

But Isaac’s plan went awry and Jacob stole the stage with his mother Rebecca pulling the strings behind the scenes. Rebecca’s soul-root is the same as that of Isaac, which is why they are the Torah’s perfect couple. Yet, although Rebecca was aware of the ultimate goal, revealing that “all is God.” But, she also knew that Isaac was already living that future reality and could not see Esau for what he really was. Rebbeca realized that to reach her and Isaac’s common goal in practice, they would need to involve Jacob. Rebecca did see Esau for what he truly was and concluded that Esau could not be blessed “as is.” She believed that Isaac’s blessing, as potent as it may be, would not transform Esau, who would adamantly refuse to change. The blessings would only infuse him with even more power to continue down his virulent path. The full force of Isaac’s knockout punch would not finish Esau off, and history would have to go many more rounds with him.

Before reality can be transformed it must be refined, because there are some of its aspects that must completely disappear, as the prophet says, “I [God] will remove the unclean spirit from the earth.” In the future we will indeed reach Isaac’s level. At the same time, Esau himself—the good in him—will have been refined. Then, “the redeemed will climbMt.Zionto judge theMountainofEsau.” But in the meantime, we need to follow Jacob’s method.

Jacob was also well aware of this and he was aware that at the end of his long journey he would reach Isaac’s level. He too agreed that there is good in his brother Esau, which is why he wore his clothes, “The voice is the voice of Jacob and the hands are the hands of Esau.” Once Isaac understood the message that Rebecca and Jacob had conveyed to him, he acknowledged the truth of their insights and confirmed his blessing to Jacob, “Indeed, he [Jacob] shall be blessed.”

“We want Mashiach, please!”

Every Jew carries in him the essence of all three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But there are individuals in whom Isaac’s soul-root manifests in particular. In our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe led a mass-arousal to usher in the true and complete redemption. The Rebbe constantly stressed that redemption is right here waiting to make its entrance and all we have to do is open our eyes to see it. The Rebbe repeatedly proclaimed: “Mashiach, Now!” He also stressed that Esau himself is now ready for redemption and all that remains for Mashiach to arrive are our final actions.

Of course, the Rebbe knew (better than us) that Isaac eventually submitted to Rebecca and Jacob’s philosophy, but he also saw us as an updated version of Isaac. Thousands of years have passed since Isaac let Jacob lead the way, and we have already come a long, long way with his service of clarification. Indeed, the Rebbe explicitly stated that “the service of clarifications is over.” Jacob’s service has reached its final stage and we are close to achieving Isaac’s goal.

Nonetheless, the Rebbe did not speak of knocking reality out with a single blow. Rather, he taught that redemption should be brought about with pleasant and peaceful ways. Even when the Rebbe cried, “Mashiach, now!” he was not suggesting we forcefully overpower reality. He sent us out to influence the world in a way that the world could understand and accept.

This can be illustrated with a linguistic twist. One word that sounds similar to and means the same as the English “now” (in “Mashiach, now!”) is ??, as in the phrase, “Now I know” (??? ?? ?????), but this word, which is an almost precise transliteration of “now,” also means “please,” as in the phrase, “Please say you are my sister” (???? ?? ????? ??). Apparently, the Lubavitcher Rebbe not only wanted “Mashiach, now!” he also wanted “Mashiach, please!” When we say, “We want Mashiach now!” we also mean, “We want Mashiach, please!” If our request for Mashiach is accepted, then there is nothing to hold him back from appearing at this very moment.

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class of 28th Cheshvan, 5773

“Isaac loved Esau because of the game in his mouth, tadalafil but Rebecca loves Jacob.” The sages of all generations have tackled the many questions that arise from this verse: Why did Isaac love Esau? Was he not aware of Esau’s conduct? Why did he want to bless Esau and not his brother Jacob, search a tent-dweller dedicated to Torah? And why, after learning that Jacob had “stolen” the blessings did Isaac respond, “Indeed, he shall be blessed”?

Following in the footsteps of the sages, we too will meditate upon these questions in the light of traditional Chassidic interpretations.

Abraham: Spreading light

The key to understanding parashat Toldot lies in the persona of Isaac and in his unique way of serving God. In order to understand how this is so, we will compare the two patriarchs, Isaac and Abraham.

During the first moments of creation, when the world was steeped in darkness, God said, “Let there be light” and the sages teach us that Abraham’s advent similarly illuminated the world with a new light. Abraham wandered from place to place, teaching monotheism to people entrenched in ignorance and vanity. He called out in God’s Name, teaching them faith in God and all-encompassing love.  But, what weight does Abraham place upon mundane reality? The mundane seems to trouble him very little. The world is still far from recognizing God, from following God’s will and Abraham’s main mission in life remains to fill reality with as much light as possible. If, “a small amount of light can dismiss a great deal of darkness,” then even more light can dismiss huge amounts of darkness, illuminating all of reality with Divinity. Abraham ensconced everyone he met in the light of his “mitzvah campaigns” and enlightened them with his Torah, mitzvot and good deeds. Abraham’s only interest in the big wide world is to help it discover God’s oneness, the secret of the Divine nothingness.

Perhaps it is unclear how Abraham’s method could eventually lead to the ultimate rectification and to the advent of Mashiach, but it is obviously true that the world has to be awakened and illuminated. In fact, this is the teaching that the Ba’al Shem Tov learnt from Mashiach himself. The Ba’al Shem Tov asked, “When will you finally come, sir?” and Mashiach replied, “When your wellsprings [i.e., the Ba’al Shem Tov’s Chassidic teachings] are disseminated outwardly.”

Isaac: Digging wells

Isaac’s service of God was totally different from Abraham’s, so much so that it is surprising that Isaac is Abraham’s son. Indeed, the Torah makes a point of stating that Isaac is Abraham’s son, as the verse states, “This is the chronology of Isaac, the son of Abraham; Abraham bore Isaac,” as if there is a need to emphasize that despite the essential difference between them, surprisingly enough, Abraham did indeed bear Isaac.

Isaac did not illuminate the world with mitzvah campaigns. In fact, they seem to have no place in his life. Isaac dug wells. If we meditate on the deeper meaning of digging wells, we can say that Isaac saw the crude material world for exactly what it is, but he also perceived God’s existence in everything, even in coarse matter. Isaac’s goal was to expose the fact that, “God is all, and all is God.” Even the brightest light can only illuminate reality from outside but Isaac desired to penetrate the inner substance of the world and uncover the Divine spark that vitalizes it. Isaac’s consciousness was at the highest realm of truth and he recognized that there is truly “nothing apart from Him.” Although the physical world appears to be an entity separate from its Creator, appearances are misleading. The true nature of reality is exactly the opposite—it is one with God— and the truth must be revealed. Isaac digs and drills deeper and deeper into the earth to reveal that the earth which seems so dry, barren and far-removed from the Divine, is actually a fresh-water well waiting to be revealed; dark and dry reality actually conceals God Himself.

This then is why Isaac loved Esau. He knew that Esau was a full-blooded and tempestuous man of the field, that he lived and breathed the crudeness of the mundane, and that is exactly what Isaac loved about him. Isaac’s greatest desire was to take hold of a hunk of material reality and reveal how it—the created substance of reality (??? ?????)—perfectly reflects the Divine—the true substance of reality (??? ??????). That is why Isaac wanted to bless Esau. Isaac believed that by the power of his blessings, Esau would be transformed into a new man and his very crudeness would expose the true Divinity that vitalizes the world. Whereas Abraham illuminated reality with candles and flashlights, Isaac was searching for the main power switch that would convert night into day in one fell swoop.

Jacob: Long-term clarifications

Having contrasted Isaac with his father Abraham, let us continue to compare between Isaac and his son, Jacob. Jacob’s mission of Divine service was neither to illuminate reality from above, like his grandfather, Abraham, nor to follow Isaac’s philosophy by digging and delving into reality to reveal that everything is Divine. Jacob sets out to clarify and refine reality. On the one hand his philosophy is similar to Isaac’s, because he sullies his hands with physical reality and is not content with illuminating it from the outside. Yet Jacob’s goal is to refine darkness by gradually identifying and gathering more and more sparks of holiness that have fallen into the physical world, and to redeem and elevate them as he did when he salvaged his own herd from Laban’s flocks.

In Chassidic terms this is called the “service of clarifications.” Almost all our Torah study and performance of mitzvot is aimed at achieving this end—to elevate reality piece by piece. This service is by nature protracted and demands patience, as Jacob said to Esau when he tactfully refused his invitation to join him on his journey to Se’ir, “I will move on at my own slow pace… until I reach my master at Seir.” As alluded to by the numerical value of, “I will move on at my own slow pace” (?????? ????), which equals “Israel” (?????)—the name Jacob received from Esau’s own archangel, suggesting that Esau’s essence succumbs to Jacob’s plan—Jacob’s method is to progress slowly and gradually, until reality has indeed been refined and all its good points have been gathered together like flocks at a well. This is Jacob’s program for bringing redemption; a long-term plan that slowly but surely refines reality until all clarifications are complete and we merit the advent of Mashiach.

Delivering a knockout?

But let’s get back to Isaac. He is not at all impressed with Jacob’s service. Isaac does not see Jacob’s plan as fulfilling the purpose of life, because even after all reality has been refined and all the fallen sparks of holiness have been gathered up, the lowest reality itself remains dark and distant from the Divine. In fact, what has happened is that it is now completely empty of all the good that it previously contained and there is nothing left to be done with the empty shells and the refuse that have been left behind during the refining process. Rather, Chassidut teaches us that Isaac’s service was not the service of clarifications but the service of unifications, meaning that his goal was to unite the mundane (all of it) with God Himself.

Whereas Jacob carries on slowly but surely, Isaac’s philosophy is to overcome lower reality in one fell swoop by dealing it a triumphant blow, one hard punch that will knock it out and turn it all into pure Divinity. In our case, this blow is in the form of the superlative blessing that Isaac intended to give to Esau; a blessing that was intended to penetrate so deep into Esau’s psyche that it would reveal the essential Divinity that vitalizes his coarseness. Jacob can continue to sit in his tents, which is all well and good, but Esau’s reformation was Isaac’s primary goal.

But Isaac’s plan went awry and Jacob stole the stage with his mother Rebecca pulling the strings behind the scenes. Rebecca’s soul-root is the same as that of Isaac, which is why they are the Torah’s perfect couple. Yet, although Rebecca was aware of the ultimate goal, revealing that “all is God.” But, she also knew that Isaac was already living that future reality and could not see Esau for what he really was. Rebbeca realized that to reach her and Isaac’s common goal in practice, they would need to involve Jacob. Rebecca did see Esau for what he truly was and concluded that Esau could not be blessed “as is.” She believed that Isaac’s blessing, as potent as it may be, would not transform Esau, who would adamantly refuse to change. The blessings would only infuse him with even more power to continue down his virulent path. The full force of Isaac’s knockout punch would not finish Esau off, and history would have to go many more rounds with him.

Before reality can be transformed it must be refined, because there are some of its aspects that must completely disappear, as the prophet says, “I [God] will remove the unclean spirit from the earth.” In the future we will indeed reach Isaac’s level. At the same time, Esau himself—the good in him—will have been refined. Then, “the redeemed will climbMt.Zionto judge theMountainofEsau.” But in the meantime, we need to follow Jacob’s method.

Jacob was also well aware of this and he was aware that at the end of his long journey he would reach Isaac’s level. He too agreed that there is good in his brother Esau, which is why he wore his clothes, “The voice is the voice of Jacob and the hands are the hands of Esau.” Once Isaac understood the message that Rebecca and Jacob had conveyed to him, he acknowledged the truth of their insights and confirmed his blessing to Jacob, “Indeed, he [Jacob] shall be blessed.”

“We want Mashiach, please!”

Every Jew carries in him the essence of all three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But there are individuals in whom Isaac’s soul-root manifests in particular. In our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe led a mass-arousal to usher in the true and complete redemption. The Rebbe constantly stressed that redemption is right here waiting to make its entrance and all we have to do is open our eyes to see it. The Rebbe repeatedly proclaimed: “Mashiach, Now!” He also stressed that Esau himself is now ready for redemption and all that remains for Mashiach to arrive are our final actions.

Of course, the Rebbe knew (better than us) that Isaac eventually submitted to Rebecca and Jacob’s philosophy, but he also saw us as an updated version of Isaac. Thousands of years have passed since Isaac let Jacob lead the way, and we have already come a long, long way with his service of clarification. Indeed, the Rebbe explicitly stated that “the service of clarifications is over.” Jacob’s service has reached its final stage and we are close to achieving Isaac’s goal.

Nonetheless, the Rebbe did not speak of knocking reality out with a single blow. Rather, he taught that redemption should be brought about with pleasant and peaceful ways. Even when the Rebbe cried, “Mashiach, now!” he was not suggesting we forcefully overpower reality. He sent us out to influence the world in a way that the world could understand and accept.

This can be illustrated with a linguistic twist. One word that sounds similar to and means the same as the English “now” (in “Mashiach, now!”) is ??, as in the phrase, “Now I know” (??? ?? ?????), but this word, which is an almost precise transliteration of “now,” also means “please,” as in the phrase, “Please say you are my sister” (???? ?? ????? ??). Apparently, the Lubavitcher Rebbe not only wanted “Mashiach, now!” he also wanted “Mashiach, please!” When we say, “We want Mashiach now!” we also mean, “We want Mashiach, please!” If our request for Mashiach is accepted, then there is nothing to hold him back from appearing at this very moment.

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class of 28th Cheshvan, 5773

“Isaac loved Esau because of the game in his mouth, viagra but Rebecca loves Jacob.” The sages of all generations have tackled the many questions that arise from this verse: Why did Isaac love Esau? Was he not aware of Esau’s conduct? Why did he want to bless Esau and not his brother Jacob, treat a tent-dweller dedicated to Torah? And why, after learning that Jacob had “stolen” the blessings did Isaac respond, “Indeed, he shall be blessed”?

Following in the footsteps of the sages, we too will meditate upon these questions in the light of traditional Chassidic interpretations.

Abraham: Spreading light

The key to understanding parashat Toldot lies in the persona of Isaac and in his unique way of serving God. In order to understand how this is so, we will compare the two patriarchs, Isaac and Abraham.

During the first moments of creation, when the world was steeped in darkness, God said, “Let there be light” and the sages teach us that Abraham’s advent similarly illuminated the world with a new light. Abraham wandered from place to place, teaching monotheism to people entrenched in ignorance and vanity. He called out in God’s Name, teaching them faith in God and all-encompassing love.  But, what weight does Abraham place upon mundane reality? The mundane seems to trouble him very little. The world is still far from recognizing God, from following God’s will and Abraham’s main mission in life remains to fill reality with as much light as possible. If, “a small amount of light can dismiss a great deal of darkness,” then even more light can dismiss huge amounts of darkness, illuminating all of reality with Divinity. Abraham ensconced everyone he met in the light of his “mitzvah campaigns” and enlightened them with his Torah, mitzvot and good deeds. Abraham’s only interest in the big wide world is to help it discover God’s oneness, the secret of the Divine nothingness.

Perhaps it is unclear how Abraham’s method could eventually lead to the ultimate rectification and to the advent of Mashiach, but it is obviously true that the world has to be awakened and illuminated. In fact, this is the teaching that the Ba’al Shem Tov learnt from Mashiach himself. The Ba’al Shem Tov asked, “When will you finally come, sir?” and Mashiach replied, “When your wellsprings [i.e., the Ba’al Shem Tov’s Chassidic teachings] are disseminated outwardly.”

Isaac: Digging wells

Isaac’s service of God was totally different from Abraham’s, so much so that it is surprising that Isaac is Abraham’s son. Indeed, the Torah makes a point of stating that Isaac is Abraham’s son, as the verse states, “This is the chronology of Isaac, the son of Abraham; Abraham bore Isaac,” as if there is a need to emphasize that despite the essential difference between them, surprisingly enough, Abraham did indeed bear Isaac.

Isaac did not illuminate the world with mitzvah campaigns. In fact, they seem to have no place in his life. Isaac dug wells. If we meditate on the deeper meaning of digging wells, we can say that Isaac saw the crude material world for exactly what it is, but he also perceived God’s existence in everything, even in coarse matter. Isaac’s goal was to expose the fact that, “God is all, and all is God.” Even the brightest light can only illuminate reality from outside but Isaac desired to penetrate the inner substance of the world and uncover the Divine spark that vitalizes it. Isaac’s consciousness was at the highest realm of truth and he recognized that there is truly “nothing apart from Him.” Although the physical world appears to be an entity separate from its Creator, appearances are misleading. The true nature of reality is exactly the opposite—it is one with God— and the truth must be revealed. Isaac digs and drills deeper and deeper into the earth to reveal that the earth which seems so dry, barren and far-removed from the Divine, is actually a fresh-water well waiting to be revealed; dark and dry reality actually conceals God Himself.

This then is why Isaac loved Esau. He knew that Esau was a full-blooded and tempestuous man of the field, that he lived and breathed the crudeness of the mundane, and that is exactly what Isaac loved about him. Isaac’s greatest desire was to take hold of a hunk of material reality and reveal how it—the created substance of reality (??? ?????)—perfectly reflects the Divine—the true substance of reality (??? ??????). That is why Isaac wanted to bless Esau. Isaac believed that by the power of his blessings, Esau would be transformed into a new man and his very crudeness would expose the true Divinity that vitalizes the world. Whereas Abraham illuminated reality with candles and flashlights, Isaac was searching for the main power switch that would convert night into day in one fell swoop.

Jacob: Long-term clarifications

Having contrasted Isaac with his father Abraham, let us continue to compare between Isaac and his son, Jacob. Jacob’s mission of Divine service was neither to illuminate reality from above, like his grandfather, Abraham, nor to follow Isaac’s philosophy by digging and delving into reality to reveal that everything is Divine. Jacob sets out to clarify and refine reality. On the one hand his philosophy is similar to Isaac’s, because he sullies his hands with physical reality and is not content with illuminating it from the outside. Yet Jacob’s goal is to refine darkness by gradually identifying and gathering more and more sparks of holiness that have fallen into the physical world, and to redeem and elevate them as he did when he salvaged his own herd from Laban’s flocks.

In Chassidic terms this is called the “service of clarifications.” Almost all our Torah study and performance of mitzvot is aimed at achieving this end—to elevate reality piece by piece. This service is by nature protracted and demands patience, as Jacob said to Esau when he tactfully refused his invitation to join him on his journey to Se’ir, “I will move on at my own slow pace… until I reach my master at Seir.” As alluded to by the numerical value of, “I will move on at my own slow pace” (?????? ????), which equals “Israel” (?????)—the name Jacob received from Esau’s own archangel, suggesting that Esau’s essence succumbs to Jacob’s plan—Jacob’s method is to progress slowly and gradually, until reality has indeed been refined and all its good points have been gathered together like flocks at a well. This is Jacob’s program for bringing redemption; a long-term plan that slowly but surely refines reality until all clarifications are complete and we merit the advent of Mashiach.

Delivering a knockout?

But let’s get back to Isaac. He is not at all impressed with Jacob’s service. Isaac does not see Jacob’s plan as fulfilling the purpose of life, because even after all reality has been refined and all the fallen sparks of holiness have been gathered up, the lowest reality itself remains dark and distant from the Divine. In fact, what has happened is that it is now completely empty of all the good that it previously contained and there is nothing left to be done with the empty shells and the refuse that have been left behind during the refining process. Rather, Chassidut teaches us that Isaac’s service was not the service of clarifications but the service of unifications, meaning that his goal was to unite the mundane (all of it) with God Himself.

Whereas Jacob carries on slowly but surely, Isaac’s philosophy is to overcome lower reality in one fell swoop by dealing it a triumphant blow, one hard punch that will knock it out and turn it all into pure Divinity. In our case, this blow is in the form of the superlative blessing that Isaac intended to give to Esau; a blessing that was intended to penetrate so deep into Esau’s psyche that it would reveal the essential Divinity that vitalizes his coarseness. Jacob can continue to sit in his tents, which is all well and good, but Esau’s reformation was Isaac’s primary goal.

But Isaac’s plan went awry and Jacob stole the stage with his mother Rebecca pulling the strings behind the scenes. Rebecca’s soul-root is the same as that of Isaac, which is why they are the Torah’s perfect couple. Yet, although Rebecca was aware of the ultimate goal, revealing that “all is God.” But, she also knew that Isaac was already living that future reality and could not see Esau for what he really was. Rebbeca realized that to reach her and Isaac’s common goal in practice, they would need to involve Jacob. Rebecca did see Esau for what he truly was and concluded that Esau could not be blessed “as is.” She believed that Isaac’s blessing, as potent as it may be, would not transform Esau, who would adamantly refuse to change. The blessings would only infuse him with even more power to continue down his virulent path. The full force of Isaac’s knockout punch would not finish Esau off, and history would have to go many more rounds with him.

Before reality can be transformed it must be refined, because there are some of its aspects that must completely disappear, as the prophet says, “I [God] will remove the unclean spirit from the earth.” In the future we will indeed reach Isaac’s level. At the same time, Esau himself—the good in him—will have been refined. Then, “the redeemed will climbMt.Zionto judge theMountainofEsau.” But in the meantime, we need to follow Jacob’s method.

Jacob was also well aware of this and he was aware that at the end of his long journey he would reach Isaac’s level. He too agreed that there is good in his brother Esau, which is why he wore his clothes, “The voice is the voice of Jacob and the hands are the hands of Esau.” Once Isaac understood the message that Rebecca and Jacob had conveyed to him, he acknowledged the truth of their insights and confirmed his blessing to Jacob, “Indeed, he [Jacob] shall be blessed.”

“We want Mashiach, please!”

Every Jew carries in him the essence of all three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But there are individuals in whom Isaac’s soul-root manifests in particular. In our generation, the Lubavitcher Rebbe led a mass-arousal to usher in the true and complete redemption. The Rebbe constantly stressed that redemption is right here waiting to make its entrance and all we have to do is open our eyes to see it. The Rebbe repeatedly proclaimed: “Mashiach, Now!” He also stressed that Esau himself is now ready for redemption and all that remains for Mashiach to arrive are our final actions.

Of course, the Rebbe knew (better than us) that Isaac eventually submitted to Rebecca and Jacob’s philosophy, but he also saw us as an updated version of Isaac. Thousands of years have passed since Isaac let Jacob lead the way, and we have already come a long, long way with his service of clarification. Indeed, the Rebbe explicitly stated that “the service of clarifications is over.” Jacob’s service has reached its final stage and we are close to achieving Isaac’s goal.

Nonetheless, the Rebbe did not speak of knocking reality out with a single blow. Rather, he taught that redemption should be brought about with pleasant and peaceful ways. Even when the Rebbe cried, “Mashiach, now!” he was not suggesting we forcefully overpower reality. He sent us out to influence the world in a way that the world could understand and accept.

This can be illustrated with a linguistic twist. One word that sounds similar to and means the same as the English “now” (in “Mashiach, now!”) is ??, as in the phrase, “Now I know” (??? ?? ?????), but this word, which is an almost precise transliteration of “now,” also means “please,” as in the phrase, “Please say you are my sister” (???? ?? ????? ??). Apparently, the Lubavitcher Rebbe not only wanted “Mashiach, now!” he also wanted “Mashiach, please!” When we say, “We want Mashiach now!” we also mean, “We want Mashiach, please!” If our request for Mashiach is accepted, then there is nothing to hold him back from appearing at this very moment.

From Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class of 28th Cheshvan, 5773

In Parashat Vayeitzei we read the account of Jacob’s marriages and the birth of eleven of his twelve sons, healing the twelve tribes of Israel. In fact, Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son’s birth is also alluded to in the parashah in Rachel’s words with which she gives meaning to Joseph’s name, “God will add [Yosef] me another son.”

In contrast to Abraham and Isaac’s households, which still contained Ishmael and Esau, foreign elements that needed to be dispelled, Jacob’s family is the consummate “Jewish home” from which the Jewish people have evolved to this very day. The concept of a “house” is unique to Jacob, beginning with his referring to the Temple Mount as a “house of God” and following through to the next parashah, where it states, “and he shall build me a house.” Similarly, the prophet refers to the entire Jewish people as the “House of Jacob.”

Every detail that is mentioned in the parashah concerning the development of Jacob’s home has great significance, this time we will relate to the difference between his two wives, Rachel and Leah.

Mother of two

It is difficult to decide which of the two women is the more important. From Jacob’s perspective, it is clear that he loves Rachel from the very start and until the very end. He wants Rachel for his wife, and it is for this right that he worked fourteen years altogether tending Laban’s flocks.

In contrast, Leah enters Jacob’s house involuntarily, through Laban’s devious trick, and she remains second-best, as Rashi comments on the verse, “He called Rachel and Leah” – “First he called Rachel and then Leah, since Rachel was the mainstay of the home.” Let us not forget that Leah is also referred to as “despised” (at least in comparison to Rachel).

However, from the point of view of Divine providence, Leah apparently has a superior status. It is clear that the backbone of the Jewish people in all generations is primarily based on the tribes that were born from Leah, who also constitute the majority in terms of numbers. The tribe of Levi, for example, became the priests and Levites chosen to serve God (the “crown of priesthood”). Moses, who received the Torah directly from God’s mouth, was also from the tribe of Levi (the “crown of Torah”). Similarly, the tribe of Judah, another one of Leah’s sons, received the “crown of kingdom” and from them came King David and his pedigree. So we see that the three “crowns” afforded to the Jewish people were all given to Leah’s sons. Furthermore, it has been many generations since Rachel’s sons do not form an integral part of the Jewish people (since the exile of the ten tribes at the end of the First Temple period) and most of the Jewish people today are from Leah’s offspring. Even the Hebrew word meaning “Jew” (?????) relates to the tribe of Judah (?????).

But Rachel and Leah are both Matriarchs. Even though we may not be directly descended from Rachel, all the tribes are inter-included within one another and each one of them includes facets of all the others. Every Jew is welcome to pray at Rachel’s Tomb in Beit Lechem or at Leah’s tomb in the Machpelah Cave in Hebron. We can turn to either of them as we would to our own mother, like an infant in his mother’s arms, or as a lost child who comes home to his mother’s nest.

Here we are touching upon the very deepest foundations of the Jewish home, the soul-roots of the Jewish people and we reveal that they are constructed from two pillars, Rachel and Leah, each one contributing her own unique and indispensable emphasis.

A hidden world and a revealed world

Kabbalah and Chassidut explain that Rachel represents the revealed dimension of reality, while Leah represents its concealed dimension. One illustration of the difference between these two dimensions can be found in the distinction between the world of halachah, Jewish law, representing the Torah’s revealed dimension, and Midrash, Kabbalah, and Chassidut, representing the Torah’s inner, more concealed dimension.

Pairing Rachel and Leah with the revealed and concealed worlds is anchored in the revealed, the literal (pshat), meaning found in the Torah’s verses. Rachel is described as having, “beautiful features and a beautiful countenance,” qualities that are apparent to all who see her. She herds her father’s sheep alone, while her sister Leah is apparently hidden away at home. All that we know about Leah is that her eyes were “soft,” which doesn’t necessarily mean that she was not beautiful, but her beauty was certainly not as obvious as her younger sister’s. Rashi explains that Leah’s eyes were soft from weeping, another quality of someone who is involved with his or her inner world, in contrast to someone practical (like Rachel) who has little time for weeping and tears…

Jacob’s relationship with Rachel and Leah also reflects this very difference between the revealed and the concealed. Rachel is Jacob’s revealed wife, to whom he is consciously attracted and in whom he identifies his partner in life. In contrast, Leah is hidden from Jacob. Of course she too is his spouse, but Jacob apparently does not hold this fact in the forefront of his consciousness. Witness his initial surprise the morning after wedding Leah; he believed that he had married Rachel, and was not aware of Leah’s true identity. In other words, Jacob loves the revealed aspect of the world and therefore feels drawn to Rachel, but he is not so attracted with the world’s concealed dimension, which is why he takes no special interest in Leah.

Where can I find God?

One might imagine that only individuals who have an understanding of hidden mysteries will feel close to God, while those involved with the material world and its marked impression on our physical senses will not experience that closeness. Because God of course, is the most hidden of all. But this is a mistake. A connection with the Divine is just as important and possible for those involved with the inner dimension of reality and those involved with reality’s revealed aspects. However, the connection each forges with the Creator has a different vector force.

The individual leaning towards reality’s concealed dimensions shares Leah’s soul root. Such an individual must turn upwards to find God. He or she contemplates the Divine with increasing abstraction from physical matter. This individual realizes more and more that in the world we live in, God is completely invisible and that physicality conceals its Divine source, which is exactly why his soul root is drawn to hidden dimensions. There, paradoxically, God is more apparent. Such an individual can actually never reach his ultimate goal, because as quest to solve God’s mystery reaches higher and higher (or, some might say, deeper and deeper), there is always another level of mystery lying ahead. However high the seeker flies, God remains infinitely beyond his grasp. This is the secret of Leah’s soft eyes, eyes that constantly gaze deeper and deeper into God’s secrets until they are weary of gazing at these bright, supernal lights.

In contrast, the individual whose sensibilities drive him or her to reality’s revealed, material dimension shares Rachel’s soul-root. Such an individual is not find hidden matters very revealing. He believes that “The secrets are for God, our God.” Yet he too finds God, right here in our revealed world with great simplicity, by observing God’s commandments. The first halachah in the Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish law, presents a formula for finding God right here in reality’s revealed dimension with the halachah: “‘I set God before me at all times’ is a great principle in the Torah and the level attained by the righteous who walk before God.” This is a short, practical down-to-earth meditation that suits the individual attached with material reality: everywhere I am, God is the King who watches me. There are no secrets in this, everything is revealed and obvious, short and to the point.

It may not be easy to live with this constant awareness, which is why it is “a level attained by the righteous who walk before God.” Nonetheless, it is the task of reinforcing the revealed level, until we reach the awareness that everywhere we look, we see God before us. In this vein, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev would sing his song “Dudele” (“du” in Yiddish means “you”): “Up – You, down – You, east – You, west – You, south – You, north – You.” Everywhere I look it’s You, You and You again.

Yaakov needs both Rachel and Leah

Loving Rachel as he does, Jacob is apparently a man of the revealed world. As much as he is a “tent-dweller” and as much as he studies Torah for fourteen whole years, depriving himself of sleep the whole while, nonetheless, his main interest lies in this revealed world in which we must work and which needs clarification and rectification (see last week’s article). This is why Jacob was not attracted to Leah. Unending meditation on God’s secrets is a pleasant game, but we need to rectify the revealed world. This is also how Chassidut explains that the main part of the redemption depends on “the construction of the persona of Rachel” – since the hidden dimension stands already rectified, while our main task is to rectify the revealed.

Yet, in contrast to Jacob’s obvious opinion, God wanted him to marry Leah too. We should never dispense of our interest in the hidden dimension, and in the end we must join it together with the revealed. If we try to make do with the simple and revealed consciousness that God is the King and he is in front of me wherever I go without experiencing the depths of the inner world, we are liable to dry up. We must delve deeper and deeper into the Torah’s mysteries, fathoming the hidden depths of its ocean and then the return to the revealed world will appear totally different. Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev could sing the “Dudele” only because he was connected with all his heart to the hidden world.

By the same measure, we cannot dispense with finding God in reality’s revealed dimension, because the truth is that however wondrous Leah’s meditation on God’s secrets is, Rachel’s direct awareness of “I place God before me at all times” has something even more wondrous about it. Its wonder comes in the form of an awareness of the revealed world that admits that we are infinitely distant from God. Its wonder infuses us with a greater sense of wonder than we experience by pondering on the lights and worlds of the upper spheres, where God seems to somehow be closer and more accessible.

By rising higher we absorb more and more Divinity, but this is an infinite process and every time we achieve something finite it is like a drop in the ocean with reference to the infinite where every advance is relatively standing in one spot. Rachel understands that instead of rising heavenwards to discover “lofty lights” we need to know how to see the essence shining in our world. It is thus Rachel in particular who teaches us the wonder of God even more than her sister.

Mystery and marvel

In Chassidic terms, meditating on the Torah’s hidden dimensions is described as revealing God’s “transcendent” light, the light that surrounds all reality (and our consciousness), but can never be fully integrated. Meditating on the Torah’s revealed teachings is called meditating on God’s “imminent” light – the light that fills all reality and is immediately accessible to our intellects.

In Hebrew, “transcendent” (????) is numerically equivalent to “secret” (???)  and “imminent” is equal to the gematria of “marvel” (???). From now on, we can identify Leah as the “woman of mystery” while the Rachel is best described as a “woman of marvel.”

The higher we rise towards the transcendent light we reveal higher mysteries, and in contrast, the simple recognition that God’s imminent light is His kingdom on earth reveals the tremendous marvel – God Himself who chooses our world and recreates it at every moment.

““House of Jacob, let us go and we shall follow in God’s light:” may we all merit to join Rachel and Leah together – to grow with the marvel of the imminent light and to infuse ourselves more and more with the secret of the transcendent light, which only together manifest God’s perfect light.

from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class of the 6th of Kislev, 5773

5 Responses to “Parashat Vayeitzei: Jacob’s two wives – Leah and Rachel”

  1. Christina says:

    Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your insight with us Rabbi Ginsburgh. It “taste” like pudding to me.

    Shabbat Shalom everybody!
    Blessings too!

  2. Helene Rochstein says:

    Wonderful! Thank you so much!

  3. jef says:

    thank you for sharing these marvelous secrets

  4. sara says:

    Illuminating and down to earth, an excellant reaching Todah Ha Rav!

  5. C. C. says:

    I have also noticed something in the favour that was given to Leah by God– that even if she was not chosen my Jacob (she was the unwanted one, easily overlooked one), there is the “vav” in her life– the direct line of Grace (Grace of God) that is descending into her life, lighting up her being to be favoured by God, in Hid eyes, through His Grace. Through “vav”, Leah was favoured in the eyes of God (that’s not to say that she was more favoured by God than Rachel), but perhaps God wanted to show us that, like Israel, even though something is “small” and seemingly “overlooked”, God is the “Yud” that can make that important spark inside of it!

    Just my humble insight gleaned from this, your teaching, Rabbi.

    Thank you so much, my Rabbi, for this teaching, thank you for being here in this world at this time and age.

    xx