Rabbi Moshe Reiss
RACHEL AND LEAH: Conflicting Siblings:
'What does God know about the grief of not being able to have a child?!
Rachel knows'. 1
Rachel is described as shapely and beautiful while Leah is described as
having eyes 'rachot' -'weak/tender' (Gen. 29:17). The midrash have
explained that Leah was destined to marry Esau. Rebekah had arranged
with her brother Laban for her two sons to marry his twin daughters. 2
By the time the girls were grown Esau's alleged wickedness (in smilar
midrashim) was well known and thus Leah's continual crying to avert
such a divine fiat or destiny impacted her eyes (BT Bava Batra 123a).
RACHEL AND LEAH:
En route to Haran Jacob to find a wife from his mother’s family,
Jacob stops at a well and inquires about his uncle Laban. The local
shepherds tell him that Laban's daughter Rachel is approaching the well
with his flock. Jacob went to her and 'kissed Rachel, and lifted
up his voice and wept' (29:11). Then he announces their kinship.
A man and a woman kissing is unique in the Bible, except perhaps 'Let
him kiss me with kisses of his mouth' (SoS 1:2); As Dresner notes 'if
Jacob kissed her, can we not assume that Rachel allowed herself to be
Rachel runs home to tell of Jacob's arrival; Laban invites him to the
family home and he begins working for his uncle. A month later Laban
offers Jacob wages so you should 'not [work] in vain' (Gen. 29:15).
Jacob suggests working for seven years in order to marry Rachel. After
the seven years (which the narrator tells us was like a few days
because of his love for Rachel (Gen. 29:20) Jacob had to remind Laban
that his time of service has expired and payment was due. Laban had
never stated his agreement to the time, having simply responded 'stay
with me' (Gen. 29:19). However Laban arranges a marriage feast but
substitutes Leah his eldest daughter, for Rachel; explaining that it
was not their custom to give the younger in marriage before the
firstborn – 'habekhora' (Gen. 29:26); the identical words uttered by
Jacob when deceiving his father to receive his blessing (27:19). Laban
agrees to give Rachel to Jacob at the end of the week of wedding
festivities on the provision that Jacob work another seven years to pay
off a second bride price (Gen 29:15–30). Jacob seems resigned and
acquiesces to this agreement.
A midrash tells that Rachel suspected that her father would try to
switch the sisters under the canopy. Rachel and Jacob developed a plan
so Jacob could distinguish between Rachel and Leah even in the dark
wedding bed and thus frustrate Laban's plan. But Rachel according to an
extraordinary midrash 'relented, suppressed my desire, and had pity
upon my sister that she should not be exposed to shame. In the evening
they substituted my sister for me with my husband, and I delivered over
to my sister all the signs which I had arranged with my husband so that
he should think that she was Rachel. More than that, I went under the
bed upon which he lay with my sister; and when he spoke to her she
remained silent and I made all the replies in order that he should not
recognize my sister's voice. I did her a kindness, was not jealous of
her, and did not expose her to shame.' (Midrash Rabbah Lam. Proems
It is also noted in the Talmud that Rachel refused to shame her sister
by rejecting the masquerade and in fact collaborated with Leah by
sharing the signs she and Jacob had developed (BT Megiallah13b and Baba
Bathra 123a). 'In the morning, behold, it was Leah' (29:25) but only in
the morning, during the night she was Rachel. Jacob asked Leah how she
could engage in such deception; she responded (according to another
midrash) 'Is there a teacher without a pupil? I but profited by your
instruction. When your father called you Esau did you not say, Here am
I' (Midrash Gen. Rabbah 70:19). 4
Jacob had come near his Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said:
'The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau'
(Gen. 27:22.) In this case the hands were the hands of Leah and the
voice those of Rachel. The trickster Laban tricks Jacob the trickster.
As Robert Alter stated 'Jacob becomes victim of symmetrical poetic
justice. 5 As he shall learn, the injunction against a man marrying two
sisters is indeed well founded (Lev. 18:18).
While Rachel's saintliness in this event is easy to perceive,
Leah's passion at accomplishing her goal should also be clear, she was
Rachel at night. She changed at night just as Jacob changed in his
father's dim eyes (night eyes) from Esau to Jacob; that after all is
Leah's real statement.
Jacob said to his father not 'ani' but 'anokhi' (27:19); the latter has
a reality different than 'I am' it is 'I really am'. 6 Jacob really
became Esau with his mother's help as Leah became Rachel with her
sister's help. Both are twins as noted before and as such can be
each other or at least the shadow or mirrors of each other. 7 Thus
Jacob rebirthed as his older brother was now scheduled to marry the
older daughter. The question is who was Leah rebirthed as by becoming
Rachel. When Jacob's first sees Rachel she is repeatedly (three times)
referred to 'the daughter of Laban his mother's brother' (29:10). Jacob
of course is indeed the son of Rebekah, Laban's sister who engineered
the entire first hoax. So perhaps Leah becomes Rachel who is Rebekah,
the sister of Laban. 8
When God “saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb” (Gen
29:30), 9 giving Leah four sons (Gen 29:32–35); each of the first
three son was she named hoping that the result of the birth would gain
her husband's love, but it was not to be; finally with her fourth -
Judah – she simply praised the Lord.
Rachel is barren and envious of the apparent ease of her sister at
conceiving. She demands of Jacob 'give me children or I shall die!' -
more literally without children 'I am 'ayin' (nothing)' (Gen 30:1). The
sisters have a certain dichotomy, either matrimonial love or motherhood
- Rachel feels compelled to have a child to succeed – she must be a
mother; being the beloved wife – which she undoubtedly is - is not
sufficient for her. Jacob responds 'am I in God's place (30:2)?
Jacob's appears non-emphatic and non-supporting to Rachel's plea,
declaring that he can do nothing because it is God who has denied
Rachel children. However a midrash suggests that Jacob in fact could
have done more. He might have fervently prayed as his father Isaac did
when Rebekah his mother was barren and and the midrash suggests
Abraham, his grandfather did for Sarah, although this is unknown in our
text (Midrash Rabbah Gen. 71:7). On the other hand another midrash has
Jacob saying 'I am not like my father' (Rashi on 30:1-2) I am fertile;
'God has witheld from you the fruit of the womb' (30:2)'. 10
In response to her incessant demand Jacob agrees to Rachel's plan, to
give Bilhah, her handmaiden (Gen 29:29), to Jacob as a surrogate wife
to mother children. (One wonders whether Jacob knew of the
disastrous Sarah/Hagar relationship and his father's half brother
Ishamael.) The plan succeeds, Bilah gives birth to a child Rachel names
Dan, explaining 'God judged [vindicated] me' (Gen 30:5–6). The
competition with her sister continues to rage; Bilhah bear
another son, whom Rachel names Naphtali ('I have prevailed'), in
reference to the 'contest' with her sister (Gen 30:7–8).
In the interim Leah develops infertility and she gives her maid Zilpah
to Jacob as a surrogate wife. Zilpah bears to two sons as well;
Leah's names them Gad for good fortune and Asher 'in my happiness women
(banot) will pronounce me happy' (30:13). Leah frame of reference is no
longer Jacob, nor her sister nor even God, but other women who will
esteem her for having so many sons. 11
Despite the birth of children through the surrogate wives, Rachel and
Leah are still not fulfilled, wanting to conceive children of their own
(Leah more children). A turning point comes when Leah’s son Rueben
finds mandrakes. A mandrake root was often considered a fertility charm
and an aphrodisiac. Rachel wants the mandrakes, and Rachel has
something that Leah wants even more than mandrakes. Leah makes a
devestating request – she wants the occupancy of Jacob’s bed and trades
a night with Jacob for the mandrakes. When they reach an agreement –
their first dialogue in our text, Leah announces to Jacob that she has
'hired' him for the night (Gen 30:14–16). Of course Leah conceives
without the mandrakes and a second and third time. Despite how she
named Asher (Zilpah's son) she names this second son Zebulun - God
bestowed a great gift on me and this time my husband will honor me
because I gave him six sons' (30:20).
Finally after Leah bears Jacob seven children (and he has an additional
four from the surrogate wives) Rachel finally conceives and bears a son
and names him Joseph. Her two explanations for the name reveal her
state of mind: “God has taken away my reproach” and “may the Lord add
to me another son!” (Gen 30:22–24).
The names of children reflect a sad and key relationship between the
sisters. And no doubt the relationship between the brothers – which we
know about - is adversely affected by this relationship between the
two/four Mothers, all descendents of Jacob.
That both sisters lack satisfaction with the current situation with
their father as well becomes clear when the family leaves Laban and
sets out for the land of Canaan; both sisters actively agree to leave
for Canaan. At the same time, they both express their anger at Laban,
who never gave them any of the bride price earned by Jacob’s fourteen
years of service for them (Gen 31:14–16).
When Rachel had born Joseph, Jacob said to Laban it is time for me to
return home (30:25). Jacob negotiates with Laban that he will keep the
speckled, spotted and dark sheep and goats as his wages (Gen.30:32-33).
Due to Jacob's almost supernatural maternal care his flocks increase
For the first time Jacob consults with Rachel and Leah telling them of
his problems with their father negotiating over his wages. In Hebrew
the response of the wives is singular – most commentators assume it is
Rachel - answering for the wives/sisters (31:14). It is rare for the
two to speak as one. They accuse their father of disinheriting them,
selling them, taking what belongs to them and their children. They
claim their father has treated them as foreign or strange women, has
'sold' (maker) them and 'ate' up their inheritance. 12 (While we
may think of selling a wife as part of this ancient Mid Eastern
culture, in fact in the Hebrew Bible the term 'makar' is never used for
a wife but for is reserved for selling one into slavery (Joseph, Gen.
37:27-28,36, 46:4-5; Ex. 21:7-8).
No one talks about Laban's deception in switching Rachel for Leah. In
the verse after we are told Rachel stole her father's teraphim (31:19)
we are told Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean (31:20); both Rachel and
Jacob have tricked Laban; and in several further verses God comes to
Laban the Aramean (31:24) completing the cycle; he, Laban in now the
stranger. 13 There is a another midrashic identification of Laban
with a stranger, with Balaam. 'He sent messengers to Laban the Aramean,
he is Balaam'. 14
But Rachel alone takes action: she steals her father’s teraphim, his
household gods (Gen 31:19). What in fact was Rachel's motive in
stealing her father's teraphim?
Traditional commentaries believe they were religious images or a form
of ancestor protection and Rachel was attempting to dissuade her father
from worshiping these idols (Rashi 31:19). Ibn Ezra and
Nahmanides believed they could be used to consult the location where
Jacob was taking the family or to be used in negotiating for pardon if
Laban caught them (Josephus 15). In another section Josephus discusses
the habit of women carrying their household gods, their most sacred
heirlooms, with them into foreign lands particularly when they were
concerned about their own fertility (Josephus 18,9,5). 16 The fact that
Jacob requested that his household 'remove their foreign gods . . . and
purify themselves' (Gen. 35:2) suggest that he was aware of this
problem and had his own solution.
According to ancient Midrashim the teraphim had already helped Laban.
When Jacob first arrived Laban consulted the teraphim as to how to
behave to his very poor nephew. He probably remembered that when
Abraham's servant came to take a wife – his sister Rebekah – for his
son Isaac, he came with riches. They responded that Jacob would bring
good fortune. He will ask for a wife as compensation, perhaps two
More recent commentary includes the authority and leadership value
inherent in the teraphim held in ancient cultures as found in the Nuzi
documents. 18 Household gods represented a daughter's right (especially
when they was no male inheritor) to her inheritance or perhaps her
husband's rights to the inheritance. 19 'It has been conjectured that
Laban had no sons at the time of Jacob's marriage of Leah . . .
By carrying off the teraphim, however Rachel preserved for Jacob the
chief title to Laban's estate'. 20 John Bright similarly suggests that
'Rachel's theft of Laban's gods (tantamount to title to the
inheritance)'. 21 (We recall Sarah's concern about inheritance
when she insisted on exiling Ishmael -Gen. 21:10). It is difficult not
to think that Rachel thought the teraphim had some significant value.
Naomi Steinberg contends that 'Rachel was settling Laban's debt to her
and Leah'. 22 While her father and husband continually negotiated the
terms of their agreement there was little that women in thst time and
culture could do to protect their rights.
When Laban caught up with Jacob he accused him of both taking his
daughters in stealth and stealing his teraphim. Jacob not knowing that
Rachel had stolen the teraphim, said 'whoever is found with the
teraphim shall not live' (31:32), a vow comparable to Jephthah in
foolishness (Ju. 11:31-32).
When seeking the teraphim Laban searches the tents. When seeking in
Rachel's tent she says 'Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise up
before thee; for the way of women is upon me' (31:35). Of course she is
angry at her father and knows she can not negotiate with him. The way
of women represents her position as a woman as opposed to her being in
'nidah' (her period) or 'tamah' (impure), the more usual terms in the
Bible. Given that Rachel gives birth shortly to Benjamin it is likely
that she was in a 'family way'; in fact not menstruating and was
deceiving her father.
If Rachel was continuing her conflict with her sister Leah, she may
have believed that holding her father's teraphim would help her own
child – Joseph - gain that power over Leah's first born. 23
Rachel may have believed it would help her son Joseph overcome his lack
of being a firstborn.
'And the Lord saw that Leah was hated' (29:30) 24.
Leah's life is seen through Genesis as one of unhappiness and being
subordinated to her sister, her father and her husband. Her married
life (all we know about her) is filled with family conflict. Perhaps
the most poignant event is when she sells her sister Rachel
mandrakes as a trade to achieve her conjugal rights to her husband
However of the twelve tribes of Israel six are Leah's sons, direct
descendants and two her surrogates through Zilpah; the two most
important being Levi who is the ancestor of Moses and Aaron and the
Cohanim and Judah the ancestor of the Davidic monarchy. And Leah is
buried in the Cave of Machpelah alongside of Sarah and Rebekah and next
to Jacob, his father Isaac and grandfather Abraham.
There are several midrashim and commentaries that attempt to dispel the
negative image of Leah in Genesis.
The text tells us that Jacob 'loved Rachel more than Leah' (gam et
Rachel mi-Leah' (29:30). Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdychev (a great
Hasidic Rabbi 1740 – 1809) translates the 'gam' to mean: Jacob loved
Rachel more because she brought with her Leah, the saintly one. 25
In a midrash an author creates a saintliness by the following tale. We
are told that when Rachel finally conceived, her fetus was female. In
the previous verse we are told ' And afterwards she [Leah} bore a
daughter, and called her name Dinah' (30:21). The word 'afterwards' in
this midrash is interpreted that Leah prayed so that her sister's fetus
would become the son she was carrying and she, Leah gave birth to the
daughter. Rachel gave birth to a son Joseph originally from Leah
(Midrash Rabbah Gen. 72:6). 26 That sons are more important than
daughters is obvious in Genesis.
The Book of Jubilees is a retelling of the Books of Genesis and Exodus.
It was written in the 2nd century BCE in Hebrew 27and is seen as a
Midrashic commentary on Genesis and parts of Exodus. 28 It is
likely the earliest remaining midrashic text on the story of Leah and
Jubilees treats Leah differently by both eliminating tales told in
Genesis (the meeting at the well) and by adding tales; the major
addition is the story in Jubilees relating to Leah's death; not noted
at all in Genesis.
'His wife Leah died . . . he buried her in the two fold cave near
his mother Rebecca, on the left of his grandmother Sarah's grave. All
her sons and his sons came to mourn with him for his wife Leah and to
comfort him regarding her because he was lamenting her. For he loved
her very much from the time when her sister Rachel died because she was
perfect and right in all her behavior and honored Jacob. In all the
time that she lived with him he did not hear a harsh word from her
mouth because she was gentle, peaceful, truthful and honorable. As he
recalled all the things that she had done in her lifetime, he greatly
lamented her because he loved her with all his heart and with all his
soul' (Jub. 36:21-24).
This is sharp contrast to the only statement of Leah's death and burial
in Genesis when Jacob charged his children about his burial stating
'there Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; there Isaac and his wife
Rebekah were buried; and there I buried Leah' (Gen. 49:31); Jacob does
not even use the appellation that Leah is his wife. As noted in the
Book of Ruth 'The LORD make you . . . like Rachel and Leah'; she is
noted second despite being firs married and the elder; clearly the
second wife. 29
The statement in Jubilees that after Rachel's death Jacob loved Leah
has an air of reconciliation that is not even noted in Jubilees let
alone in Genesis. (This despite a remarkable reconciliation between
Esau and Jacob.) As is the statement that his sons also came to mourn
her, the virtues attributed to her and that Jacob love her with all his
heart and soul is reminiscent of the statement in Deuteronomy exhorting
loving the Lord (Deut. 6:5).
Jubilees notes Leah's death as 24 years after Rachel's death, meaning
she helped Jacob mourn the death of his own parents (Isaac and
Rebekah) and sustained him during the period of his supposed loss of
Some Jewish mystics relate Jacob's life prior to Rachel's death as his
earthly role, (eg overtaking Esau and Laban, amassing wealth and
building his family). In The second stage of his life remaining only
with Leah as a wife he develops as Israel, his God given name. 30
Gershom Scholem describes the Shekhina as having two faces, one is
Rachel as the exiled one and the other is Leah as reunited with Jacob.
31 In this way Leah helps Jacob develop himself into Israel, the
Patriarch of Israel. 32
RACHEL'S PREMATURE DEATH:
Rachel dies giving birth to her second child Benjamin before reaching
Jacob's father house, 'before reaching Ephrath' - Bethlehem (35:19).
Jacob buries her where she died, in her own tomb (Gen 35:20; 48:17) and
not in the ancestral tomb at Machpelah. And just before the entrance to
the city of David, whose ancestor is Judah, Leah's fourth son. One
could claim this is Leah's ultimate triumph. 33
Jacob tells us that 'when I came from Paddan, Rachel, to my sorrow,
died in the land of Canaan . . . and I buried her there' (48:7). Why
does Jacob not carry Rachel's body the twenty or so miles south from
the alleged place of her demise to the cave at Machpelah which Genesis
states as the proper burial site for members of Abraham's family. Jacob
himself tells us he buried Leah in the Machpelah (Gen.49:31) and
he requests that he himself be buried there as well (50:13).
So why does Jacob not bury his beloved Rachel at Machpelah, but rather
a roadside grave? According to a midrash because she dishonored her
father by stealing (on the Ten Commandments) 34, According to another
midrash Jacob knew of that the Babylonian exiles would pass by and
Rachel could pray for mercy (midrash Rabbah Gen. 82:10).
Her early death is attributed by the Rabbis to Jacob's curse over the
teraphim. Despite women dying in childbirth seemingly a common event,
it was considered in numerous cultures a cursed and unnatural death.
Women were often seperated during childbirth due to the fear of being
cursed, a form of ritual pollution. 35
Leah disappeared in the text after Rachel's death; we are only told she
was buried in the cave of Machpelah.
There is one more twist to the Rachel story. She who spent most of her
life barren and died young in childbirth becomes an image of
motherhood. Her tomb remains as a landmark (1 Sam 10:2) and a testimony
A midrash attributes Rachel's death so that she should be able to cry
for the exiles (Midrash Rabbah Gen. 82:10) or her role in helping the
exiles was her reward for helping Leah (Pesikta Rabbati 3) 36 The
Midrash on Lamentations we quoted above where Rachel kept under the
bridal bed concludes the 'Holy One, blessed be He, responding 'For your
[Rachel] sake, I will restore Israel to their land' and then quotes
The series of Haftarot of consolations beginning on the first Shabbat
after Tisha B'Av go from from mourning beginning with 'Sing, O barren
one, you who bore no child! Sing aloud for joy, you who did not
travail! For the children of the wife forlorn shall outnumber those of
the married said the Lord' (Isa. 54:1) and culminating with reading
Jeremiah 31:14-21) read on the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah.
The centerpiece of the Book of Consolation is Jer. 31:14-21. Jeremiah
hears Rachel's lament - 'a voice from Ramah . . . refusing to be
comforted . . . a voice weeping for her children' (14) 37 and God
responds (15-16). Jeremiah hears the response (17-18) with the voice of
Ephraim. 38 God responds listening to Ephraim his dear child with
boundless compassion. (19). Quoting that phrase in a midrash the Holy
One calls Ephraim, my true Messiah' several times (Pesikta Rabbati
The plea included the Judeans in addition to the Northern tribes (it
seems highly likely that Jeremiah wrote this after the Judaen exile) as
Jeremiah notes that Ramah where he and other exiles were held (Jer.
Rachel becomes Israel's mother lamenting the destruction of the land
and the exile of her children and a metaphor for their return.
In another Haftorah on certain Rosh Chodesh days (Rosh Chodesh is
dedicated to women) we read:
'When she has not yet travailed, she has given birth; when the pang has
not yet come to her, she has been delivered of a male child. Who
heard [anything] like this? Who saw [anything] like these? Is a land
born in one day? Is a nation born at once, that Zion both experienced
birth pangs and bore her children? “Will I bring to the birth
stool and not cause to give birth?" says the Lord. "Am I not He who
causes to give birth, now should I shut the womb?" says your God.
Rejoice with Jerusalem and exult in her all those who love her: rejoice
with her a rejoicing, all who mourn over her. In
order that you suck and become sated from the breast of her
consolations in order that you drink deeply and delight from her
approaching glory. For so says the Lord, "Behold, I will extend
peace to you like a river, and like a flooding stream the wealth of the
nations, and you shall suck thereof; on the side you shall be borne,
and on knees you shall be dandled. Like a man whose mother consoles
him, so will I console you, and in Jerusalem, you shall be consoled'
That Rachel has become our Immanu is clear. Her barrenness is not
unique among the Matriarchs but the passionate love she and Jacob had
for each other was. And then came her early death. Jeremiah added
greatly to her image.
After the biblical period 'imma rachel - Mother Rachel' continued to be
celebrated as a powerful intercessor for the people of Israel. Rabbi
Shimon bar Yochai said 'everything depended upon Rachel'. 40 Susan
Sered compares the medieval development of the Mary, mother of Jesus
cult developed at approximately the same time (12th- 13th century) as
the cult of Rachel. In the Zohar Rachel is identified with Shekhina and
Rachel's tomb has become a place of pilgrimage especially but not only
for women. Late medieval midrashic descriptions of pilgrimages
began in the 12th century including one the earliest by Benjamin of
Tudela (1170). 42 Rituals have been created such as a red string
wrapped about the tomb seven times. This has evolved with mythical
power (Jer. 31:16) with women taking this red string to near the Temple
wall and giving them out as magical talisman. She has become a
cult/saint figure symbol first of fertility and latter of Zionism and
the Holocaust. 43
The extraordinary respect for Rachel can perhaps be strangely
exemplified through a Hebrew text written in the early 12th C.
Spain, by an unknown author known only as Isaac entitled 'Ezrat
HaNashim'. 44 This Isaac claims to be responding to an earlier Document
by Judah ibn Shabbetai (both in Hebrew) entitled 'Minhat Yehudah sone
Hanashi' – The offering of Judah, the Misogynist. Isaac claims
'At the end of the work, the Patriarch Isaac (or his patron-angel)
reinforces this idea that only a few exceptional women are worthy of
praise. In comparing Rachel to his own wife, he says, “Never has there
been, and never has there been seen a woman of valor like [Rachel],
other than my own beloved [Rebekah], who is in her image and
likeness.”'45 We noted earlier the possible connection between Rachel
1 In a report quoted from a visitor to Rachel's tomb;
Susan Starr Sered, 'A Tale of Three Rachels, of the Cultural Herstory
of a Symbol', Nashim, 1998, pg. 17.
2 Ginzberg, Louis, 'Legends of the Jews'
(Philadelphia, JPS, 1947) Vol.1, pg.359, in these Midrashim Leah and
Rachel were twins, Vol. V, pg. 318.
3 Dresner, Samuel, 'Rachel' (Minneapolis, Fortress
Press, 1994) pg. 34.
4 Ginzberg, Louis, Legends of the Bible,
(Philadelphia, JPS, 1956) pg. 172.
5 Alter, Robert, 'Genesis,' (W.W. Norton, N.Y., 1996)
6 From lecture by Aviva Gottleib-Zornberg, on Nov.
7 Karl Jung divided each human personality into two
opposing halves - the light and the dark, the conscious and the
unconscious, the inner and outer world. He called the conscious the
persona or the ego and the unconscious the Shadow. The persona is the
face presented to the world. The shadow is the negative or undeveloped
side of the personality, that which the person attempts to deny. The
more we deny the Shadow the more he will act on our demonic self. The
Shadow is ‘a moral problem that challenges the whole personality’. Jung
Karl, 'Collected Works', Vol. 9, Part II, pg. 8.
8 This thought develops out of the Torah
commentary of the Sefat Emet, a nineteenth century Hasidic master. See
Alter, Judah Aryeh Leib, 'The Language of Truth' The Torah Commentary'
Trans. Arthur Green, (Philadelphia, JPS, 1998) pgs.122-126.
9 Perhaps Jacob recognizing that Leah revealed him to
himself actually did hate her, but was unaware of his hatred. See
Zornberg, Aviva, Gottlieb, 'The Murmuring Deep' (N.Y., Schocken, 2008)
10 Italics added from Rashi translation.
11 Jeansonne, S.P., 'The Women of Genesis'
(Minneapolis, Fortress, 1990) pg. 77.
12 Susan Niditch, in 'Women's Bible
commentary', eds. S. H. Ringe and C.A. Newsom, (Louisville,
Westminster, 1998) pg. 24
13 Jeansonne, pg. 81.
14 Targum Yonatan on Numbers 22:5, similarly in BT
15 Josephus, Antiquites I,xix.8
16 Greenberg, pg. 246-248.
17 Ginzberg, Legends/Bible, pg. 170.
18 Gordon, C.H., 'The Story of Jacob and Laban in
Light of the NUZI Tablets' Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental
Research, 1937, #66, pgs. 25-27.
19 A.E. Draffkorn, 'Ilani-Elohim' JBL, 76, 1957, pg.
220, noted in Nuzi documents.
20 Rowley, H.H., 'The Servant of the Lord and Other
Essays on the Old Testament, Recent Discovery and the Patriarchal Age',
(London, Lutterworth Press, 1952) pg.302, quoted by Moshe Greenberg
'Rachel's Theft of the Teraphim, JBL, 1962, vol. 62, pg. 240.
21 Moshe Greenberg 'Rachel's Theft of the
Teraphim', JBL, 1962, vol. 62, pg. 240, especially footnote 8.
22 Steinberg, Naomi, 'Kinship and Marriage in
Genesis' (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1993) pg. 107.
23 Ktziah Spanier, 'Rachel's Theft of the Teraphim',
VT 1992, pg. 405.
24 The midrash 'Pesikta de Rab Kahana' in his list of
the barren women includes Leah suggesting she was destined to be barren
but perhaps because she was hated God opened her womb (Trs. W.G. Braude
and I.J. Kapstein, JPS, Philadelphia, 1975) Piska 20, pg. 331.
25 Kedushat Levi, pg. 53, quoted in Dresner, Rachel,
pg. 71-72. Levi Yitzhak, the great Hassidic Rabbi is known to pray for
his even or especially his more sinful villagers.
26 Quoted in Dresner, pg. 59-60.
27 Fifteen copies have been found in the Dead Sea
28 Jewish Encyclopedia.
29 In the Pesikta de Rab Kahana the author explains
the term 'krh' usually translated as barren comes from the Hebrew root
'ykrh' signifying first, pg. 332.
30 Dresner, pg. 60
31 Scholem Gershom, 'On the Kabbalah and its
Symbolism' (N.Y., Schocken, 1972) pg. 149.
32 The connection of Rachel to Jacob and Leah to
Israel is attested in a modern Hebrew song entitled 'I love Leah.'
33 Pardes, Ilana, 'Counter Traditions in the Bible'
(Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1992) pg. 74.
34 This has an ironic comparison to Esau honoring
his father (Ex. 20:12) .
35 Benjamin D. Cox and Susan Ackerman, 'Rachel's
Tomb' JBL Vol. 128, 2009, pgs. 135-148.
36 Quoted in Susan Starr Sered, Rachel's Tomb and the
Milk Grotto of the Virgin Mary, Journal of Feminist Studies in
Religion, 1994, pg. 8.
37 In the Targum Jonathan the house of Israel and
Jerusalem are weeping. In a later midrash (Seder Eliahu Rabba) the
'Ruah El', the spirit of God is weeping. Susan Starr Sered, 'Rachel's
Tomb: The Development of a Cult', Jewish Studies Quarterly, Vol. 2,
1995,Sered, pg. 110); Sered even suggests that 'Ruah El' could be a
theological comparison to the name Rachel (pg. 111, ft. 18)
38 We all know that Ephraim and Menassah are Rachel's
grandchildren, the sons of Joseph. Jacob compensates Rachel for
having only two sons by adopting Joseph's sons. He then blesses first
Ephraim and then Menassah, again reversing the primogeniture as he did
by gaining his rights over his older bother Esau, as Abraham did with
Isaac over Ishmael and as he did with Joseph over Reuben/Leah. He gives
Joseph a double share as the first born. He makes them tribal leaders;
one could argue that Joseph becomes a Patriarch. We still bless our
sons to be as like Ephraim and Manasseh (Deut. 21:17). Ephraim latter
becomes the leader of the Northern tribes.
39 Quoted in Dresner pg. 168
40 Dresner, pg. 163.
41 'Zohar : The Book of Splendor',
selected and edited by Gershom Scholem.(N.Y., Schocken, 1975) 1:175a.
42 Sered, Rachel's Tomb pgs. 107-109.
43 Sered, Rachel's Tomb pg. 104.
44 The title is a play on the term in Genesis when
God decided to create a woman to accompany the man Adam
'ezer ke'negdo'. The term is very strange in Hebrew which can mean
along side of him, opposite him, a counterpart to him, or even help
against himself’. Rashi (the medieval commentator 1040-1105)
suggests a worthy man will have a helper, an unworthy man one against
45 Quoted in Jill Jacobs, Jewish Theological Seminary
of America"The Defense Has Become the Prosecution:" Ezrat HaNashim, a
Thirteenth-century response to Misogyny, pg. 3; Jacob's believes this
monograph is a parody of misogynism. See also Talya Fishman,
Prooftexts, 8.1, 1988 and Motti Huss ed., Minhat Yehudah, Ezrat
Nashim, ve Ein Mishpat: Critical Editions, Hebrew, (Jerusalem, Hebrew
University, 1991) pg. 103.