In this week’s parsha, Vayetzei, Yaakov marries both of Lavan’s daughters, Leah and Rachel, even though he only wanted to marry Rachel. Why is this? Why would Yaakov marry both of Lavan’s daughters? The simple answer would be the reasoning Lavan gave Yaakov when he found out he married Leah first, “לֹא־יֵעָשֶׂ֥ה כֵ֖ן בִּמְקוֹמֵ֑נוּ לָתֵ֥ת הַצְּעִירָ֖ה לִפְנֵ֥י הַבְּכִירָֽה” which means, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the older.” Therefore, we can conclude that Yaakov married Leah instead of Rachel because Lavan deceived him in order to marry off his oldest daughter first.
However, Yaakov should have suspected this out of Lavan. How did he not immediately realize that the daughters were exchanged? Rashi explains that Yaakov had given Rachel special signs for the wedding because he knew of the possibility of Lavan’s trickery, but he still ended up marrying Leah. This is because Rachel shared the signs with Leah once she found out her sister was to marry Yaakov first. She said, “עַכְשָׁו תִּכָּלֵם אֲחוֹתִי: Now my sister may be put to shame.” Once she realized this possibility, she transmitted the signals which demonstrates Rachel’s honorability.
Earlier in the parsha, we are told that Leah had “tender” eyes because she constantly cried due to the fact that she thought she would have to marry Eisav. Without Rachel’s kindness, she would have been forced to do so. Rachel took it upon herself to protect her sister, regardless of the situation. It did not matter to her that Leah was taking her husband. At the time, she did not know that she would eventually marry him too. She decided to show compassion even if she could not marry the man that she wanted to marry.
There is the famous idea that Rachel cries for the Jewish nation. Her selflessness and love for others has saved us so many times throughout history, and it saved her sister too. Rachel exemplifies all of the characteristics that we should all hope for, and Yakov realized this too and continued to work for her marriage. Like Rachel, we should always put others before ourselves.
By: Riley Spitz (9th)