Posted on November 11, 2010 by Avi Strausberg
in this week’s parsha, ויצא (vayetze), jacob sets out to bethuel, the house of his mother’s father, to find himself a wife, and perhaps some countless offspring in the progress. he succeeds in landing himself not one, but count them, two wives: leah, the unloved, and rachel, the loved. jacob favors rachel to such an extent than not only leah, but God as well, take notice of his bias. to even the scoreboard, God opens leah’s womb to four boys, while closing her sister rachel’s womb completely.
leah names her children with names whose meaning expresses the deep sense of sadness and rejection she feels at the hands of jacob. the first son is named ראובן, with the root ראי (to see): leah declares, “The Lord has seen my affliction.” the second son is named שמעון, with the root שמע (to hear): leah declares, “This is because the Lord heard that I was unloved.” and the third son לוי, with the root לוי (to join, attach): leah declares, “this time my husband will become attached to me.” three times God opens her womb, and three times that child is not enough to earn the affection of jacob nor to satisfy the longing of leah. finally, on the fourth son, leah turns to God in gratitude. the fourth child is named יהודה, with the root ידי (to praise): leah declares, “this time i will praise God.”
this time, עתה הפעם, she praises God, in contrast to all of the previous times, when with each birth, she named the child according to her sorrow. with this child, she is able to appreciate the gift of the child itself and of the goodness that is in her life, despite the hurt of her marriage.
desperate for love
each son reflects her longing
then, she turns towards God
may we see the good in our lives, and find the ability to be grateful,