One Nation with One Heart
Rav Maor Azar
Dedicated to the success of our soldiers, the recovery of the wounded and the safe and speedy return of all our captives, including Daniel Shimon Ben Sharon
This week we encounter a new stage in the formation of the Jewish people.
Yaakov Avinu arrives in Charan and there he meets Rachel and Leah, the daughters of Lavan. Who he chooses to marry will have profound implications for the future of Am Yisrael. Although the Torah does not reveal much about them, the little we know makes clear that Rachel and Leah represent different forces in this world.
The Torah writes succintly:
Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel had beautiful features and a beautiful complexion.
The description of Leah revolves around a spiritual feature (Chazal tell us that Leah’s eyes were weak due to the tears she had in her prayers to Hashem) whilst the description of Rachel relates to her physical beauty. When we look at the way each of their descendants are described and what their primary characteristics were, we find a similar division: The descendants of Leah are engaged primarily in spiritual matters (the tribe of Levi who served in the Mikdash, Yissaschar who served as Torah scholars and judges) and amongst the descendants of Rachel we find those engaged in more material matters (Yehoshua from the tribe of Efraim who led the conquest of Eretz Yisrael, Yosef who provided sustenance during the years of famine).
Yaakov is described as an “innocent man, dwelling in tents”2. According to Rashi and many Midrashim, he had just emerged from 14 years of study in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever. It seems reasonable to suggest therefore that he was better suited to marrying Leah, the sister who represented spiritual pursuits. Yet the Torah tells us explicitly that Yaakov loved Rachel. Perhaps the explanation is that Yaakov sought a partner to complete and complement him – someone whose physical and worldly focus could match his spiritual prowess.
However, Hashem had other plans. Despite Yaakov’s spiritual greatness, despite all the years of Torah study, he was still required to marry Leah in order to further develop the spiritual side of Am Yisrael. Only after that came the time to marry Rachel and concentrate on the material elements of the Jewish people’s nature.
Ultimately both of these forces are required and essential for Am Yisrael to flourish. The Beit Midrash cannot be left just for the children of Leah, while only the children of Rachel are active in the material world. Rather Am Yisrael needs to be comprised of a unity and harmony between both of these elements. This is how the Navi Yechezkel describes this vision:
“And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write upon it, ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel his companions’; and take one stick and write upon it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions. And bring them close, one to the other into one stick, and they shall be one in your hand… And I will make them into one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be to them all as a king; and they shall no longer be two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms anymore.”4
It is interesting to note that as we progress further down the generations, the descriptions of Rachel, Leah and their descendants and their qualities are not as disparate as they were previously. In sefer Bereishit Leah is the one characterized by prayer (with “weak eyes”). Only once do we find prayer explicitly mentioned regarding Rachel, yet later on this is how she is described by the Navi Yirmiyahu:
5כֹּה אָמַר ד’ קוֹל בְּרָמָה נִשְּמָע נְּהִי בְּכִי תַמְּרוּרִים רָחֵל מְּבַכָה עַל־בָנֶיהָ מֵאֲנָה לְּהִנָּחֵם עַל־בָנֶיהָ תשרקענמםלכיחוהדבא־’ כְְְְְְְֲִִִִִִֵֵֵֶֶַַַַַָָָָָָָָָָָָֹֹּּּּּּּּּׁי אֵינֶנּוּ ניוא׃ ׃ֵֶּּ כ י
So says the Lord: A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children for they are not.
Rachel ‘s tears, and indeed her prayer, have become a symbol until this day. From the birth of the Jewish people, a process has taken place – a synthesis between the qualities of Rachel and Leah. Particularly in times of distress, the coming together of these two qualities can be aptly felt. Rachel too reveals the spiritual dimension.
Over the past month and a half we have seen the Jewish people come together, perhaps like never before. Different communities are involved with one another in so many different ways. The pictures abound of chayalim and chassidim dancing together. There are those from the Beit Midrash (including many from our own Beit Midrash at Manhigut Toranit) who are fighting on the front lines and there are those who previously described themselves as completely secular who are seeking out tzitzit, Tefillin and other mitzvot. There is a great love and a great unity amongst the entire Jewish people. The descendants of Leah are holding their weapons and the descendants of Rachel are raising their voices in prayer – as one people with one heart.
In Rachel’s prayer for her captive children, the verse uses both the plural and the singular form. Although it is a description of multiple children (baneha) the description of pain and longing as written as if relating to a single individual (eineno). The pain for each missing child is acutely felt by Am Yisrael, as a mother crying over the loss of her only son.
Let us pray that the cries of Rachel will finally be answered. That her captive children will be released and returned home safely and speedily. Let us all storm the heavens with prayer, alongside the brave actions of our soldiers and may we soon see the fulfillment of the words of the Navi6:
תשרקץפענמםלכךיוהדבא־’ ֹֹֻֻּּּּּּׁׁׂ כְְְְְְְְְִִִִִִִִִֵֵֵֵֵֵֶֶֶַַָָָָָָ
כֹּה אָמַר ד’ מִנְּעִי קוֹלֵךְ מִבֶכִי וְּעֵינַיִךְ מִדִמְּעָה כִי יֵש שָכָר לִפְּעֻלָתֵךְ נְּאֻם־ד’ וְּשָבוּ מֵאֶרֶץ אוֹ יב ׃ ׃ב
וְּיֵש־תִקְּוָה לְּאַחֲרִיתֵךְ נְּאֻם־ד’ וְּשָבוּ בָנִים לִגְּבוּלָם ׃
So says the Lord: Refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is reward for your work, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
And there is hope for your future, says the Lord, and the children shall return to their own border.
Shabbat Shalom Umevorach uBesorot Tovot lechol Am Yisrael!
Rav Maor Azar
On behalf of
The Selwyn and Ros Smith & Family
MANHIGUT TORANIT PROGRAM