Leah and Rachel

וְעֵינֵי לֵאָה, רַכּוֹת

And Leah's eyes were weak (Genesis 29:17)

Poor Leah. She cried, because she thought she would get stuck with Esav (Rashi says weak eyes meant they were weak from tears). Instead, she married Yaakov, but she knew that he really loved her sister, Rachel, best.

On Wednesday I asked how Rachel helped out Leah, and how Leah helped out Rachel. Here’s Rashi’s explanation:

Rachel had signs from Yaakov to show that it was she and not someone else when they got married. However, Rachel taught the signs to Leah, so Leah would not be embarrassed.

Leah helped Rachel out by praying for a girl when she was pregnant with her 7th child. She knew that Yaakov would only have 12 sons, and Bilhah and Zilpah already had 2 each. She wanted Rachel to have at least two sons.

As Lion of Zion pointed out, there are also interpretations that say Leah and Rachel were not so nice to each other. But that’s a subject for another post. Maybe next year.
(One more thought: as I tend to prefer a commentary that is sympathetic to the matriarchs, especially to their sadness, as opposed to one that might highlight cattiness, I’m not sure I’m gonna like these other views).

More on this week’s parsha of Vayetze:
 Ilana-Davita writes about how human the personalities of this parsha are; strong emotions are part of our lives.

Special thanks to Winslow Homer for his help with the watercolor painting.

18 thoughts on “Leah and Rachel

  • Thanks, Robin. I asked both my boys what she was doing in the painting, to make sure they saw it as I saw it before I posted it. Glad I evoked the correct emotions!

  • That’s a compelling painting — even without the “back story” behind it. Marvelous work.

    Have you ever seen the work of Mary Anne Katz? This reminds me of her paintings a little.

  • Mojo, thanks. The encouragement from all you of you helps me to continue with art.

    I looked up Mary Anne Katz, but I only found one Holocaust-related painting.

  • Larry, glad you are settled enough in your new job that you can read parsha posts.

    The duadinum seem to be a few pesukim back from the Leah giving birth to Dina… now, of course, your short comment got me more curious. I’ll read more on Shabbat.

  • I also always used to feel sorry for Leah, but the truth is, Rachel – not Leah – is the tragic figure. After all, Rachel has only two sons, dies young in childbirth, and is buried all by herself on the side of the road. In contrast, Yaakov builds his family – Beit Yisrael (the House of Israel) – with Leah, and she is buried together with him for eternity. Also, not only did Leah have 6 sons to Rachel’s 2, but Leah is the mother of both Levi and Yehudah. In other words, Leah – not Rachel – is the mother of both the kehunah (the priesthood) as well as the malchut (the monarchy) of David, including the Mashiach.

  • Larry, it’s printing. Will read tonight or on Shabbat.

    Mrs. S., can’t we just understand each of their pains and their glories without needing to put down one or the other? In my painting, I was relating to Leah’s early pain of not being the beloved or not being able to choose a husband who loves her for herself. But I do appreciate that Leah did have quite a bit to be proud of as a mother.

  • I also always used to feel sorry for Leah, but the truth is, Rachel – not Leah – is the tragic figure

    From the perspective of their legacies, perhaps. But in terms of their personal lives, Rachel is the beloved one and Leah is the neglected one, and that fact keeps coming through. I think it is an interesting use of mirroring as a literary technique.

  • Nice work. What I particularly notice (since I struggle so much with this) is the believable proportions and solid feel of the figure behind the clothing. The facial expression too. Very nice job!

  • Thanks for looking at my watercolor, Gail. I find it easier to copy a watercolor by a great artist, as I copied and then modified a Winslow Homer painting (she wasn’t crying in the original but sewing) than to paint from real life. Because real life has way more information. Winslow Homer already eliminated a lot of information, making it easier to do the painting. And one ends up appreciated how masterful a watercolorist he was.

  • I guess I didn’t express myself very well. I certainly didn’t mean to put down either Leah or Rachel!

    Rather, I was trying to say that although Leah suffers early on (as poignantly shown in your painting), she eventually comes into her own – as Larry puts it, “from the perspective of their legacies,” but I think also in her own lifetime. And not just as her children’s mother. She becomes her husband’s partner in his life’s work – like Sarah/Avraham and Rivka/Yitzchak.

    You see, I agree with you that the sisters aren’t in competition. Instead, I believe that they complement each other and serve different roles. As you will recall, Yaakov is transformed into Yisrael shortly after Rachel’s death. Thus, Rachel is loved by “Yaakov” – i.e. the private individual – but Leah is the perfect wife for “Yisrael” – i.e. the father of the nation. In other words, there’s room in Yaakov/Yisrael’s life
    for both Rachel and Leah – just at different stages.

    • You are so sweet in wanting to frame it for your dining room! If you lived closer, I would set up an art exhibit for you. And yes, you may save it for a frame in your dining room.

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