By Jess Teich and Abby Adelman, Towson University
We have just spent the past couple minutes talking about the four big themes in a healthy relationship: Love, peace, respect, as well as trust and support. This week’s parsha (Torah portion), vayeitzei, is the best one we could have asked for this Shabbat. Vayeitzei tells the story of how the two sisters, Rachel and Leah, married Jacob, and goes on to tell a little of the life they led afterwards. Interestingly, the healthiest relationship in the portion is not between Jacob and either of his wives, but between the two sisters.
As the parsha teaches, Jacob fell in love with Rachel, and worked for seven years to be able to marry her. On the wedding day, Rachel’s father tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah. Jacob then had to work for seven more years to actually marry his beloved Rachel. How is it that Jacob didn’t figure out at the wedding that he was marrying Leah and not Rachel? The story goes that Jacob and Rachel had special hand signs to prove at the wedding that they were who they said they were. Rachel, upon hearing her father’s plan to switch her and her sister, taught Leah the hand signs.
This one story, this one action by Rachel demonstrates all of our themes for a healthy relationship. She trusted Leah with the man she loved and supported her marrying him. Her teaching Leah the hand signs was also a show of respect because she saved Leah from being embarrassed at the wedding altar. Rachel is never shown in the portion to be angry with Leah. They are always at peace, on each other’s side and willing to work together. Their relationship is basically perfect. However, their relationships with Jacob… not so much.
The text definitely says that Jacob loved Rachel, but it repeats over and over that Leah was not as loved. It goes as far as to show how Leah struggled to win her husband’s love and support throughout her life, which is a telltale sign of an unhealthy relationship. Looking at this parsha from a healthy relationship perspective really changed the tone of this classic story. When looking at this parsha, we usually look at and are told to emulate the relationship between Jacob and his wives. I think we’ve been told the wrong relationship to emulate. The real loving, supportive, and HEALTHY relationship is that of the sisters, Rachel and Leah.
I hope you found our discussion tonight valuable and you continue the conversation about healthy relationships, boundaries, respect, communication, and supporting each other.