Fate and Choice
7th Torah Portion for the Shabbat on November 9, 2013
Vayetze Genesis 28:10-32:3 (148 verses)

On the road to Haran Jacob has a dream of angels going up and down a ladder. Jacob awakens, realizing that God is in this place. God renews the covenant established with Abraham. Jacob sees Rachel, Laban’s daughter, tending to sheep and wishes to marry her. Laban tricks Jacob into marrying his eldest daughter, Leah, after seven years of labor. In exchange for another seven years of work, Jacob is allowed to marry Rachel. Jacob has many sons with Leah, but Rachel is unable to conceive. Finally, God blesses Rachel, and she has a son, whom she names Joseph.

For most people, this week’s Torah portion focuses not only on Jacob’s dream, but also on Jacob’s love for Rachel. There is another daughter. She stands alone. Laban’s eldest daughter, Leah is unable to attract a mate. Poor Leah, her father and sister have to join forces to trick Jacob into marrying her!

At first glance Leah is not a role model for us and yet, if we are willing to look deep enough, we find an important value.

The Kabbalah teaches that Leah represents fate and Rachel represents choice. Fate is the thing that will happen to a person or thing: the future that someone or something will have. Choice or free will is the facility granted by God to all souls, to think, desire and decide as they please. If you believe this is a world of choice, you regard your life as a product of your decisions. Unforeseen circumstances may impose themselves upon you from time to time. Feeling defeated by those circumstances is a choice you make for yourself.

The truth is that when you get married, you think you are marrying Rachel. This is the person you fall in love with; the person to whom you begin to know heart-to-heart. As your relationship blossoms and grows over the years there is bound to be an element of surprise. Later you discover you have also married Leah, who is the side of your spouse you never knew you were getting. The Zohar calls Jacob a man of completeness because he is able to unite the world of Rachel and the world of Leah. Leah was not Jacob’s bride of choice; but she was a source of great blessing.

A man tells his rabbi that he is considering divorcing his wife. “Why?” asked his rabbi. “When I married her,” the man said, “I thought she was a Cadillac. I have discovered that she is a Toyota.” “Your problem,” the rabbi responded, “is that when you got married, you thought your were marrying a car!”