If you’re like us, you remember the story in Genesis 29 of Jacob, Rachel and Leah. In this week’s message we’re sharing the same true story but from a different vantage point. It’s written from the vantage point of the Jewish Torah. We encourage you to read through the entire article because by the time you finish we believe you’ll gain an insight into marriage that you may not have seen before. It shows us how to love beyond that, which is visible.
(The following insightful article about marriage, titled, “The Leah and Rachel Deception,” appeared on a Jewish email list that was sent to us by Smart Marriages.com. This is an edited version. To read this article in its entirety go to Smartmarriages.com. As they say, “If you aren’t Jewish or a person who studies the Bible, there might be a few words you won’t understand. But trust us, this applies to all marriages, Jewish, Christian, or other!” The message is POWERFUL!)
The author, Yosef Y. Jacobson writes:
Loving Beyond the Visible
It’s difficult not to sympathize with the patriarch, Jacob, who becomes the victim of a last minute switch by his father-in-law, who tricks him into marrying the wrong woman. (See Genesis 29.) Laban had 2 daughters, Leah and Rachel. “Leah had weak eyes, while Rachel was shapely and beautiful.” Jacob loved Rachel and he offered to work 7 years for her.
When the 7 years were up, Laban substituted Leah for Rachel on the night of the wedding. Jacob discovered the deception only after he’d consummated the marriage with Leah. Jacob accepted his fate and remained with Leah. But he later also married Rachel, the bride of his choice. However, “He loved Rachel more than Leah.”
Yet, at the end, it was Leah who became Jacob’s primary wife. Rachel died at a young age. So most of Jacob’s married life was actually spent with Leah. In addition to this, it was Leah who mothered most of Jacob’s children, the future tribes of Israel. And it was she, not Rachel, who ultimately was buried with Jacob in Hebron.
Why did this marriage —the marriage that formed the foundation of the Jewish nation, the marriage that produced every single Jew living since —have to come about in such an appalling manner? And why did Jacob have to go through this absurd experience?
There’s a custom practiced during Jewish weddings known as the “bedeken,” or the veiling. Before the wedding ceremony, the groom goes to the room where his bride is sitting on a throne. There, he covers her face with a veil. Her face remains covered during the entire chupah ceremony.
One of the traditional explanations for this custom is that it commemorates the event that occurred during Jacob’s wedding ceremony. Since Jacob’s bride was veiled, he didn’t realize that he was marrying the wrong woman. But if that’s the reason, shouldn’t the custom be that the groom uncovers his bride’s face to make sure that he’s marrying the bride of his choice? Why are we commemorating at each of our weddings this terrible episode that occurred to poor Jacob?
War and Peace:
In the writings of kabbalah, Leah and Rachel represent two dimensions existing in each of our spouses, women and men alike. Rachel, “the shapely and beautiful sister,” embodies the attractive, charming and romantic features of our spouse. In fact, in Hebrew Rachel means “ewe.” This is an animal characterized by its bright white color and its serene and lovable nature.
Leah, a name that literally means “one, who is weary,” represents those elements in our spouse that are more complicated, perplexing and disturbing. Leah, the weak-eyed sister, weakened from tears and anxiety, embodies our continuous and exhausting struggle with the dark demons and ugly impulses in our lives.
Thus, in Chassidic writings Rachel is associated with the tzaddik-personality. It is Leah who is associated with the baal-teshuvah (the penitent) figure. The tzaddik is the pure and sacred human being, reflecting the harmony and goodness of his creator. The baal-teshuvah, on the other hand, embodies the tumultuous individual. This is one who must continuously battles the negative urges and destructive habits rooted in his or her psyche.
The Invisible Wedding Drama
The drama that occurred at the wedding of the father of the Jewish people occurs at almost every wedding. When you get married, you may think that you’re marrying Rachel: the comely, perfect and fictitious spouse that you chose in your dreams. But in reality, you’re bound to discover that you ended up with Leah, a human being possessing layers of unresolved wounds and tension.
Initially you may love and appreciate only the Rachel dimension of your marriage partner and despise the Leah part of that individual, yet as life progresses you’ll come to discover that it’s precisely the Leah dimension of your spouse, more than anything else, that was always meant for your soul. Because it’s the shortcomings and imperfections of your spouse that challenge you to transcend your ego and become the person you are capable of being.
Creating a Space:
That’s the secret behind the veiling. When the groom veils his bride, he’s essentially stating that “I will love and respect not only the ‘you’ who is presently visible to me, but also the ‘you’ that is still concealed from me and might emerge only later. I’m committed not just to the ‘Rachel’ in you, but also to the ‘Leah’ in you.” “As I bond with you in marriage,” the groom is saying, “I’m creating a space within me to accept and nurture the totality of your being.”
This story reinforces a truth we once heard: “People are not what we wish them to be or what they seem to be. They are what they are.”
May we see our spouse and love our spouse as God does! As we’re told in 1 Samuel 16:6-7, “…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.“ This should be an example to us all.
“Be imitators of God as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.“ (Ephesians 5:1-2)
May we never forget to make it our mission to join God in expressing His visible love to our spouse! It’s a mission field He’s entrusting to our care—to love beyond the visible.
Steve and Cindy Wright
Concerning the Visible and Invisible, Here is a related article we encourage you to read:
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Marriage Messages