In this week’s parsha we read about how Lavan tricked Yaakov Avinu into marrying Leah despite having worked seven years for the privilege of marrying Leah’s sister, Rachel. Chazal teach us that because he had anticipated Lavan’s deceit, Yaakov had given Rachel a special sign so he could ascertain that she was indeed the woman he was marrying. Unable to tolerate Leah’s shame, Rachel told her this secret sign she and Yaakov had made, enabling Leah to marry Yaakov Avinu instead of her.

Although Rachel’s incredible act of altruism is admirable even on the surface level, the Berditchover Rav explains just how broad this act of kindness was.

On the verse “And Leah’s eyes were weak”, Rashi comments that Leah was constantly crying for fear that, being the older daughter, she would marry Eisav, Yitzchak’s older son, while Rachel, the younger daughter, would marry Yaakov, Yitzchak’s younger son. Surely, Rachel was aware of this as well as the the implication; it was she who would bring the shevatim into the world. All of klal Yisrael would come from her; all of the Torah, mitzvos, and mesiras nefesh of the Jewish nation throughout history would be credited to her spiritual account, garnering unimaginable reward in the world to come. Based on this, the Kedushas Levi reveals the extent of Rachel’s altruism. In giving Leah the signs, Rachel wasn’t only giving away her soulmate – she was giving away her entire portion in the world to come.

From Rachel’s perspective, allowing Leah to marry Yaakov meant that her portion would fall with Eisav. Instead of living in Yaakov’s tent of Torah and tefillah and serving as the matriarch of the Jewish people, she would be forced to spend her life in an impure environment. Still, since it meant sparing her older sister from embarrassment, Rachel joyfully gave it all away. In a moment of tremendous clarity and perfect alignment with the will of Hashem, Rachel was willing to give away a lifetime of spirituality and her portion in the world to come to spare her sister pain.

This, says R’ Levi Yitzchak, is the deeper meaning of the verse “וַיֶּאֱהַב גַּם־אֶת־רָחֵל מִלֵּאָה”, “And Yaakov also loved Rachel more than Leah”. וַיֶּאֱהַב גַּם־אֶת־רָחֵל: “And Yaakov loved Rachel even more than he did before”, מִלֵּאָה: not “more than”, but because of the sacrifice she had made for her sister, Leah.

Oftentimes in life, we are inclined to make sacrifices in our bein adam l’chaveiro for our bein adam l’makom. Because we are so intent on growing closer to Hashem, it doesn’t seem so bad to push people out of the way to get a better seat by a tisch, steal the amud from another person with a chiyuv, or shush someone loudly during davening, publicly embarrassing him. Rachel Imeinu, the mother of our holy nation, teaches us that this is simply not the way. In giving away her Olam haba for the purpose of protecting her sister, Rachel taught us an imperative lesson: Hashem’s will for us to treat our fellow Jew with sensitivity always trumps any value of serving Him at the expense of another.

Hashem’s will for us to treat our fellow Jew with sensitivity always trumps any value of serving Him at the expense of another.

Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchov
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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