This week’s parashah covers the critical 20-year period in the life of Jacob and his time in Haran. It covers his problems with Laban, two marriages, to Leah and to Rachel, and two dreams. Rachel is always seen as the favourite. The text describes the sisters thus:
Leah's eyes were tender, but Rachel had beautiful features and a beautiful complexion
However, on Friday night when we recite Eshet Chayil we read:
charm is deceptive and beauty vain, it is the God-fearing woman who deserves praise.
The sisters, unlike so many of the brothers in the Torah seem to live in harmony; there is no Jacob and Esau scenario here. However, these two matriarchs follow different paths. Rachel, who steals her father’s Teraphim, putting Jacob at risk, is barren until Joseph and eventually Benjamin are born. She is not buried in the cave at Machpelah. Leah has many children and is buried in the cave. Jacob will be renamed Israel in the next parasha and we call ourselves The Children of Israel. However it is Leah’s son, Judah, whose name is given to the yehudim, the precursor to the word Jews. At the momentous moment of Jacob’s first dream, of the ladder reaching to heaven, he exclaims:
יֵ֣שׁ יְהֹוָ֔ה בַּמָּק֖וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וְאָֽנֹכִ֖י לֹ֥א יָדָֽעְתִּי:
The Lord is in this place, and I did not know
We sometimes forget that when we come together as a community, we also have a collective dream that God is in this place.