David Brent

Peace Lessons from Leah

At synagogue this past Shabbat, I was troubled when I was reading about Leah’s children. I read that Jacob hated Leah. No reason is given in the Torah why Jacob hates Leah. I know he is having sex with her so that can’t be the reason. Maybe she is a bad cook, I have no idea.

Leah believes that giving Jacob sons will make him love her. Leah first gives him Reuben but that doesn’t seem to satisfy Jacob. He still hates her. Then Leah gives Jacob his second son, Simeon, and still she is not feeling the love. Finally, after Levi, the third son, not only is she still hated, it seems that Jacob is no longer even interested in the sex part.

The Torah gets more interesting. Reuben is out for a walk and finds some kind of special plant. Reuben gives the plant to his mother. Rachel sees the plant and she wants it. Leah and Rachel work out a deal. Rachel gets the plants if she can convince Jacob to get in bed with Leah. In the end, the plan works. Everybody ends up happy.

I started to compare Leah and Jacob with Israel and the Arabs. Just as Leah is hated by Jacob for reasons beyond my comprehension, the Arabs seem to hate the Israelis and I honestly don’t understand why.

Just like Leah giving Jacob three sons and thinking it will make Jacob stop hating her, Israel “gave three sons” to the Arabs to try and stop the hatred. The first son was when Israel withdrew its troops from Lebanon and in return Israel received hatred in the form of Hezbollah. Second, Israel tried to give land to the Arabs in the West Bank through the Oslo accords and in return more hatred in the form of the second intifada. Finally, Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip and we all know how well that worked. Now the Arabs are not interested in even coming into our tent.

In the Torah, the solution to the problem does not seem to be between Jacob and Leah, but between Leah and Rachel. It is only when Leah and Rachel work together and stop fighting with each other that Jacob comes into the tent and starts the real love making.

Why should the Arabs love the Israelis when Israelis seem to hate each other? Debate is good. Hatred is something else. Recently the Times of Israel published two excellent opposing pieces, one by Daniel Gordis and a response by Sharon Brous. Rabbi Gordis and Rabbi Brous disagreed with each other but did so with respect and even praised each other in their pieces. The comments to the articles were not nearly so nice. The comments were filled with hatred.

Israelis need to come together. Israelis, which I hope to soon be included among, need to be able to debate in the spirit of Rabbi Gordis and Rabbi Brous to come to an agreement. If we can’t agree with each other, why would we expect the Arabs to agree with us?

Elections are coming. We have something no less special then the plant that Reuben found. Our plant is the land of Israel — it is a true miracle that we have established a state in our lifetimes. Let us follow the example of Rachel and Leah, and the modern example of Rabbi Gordis and Rabbi Brous to debate each other with respect for one another to find the best solution.

This piece is full of poor Torah scholarship and oversimplifications of history. But the point is valid. How can we expect the Arabs to agree to a peaceful solution if we can’t even agree on one ourselves? And how can we come to an agreement if we can’t even debate each other with respect?

About the Author
David Brent is a NASA engineer with a master's and bachelor's from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned candy entrepreneur. He made aliya in the spring of 2013. David commutes between Israel, where his heart is, and Florida, where his business is.