Hear Here!

It is love at first sight, literally. Jacob is enthralled by Rachel, his running from becomes running to, he is on a mission, agreeing to work seven years in order to marry her. The interaction with Lavan is equally telling. There is an unusual phrase that will serve as the crucial theme for the drama that follows. – “Listen carefully”, 29:13

וַיְהִי֩ כִשְׁמֹ֨עַ לָבָ֜ן אֶת־שֵׁ֣מַע ׀ יַעֲקֹ֣ב בֶּן־אֲחֹת֗וֹ וַיָּ֤רץ לִקְרָאתוֹ֙ וַיְחַבֶּק־לוֹ֙ וַיְנַשֶּׁק־ל֔וֹ וַיְבִיאֵ֖הוּ אֶל־בֵּית֑וֹ וַיְסַפֵּ֣ר לְלָבָ֔ן אֵ֥ת כּל־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים הָאֵֽלֶּה׃

On hearing the hearings of Jacob, his sister’s son , Laban ran to greet him; he embraced him and kissed him, and took him into his house. He, Jacob,  told Laban all that had happened. 

What is the tautology of the Shema? What is the meaning of “Sheima Yaakov” the sounds of, the deeper implications of who Yaakov was,?What the name not only implied but the numerous events that demonstrated what it actually meant, – that of “deceit”. We once again hear the emotional raw accusation of Esua to his father Isaac, when it transpires that Jacob received his blessing, 27:36

וַיֹּ֡אמֶר הֲכִי֩ קָרָ֨א שְׁמ֜וֹ יַעֲקֹ֗ב וַֽיַּעְקְבֵ֙נִי֙ זֶ֣ה פַעֲמַ֔יִם אֶת־בְּכֹרָתִ֣י לָקָ֔ח וְהִנֵּ֥ה עַתָּ֖ה לָקַ֣ח בִּרְכָתִ֑י… 

And Esau said, “Was he, then, named Jacob that he might deceive me these two times? First he took away my birthright and now he has taken away my blessing!…” 

Lavan, it appears, discovers a partner in crime! But there is something all the more profound in this listening theme that is foundational in the budding relationship of Jacob and Rachel that will forever influence our identity, existence and even purpose.

There is a staggering  Midrash at the opening of Aicha that portrays Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses begging God not to destroy the Temple and to save the Jews from destruction. God seemingly is unpersuaded. Rachel forcefully intervenes; Read it extremely slowly, the chain of events occur in this week’s portion of Vayetze. We yearn for it to become reality as we study it… 

בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה קָפְצָה רָחֵל אִמֵּנוּ לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וְאָמְרָה רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, גָּלוּי לְפָנֶיךָ שֶׁיַּעֲקֹב עַבְדְּךָ אֲהָבַנִּי אַהֲבָה יְתֵרָה וְעָבַד בִּשְׁבִילִי לְאַבָּא…וְרִחַמְתִּי עַל אֲחוֹתִי שֶׁלֹא תֵצֵא לְחֶרְפָּה, וְלָעֶרֶב חִלְּפוּ אֲחוֹתִי לְבַעְלִי בִּשְׁבִילִי, וּמָסַרְתִּי לַאֲחוֹתִי כָּל הַסִּימָנִין שֶׁמָּסַרְתִּי לְבַעְלִי, כְּדֵי שֶׁיְהֵא סָבוּר שֶׁהִיא רָחֵל…מִיָּד נִתְגַּלְגְּלוּ רַחֲמָיו שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וְאָמַר, בִּשְׁבִילֵךְ רָחֵל אֲנִי מַחֲזִיר אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל לִמְקוֹמָן, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב : כֹּה אָמַר ה’ קוֹל בְּרָמָה נִשְׁמָע נְהִי בְּכִי…תַמְרוּרִים רָחֵל מְבַכָּה עַל בָּנֶיהָ מֵאֲנָה לְהִנָּחֵם עַל בָּנֶיהָ כִּי אֵינֶנּוּ. וּכְתִיב (ירמיה לא, טז): כֹּה אָמַר ה’ מִנְעִי קוֹלֵךְ מִבֶּכִי וְעֵינַיִךְ מִדִּמְעָה כִּי יֵשׁ שָׂכָר לִפְעֻלָּתֵךְ וגו’, וּכְתִיב (ירמיה לא, יז): וְיֵשׁ תִּקְוָה לְאַחֲרִיתֵךְ נְאֻם ה’ וְשָׁבוּ בָנִים לִגְבוּלָם

At that moment, Rachel interjected before the Holy One blessed be He and said: ‘Master of the universe, it is revealed before You that Your servant Jacob loved me abundantly and worked for my father for seven years. When those seven years were completed, my father plotted to exchange me with my sister. The matter was extremely difficult for me and I informed Jacob, giving him a signal to distinguish between my sister and me so that my father would be unable to exchange me. Afterward, I regretted what I had done and suppressed my desire. I had mercy on my sister, so that she would not be led to humiliation. I transmitted to my sister all the signals that I had given to my husband, so that he would think that she is Rachel. Moreover, I entered beneath the bed on which he was lying with my sister. He would speak with her and she would be silent, and I would respond to each and every matter that he said, so that he would not identify my sister’s voice. (Another astonishing implication of  the enigmatic phrase שֵׁ֣מַע  יַעֲקֹ֣ב Jacob hearing). Rachel continues;  I performed an act of kindness for her, I was not jealous of her, and I did not lead her to humiliation. If I, who is flesh and blood, was not jealous of my rival, and I did not lead her to humiliation and shame, You who are a living and eternal merciful King, why were You jealous of idol worship that has no substance, and You exiled my descendants, and they were killed by sword, and the enemies did to them as they pleased?’ 

Immediately, the mercy of God was aroused and He said: ‘For you, Rachel, I will restore Israel to its place.’ That is what is written: “So said the Lord: A voice is heard in Rama, wailing, bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be consoled for her children, as they are not” (Jeremiah 31:14). And it is written: “So said the Lord: Restrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, as there is reward for your actions.… And there is hope for your future, the utterance of the Lord, and your children will return home” (Jeremiah 31:15–16).

God cannot and must not ignore the pleas of parents. Rachel is our Matriarch in so many respects, perhaps now all the more,  שמע קולנו Hear our Voices. Please may it be Your will, #Bring Them Home Now!

Shabbat shalom

About the Author
Shalom Orzach is a senior educator and consultant for the iCenter and serves on faculty for the Foundation for Jewish Camp. He was a scholar on the prestigious Jerusalem Fellows Program, following which he was the Executive Director for Jewish Renewal at the UJIA in England. Shalom is an acclaimed public speaker on contemporary Israel who brings extensive knowledge, humor and passion.
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