Parshat Vayetzei traces Yaakov from leaving his parents home as a single man, to the end of the Parsha where he leaves his father in law’s home. This time, he is accompanied by four wives, a brood of children and the possessions he has amassed.
We aren’t just privy to the transformations that he has undertaken, but also to the behind-the-scenes of his family life. The relationships aren’t glossed over and filtered into an Instagram perfect life.
We read of the sacrifices the sisters Rachel and Leah make for each other, alongside their rivalry. The way Yaakov favors his wife Rachel, whilst Leah is described as despised. Issues of infertility and jealousy arise. There are work issues and Yaakov is swindled, by none other than his father-in-law.
I revel in the fact that although these figures are of a far greater spiritual stature than we are, and their decisions have ramifications for the rest of the Jewish nation, they also have struggles. Life isn’t all roses. Being one of the Matriarchs or Patriarchs doesn’t mean that they have wonderful obedient families, replicas of their parents- far from it!
We used to have a children’s book in our house about a very special woman who was an “ideal” role model. My kids loved to hear the stories. I had envisaged this book encouraging us to strive to be better people, but it got to the point where I felt like it was being used as a weapon against me. The kids kept on comparing me to this lady, “Why can’t you be like her? She never gets angry or upset with her kids…” I didn’t like the constant comparison. I explained to them that I am not her, I am me. Whilst I try to be a better parent, I am not perfect.
Thus it is so refreshing to read the struggles that take place in this week’s Parsha.
Which brings me to Brene Brown. In The Gifts of Imperfection, she writes extensively about being authentic with other people and being compassionate, learning not to be judgemental.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
When asked how she was doing, we don’t know if Leah actually replied that she was feeling second best, or the hated wife. But we do get to see the vulnerabilities and struggles that everyone faces, even great people. What I want my children and myself to realize is that to be great does not equal being perfect. By working on our own struggles we are on the path to greatness.