Weekly Parashah

Parashat Vayetze

9 Kislev 5783 \ December 3, 2022

By Robert Franklin


This Week’s Readings:

Torah: Torah: Genesis 28:10-32:3

Haftarah: Hosea 12:13-14:10

Brit Chadashah: Matthew 1:18-24


As we all know, the Bible talks about a host of people. So many in fact that most are underappreciated. Today's passage has one of my favorite underappreciated people in it; Leah. Leah was married to Jacob through trickery and although he remained married to her he never truly loved her as he loved Rachel. I have always wondered, why even have Leah in the Bible? Why mention her at all, other than that she is the mother of some of Jacob's children? What is there to be learned from Leah? Well, I think I finally have a good answer. And it lies in Leah's relationship with her husband. The Bible gives us many examples of both good and bad marriages, as we will look at. Through these examples we can see that G-d believes an intrinsic part of marriage is supporting one's partner and being aware of their needs. This is, I believe the lesson that Leah teaches us, the importance of, and consequences of not, being a good supportive spouse. And, when compared with the Haftarah and the Brit Chadashah, we can take this even deeper into our relationship with   G-d. 


In the Torah portion, it is clear right from the start that Jacob does not care much for Leah. We are told as much several times. She is so unloved and sad that G-d opens her womb and allows her to have multiple sons for Jacob. But while this might make other men care for their wives, it has no effect on Jacob. And so Leah is stuck. Let's note that Jacob does nothing to make her feel better, does not try to be there for her, does not support her in any meaningful way. He seems blind to her sadness, or if he is aware, he does nothing for her. Leah tries her best, through having children, to make Jacob care, but he never thinks about Leah. He never provides her the love and attention that she so clearly needs. 


At the beginning of the book of Hosea in which our Haftarah portion is found, we are told that G-d orders Hosea to marry a prostitute who will be unfaithful to him. So, in discussing marriages in the Bible, we can say right away that this is a bad one! I imagine it must have been difficult for Hosea, knowing that his wife would never be the truly supportive woman he needed. I think it is fair to assume that Gomer, Hosea's wife, did not support and meet Hosea's needs. She, like Jacob, appears to have been blind to them. Now, this marriage is a metaphor with how the people of Israel have treated G-d. He is aware of our needs, and he provides for us. If you need proof of that, it's in the Bible. We as his people must be aware of his needs, and support and serve him. Like Hosea with Gomer, G-d wants us to be faithful to him, and that is not a huge ask. 


In the Brit Chadashah portion, we get an example of a very good marriage: Mary and Joseph. Now we are told that Joseph kind of panics, and honestly, I kind of get it. He did not expect to have a child, and all of a sudden his wife to be is pregnant and the child is not his. Thankfully G-d speaks to Joseph in a dream and tells him that the child is from the Ruach ha-Kodesh. Joseph, being the good and faithful man that he is, takes Mary as his wife and supports her even though the child is not his. He sees Mary's needs and gives her support and love. By all accounts he is a good father and a good husband. He hears his wife and, with some prompting from G-d, demonstrates his faithfulness to both his wife and to G-d. 


To me, this is very clearly illustrated. In marriage, and really in all our relationships, G-d does not want us to be deaf to our spouses or other’s needs. He does not want us to be like Jacob or Gomer. And of course this applies to our most important relationship of all; our relationship with G-d. He supports us and hears our needs, we must pay attention to what G-d needs of us as well.