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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayetze

Parashat Vayetze

Since the Six Days of Creation

Our Torah portion this week tells of Jacob's marriage with the matriarchs Rachel and Leah. From it, we learn the degree of difficulty involved in arranging these nuptials. The whole ordeal appears nearly as difficult at the splitting of the Red Sea.
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1. As Difficult As Splitting the Red Sea
2. Rachel and Leah
3. Jacob's Two Sides
4. "Matchmaking" - No Small Responsibility

As Difficult As Splitting the Red Sea
Our Torah portion this week tells of Jacob's marriage with the matriarchs Rachel and Leah. From it, we learn the degree of difficulty involved in arranging these nuptials. We are informed of how Jacob arrived penniless at the house of Laban after (according to tradition) having been robbed by Esau's son, Elifaz, of all the wealth his father had bestowed upon him; we witness Laban's swapping of Rachel, his younger daughter, with Leah, and we learn how Jacob had to work fourteen years in order to earn his wives. The whole ordeal appears nearly as difficult at the splitting of the Red Sea, especially when one recalls how Isaac, Jacob's father, found his mate: He went out to meditate in the field toward evening, raised up his eyes, and saw Rebecca approaching.

Our Sages, sensing all of this, commented (Bereshit Rabbah 68:4):
Rabbi Simon opened the discussion, saying (Psalm 68:7): Did I not tell you, that which appears easy in your eyes is as difficult to God as the splitting of the Red Sea. What does God do? He matches them against their will, not to their liking. This is what [is meat by that which] is written (in reference to the Exodus): "God places the solitary in the midst of their families: Those who are bound He brings out to happiness." Rather than reading it Bakosharot (into happiness), read it B'chi V'shirut ("weeping and singing") - the one who desires sings; the one who does not desire weeps. R. Berakhiya said: In such a manner did R. Yose ben Chalaftah respond: The almighty sits and makes ladders, lifting one up, causing another to descend… Some approach their match, while others are approached by their match. Isaac was approached by his match, as it is written (Genesis 24:63): "Isaac went out to meditate in the field [toward evening. He raised his eyes, and saw camels approaching]"; Jacob went to his match, as it states (ibid. 28:10): "Jacob left Beer Sheba…"

From the above Midrashic text we learn that the arrangement of some marriages can be likened to singing, while other matches are as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea - i.e., cause weeping, for the Almighty pairs them against their will, raising one and lowering the other.
It would appear that the difference stems to a distinction made in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 22a):
Rabba the grandson of Chana said in the name of R. Yochanan: Arranging couples is as difficult as the dividing of the Red Sea, as the verse states (Psalm 68:7): "God places the solitary in the midst of their families: Those who are bound He brings out to happiness." Rather than reading it Motzi Assirim (brings out those who are bound), read it K'motzi Assirim (like bringing out those who are bound). Rather than reading it Bakosharot ("into happiness"), read it B'chi V'shirut ("weeping and singing").
The Talmud continues: Is this in fact the case? Has not R. Yehudah taught in the name of Rav: "Forty days before the embryo is formed, a heavenly voice goes forth and says: 'So-and-so's daughter to so-and-so's son." This is easy enough to resolve: The latter opinion refers to a first marriage; the former, to a second.

The first marriage, then, is divinely decree via a "heavenly voice" which goes forth 40 days before the embryo is formed, saying: "So-and-so's daughter to so-and-so's son.' Divinely decreed as it is, such a match comes easily. A second marriage, on the other hand, is the result of man's free choice; therefore, such an arrangement calls for adaptation and refinement of character - a goal as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea. The difficulty, it must be made clear, is not God's but man's, for the spouse must change himself in order to match his partner.

Rachel and Leah
Getting back to our Torah portion, it would appear that concerning Jacob, both of his wives were meant for him: Rachel was divinely decreed. Everybody recognized the fact that "the young goes to the young." Leah, on the other hand, was his "man-made" match, and hence called for an investment of effort on the part of each of them. By virtue of Leah's tearful supplications to God - she feared being married off to Esau - to the point where, "the eyes of Leah were sensitive [from tears]," God took pity upon her and allowed her to marry Jacob first. Because this match was determined by her actions, it was as difficult as the splitting of the Red Sea. Leah labored tirelessly for the sake of this marriage, employing both prayer and practical steps that were aimed at winning the heart of Jacob. Initially, Jacob recoiled from Leah, as the verse indicated, "God saw that Leah was unloved" (ibid. 29:31). Our Sages explain Jacob's behavior: By deceiving him, Leah had adopted the ways of the type of person Jacob felt deserve to be hated. This led Jacob to become cold toward her. Jacob, being redolent of the trait of honesty, could not bear such deceitfulness. Eventually, seeing that she was given the privilege of mothering the majority of his children, he came to recognize here righteousness. In his later years Jacob underscores this recognition when he "bows down at the head of the bed." This symbolic act implied that he was grateful to she who had born the majority of his children - i.e., Leah. Hence, we find that Jacob too changed his ways so that they fit the ways of his wife Leah and this caused the two of them be compatible.

Jacob's Two Sides
It appears that Jacob's having two wives was appropriate for his unique character. Jacob embodied the trait of honesty, or, if you like, truth. "Truth" in Jewish esoteric thought, is a unique quality in that it is seen as embracing two additional traits - "hesed," meaning "kindness" and "gevurah" which means "valor" or "might" - each of which resides at an opposite end of the trait spectrum. Furthermore, we find that Jacob has two names: Jacob and Israel. Jacob, the first name, applies to the "scholarly man who remained in the tents" (ibid. 25:27). From these tents came forth the voice of Torah and prayer - and "the voice is Jacob's voice" (ibid. 27:22). Israel is the name which was bestowed upon him after defeating Esau's guardian angel, Samuel, and received the blessings of which he was deserving. Consequently, he merited two wives: Rachel went to Jacob as the first match, a match which was preordained in heaven, while Leah went to Israel, a second and additional marriage which he earned through his actions.

According to this it becomes possible to understand the beginning of the above-mentioned Midrash dealing with matches.
Matrona asked R. Yose bar Chalafta: "In how many days did the Almighty create the world?"
"Six days," he replied, "as the verse states, 'For, in six days did God create the heavens and the earth' (Exodus 20).
"What," continued Matrona, "has he been doing since then?"
R. Yose bar Chalafta answered, "He sits and arranges matches: 'So-and so's daughter to so-and-so'; 'so-and-so's wife to so-and-so'; 'so-and-so's wealth to so-and-so.'

What is the significance of God's sitting and arranging matches? Why wasn't this business taken care of with everything else that was arranged during the six days of creation?
In order to resolve this difficulty, let us take note of another matter that the Almighty constantly occupies Himself with - novel Torah insights. Indeed, He amuses himself with such insights on a continuous and daily basis (see Bereshit Rabba 1, the opinion of Hoshaya Rabba). This is hinted at in the words "And I was daily all delight, playing always before Him" (Proverbs 8:30). Yet, of what possible significance are Torah insights to God? - Rather, the intention no doubt is that God amuses Himself with the Torah insights of the Sages of Israel, and rules accordingly, for "It (i.e., the Torah) is not in Heaven."
We may now similarly explain the matter of the matchmaking with which God is constantly occupied. The Almighty takes great pleasure in those couples who, through the merit of their personal efforts, attune themselves to one another by refining their everyday conduct. He grants abundant divine aid in order that such marriages succeed. Such relationships are therefore as difficult as splitting the Red Sea, because they are continuously dependent upon the effort of their spouses.

"Matchmaking" - No Small Responsibility
It would seem that the act of arranging matches bears significance which is considerably more far-reaching than marriage alone. It essentially serves to unite the entire Jewish people from all of the various tribes and families of Israel. Such matchmaking is based upon penetrating insight into the very depths of the souls of the people of Israel, the "children of God." What's more, it serves to bond all of humankind, and the entire world, to the Almighty. This is the essential meaning of human responsibility - to unite and to make matches in an attempt to mend the world on behalf of the Kingdom of Heaven. This, then, is the sort of matchmaking with which the Almighty occupies Himself since the six days of creation.
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