Strength from Brokenness

Jan 3rd, 2012 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week, Prayer
“I had not always believed that strength could come from brokenness, or that the thread of a divine purpose could be seen in tragedy. But I do now (Max Cleland).” (“Seven Levels of Teshuva: Avraham and Healing”)

The Torah uses a single verse to teach us that Jacob had a remarkable approach to life. (“A Different Sort of Fear of Life,” “Not Waiting For the Monument,” “The Fragrance of Permanence,” and, “Stopping the Leaks.”) We have seen that, “Vayechi is the story of a man who lived every moment of his life, even in death and after!” We determined that, “Jacob used these final scenes to guide his children to sense the fragrance of permanence, not of death and its ensuing impermanence.” We demonstrated that Jacob rarely “leaked” energy, a “death” experience, but managed to contain and expand the energy with which God filled him. The only time he “leaked” energy was when he lost the sense of the eternal.

Let’s continue to study Jacob’s life before Egypt to better understand where and how Jacob mastered eternal life. We left off after Jacob’s seven year wait for Rachel was as just a few days.

Jacob soon confronts someone thinking of death:

“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’

Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of the Lord, Who has kept you from having children?” (30:1-2)

Jacob, who wept upon meeting Rachel because they wouldn’t be buried together, whose mother also wished for death when thinking of children, has no patience for his beloved’s intense feelings of sadness over being childless!

Professor Nechama Leibovitz a”h, in her usual masterful way, applies a teaching of the Akeidat Yitzchak to this scene: Rav Yitzchak Arama points out that there are two names for the Primal Woman: “Isha,” as explained by Rashi, derived from ‘Eish,’ fire, representing the woman as an independent being; and, ‘Chava,’ the ‘mother of life, representing the woman as mother and caregiver. Professot Leibovitz explains that when Rachel wanted to die if she remained childless, she was choosing only one of her roles, that of Chava, the mother, and rejecting her life as an Isha. Jacob’s response was to point out that she cannot choose only one of the roles; she had to live as both.

I use this to explain the custom of the husband preparing the wife’s Shabbat candles; He is nurturing her Isha.

As beautiful as that explanation may be, I do not define Isha or Chava the same way. Chava means to articulate, The Articulator, and Isha has an added dimension of a person with greatness who willing forfeits her status just to be with her husband, just as Eve left the Garden to be with Adam, in fulfillment of, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you (3:16). (See “Family Secrets from the Articulator,” “Vashti v Esther,” “Conversations with Myself,” and, “Morning Blessings for the Nine Days-Part Three: Who has not made me a woman.”)

A careful reading of the text will explain Jacob’s reaction to Rachel’s cry, his fear of her connecting to the negative aspect of Isha, and Cain’s sin:

“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’” Rachel was jealous, breaking her eternal link to Jacob, just as Eve’s jealousy led her to trip Adam (Rashi; 3:6), and Cain to break his link to eternal life, humanity, and to murder Abel. (“Mistakes-Latznu,” “Ever Since Adam & Cain One,” “Trying Again,” “Commentary to the Vidui-Part Five; Avinu.”)

Jacob understood that again someone was breaking their link to the eternal and tasting death, so he said, “Am I in the place of the Lord, Who has kept you from having children?” Jacob was assuming the role of teacher, and repairing the break between “God,” the Attribute of Compassion, and “The Lord,” the Attribute of Power-Judgement:

“When God saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, ‘It is because God has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.’

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘Because God heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.’ So she named him Simeon.

Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ So he was named Levi.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘This time I will praise God.’ So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children (29:31-35).” Leah consistently speaks of God, the Attribute of Compassion.

Rachel speaks of the Lord, the Attribute of Power-Judgment: Then Rachel said, ‘The Lord has vindicated me; He has listened to my plea and given me a son.’ Because of this she named him Dan (30:6).”

Then, something changes:

The Lord listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, ‘The Lord has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.’ So she named him Issachar.

Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “The Lord has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.

Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah [derived from ‘Din,’ judgment].

Then The Lord remembered Rachel; He listened to her and enabled her to conceive. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, ‘The Lord has taken away my disgrace.” She named him Joseph, and said, ‘May God add to me another son’ (30:17-24).” [For those of you bothered by my switching the more common translation of God and Lord; I am following the teachings of my father zt”l who insisted that it does not make sense to say, “The Lord is God,” because God is His Essence; the Shema is to accept God as our Lord, meaning that He cares enough to judge our actions.]

Rachel and Leah were each relating to one aspect of our relationship with the Ultimate Being, which is a break of “Hashem Elokeinu,” God is our Lord, in the Shema, and a break in the story of the relationship between the Spiritual and Physical creations, expressed in, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when God the Lord made the earth and the heavens (2:4).” (See “The Ladder Comes to Life.”)

Jacob taught Rachel and Leah that the only way we can maintain an unbroken link between the Spiritual and Physical creations, to link to the Eternal, is to relate to both God and the Lord.

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