Our Forefathers & Their Beautiful Wives
Last week: Yaakov -not yet Ovenu- successfully purchased the bichoiro (birthright) from his elter brider Eisav (older brother), and had- with his mother’s help as a co-conspirator- outwitted his brother once again by duping his elderly and semi blind father Yitzchok, into giving him the brochis (blessings) he had in mind for his firstborn. Shoin! Knowing how and when to zig and zag, is certainly a life skill one should acquire. Ober, Eisav was hopping mad -who could blame him- and was planning -one day after his father would pass- to kill Yaakov. At the parsha was closing out, Rivka, their mother got wind of the plot, and sent Yaakov packing under the guise of finding himself a wife. He was after all- 63 years of age, efsher time to settle down and get married.
As parshas Vayetzi opens, it’s fourteen year later. Why it took Yaakov fourteen years to arrive to Choron, ver veyst? Was Be’er Sheva that far away? Seemingly not. Medrish tells us that Yaakov made a fourteen year detour. Instead of listening to his mother, he enrolled in a yeshiva, fell in love with the easy lifestyle and decided to extend. Perhaps knowing that Eisav was on his tail and knowing that Eisav was only attracted to avoido zoro (idolatry) and thinking Eisav would never think of looking for him in a yeshiva, he felt safe there? Many mistakenly do. What he studied there for fourteen years, ver veyst? We have previously -on several occasions- discussed this chapter in Yaakov’s life, as well, the existence of the yeshiva and its curriculum. Want more? Visit www.oisvorfer.com and checkout the archives.
Ober this week, the Oisvorfer wants to delve a shtikel further into one particular matter. Were our heylige Ovois obsessed with external beauty? Were their priorities in order when searching for a wife and life mate? Let’s find out, and let’s begin with our zeyda and forefather Avrohom. Let’s go back a few weeks to parshas Lech Lecha where we read that Avrohom, afraid that the Egyptians would become attracted to Soro, might kill him and take her. What to do? Avrohom concocted a plot whereby Soro would lie and say she was his sister. Let’s quickly review those pisukim. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 12:11 & 14), azoy.
|11. Now it came to pass when he drew near to come to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Behold now I know that you are a woman of fair appearance.||יאוַיְהִ֕י כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֥ר הִקְרִ֖יב לָב֣וֹא מִצְרָ֑יְמָה וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ אֶל־שָׂרַ֣י אִשְׁתּ֔וֹ הִנֵּה־נָ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי כִּ֛י אִשָּׁ֥ה יְפַת־מַרְאֶ֖ה אָֽתְּ:|
|14. And it came to pass when Abram came to Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very pretty.||ידוַיְהִ֕י כְּב֥וֹא אַבְרָ֖ם מִצְרָ֑יְמָה וַיִּרְא֤וּ הַמִּצְרִים֙ אֶת־הָ֣אִשָּׁ֔ה כִּֽי־יָפָ֥ה הִ֖וא מְאֹֽד:|
Avada you recall Rashi and many others telling us that of course Avrohom did, or did not, notice her outstanding beauty before they arrived to Egypt. That is well debated. The bottom line: among Soro’s other qualities which we do no learn about until after her passing, and even then, only through Rashi and medrish, was that she was outstandingly beautiful.
And before we get back to Yaakov and his priorities when at 77, he was wife hunting for the first time, let’s recall what took place when Avrohom’s trusted servant Eliezer -commissioned to find 37-40 year old Yitzchok a wife, came upon Rivka. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 24:15-16) azoy:
|15. Now he had not yet finished speaking, and behold, Rebecca came out, who had been born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, and her pitcher was on her shoulder.||טווַֽיְהִי־ה֗וּא טֶ֘רֶם֘ כִּלָּ֣ה לְדַבֵּר֒ וְהִנֵּ֧ה רִבְקָ֣ה יֹצֵ֗את אֲשֶׁ֤ר יֻלְּדָה֙ לִבְתוּאֵ֣ל בֶּן־מִלְכָּ֔ה אֵ֥שֶׁת נָח֖וֹר אֲחִ֣י אַבְרָהָ֑ם וְכַדָּ֖הּ עַל־שִׁכְמָֽהּ:|
|16. Now the maiden was of very comely appearance, a virgin, and no man had been intimate with her, and she went down to the fountain, and she filled her pitcher and went up.||טזוְהַנַּֽעֲרָ֗ה (כתיב והנער) טֹבַ֤ת מַרְאֶה֙ מְאֹ֔ד בְּתוּלָ֕ה וְאִ֖ישׁ לֹ֣א יְדָעָ֑הּ וַתֵּ֣רֶד הָעַ֔יְנָה וַתְּמַלֵּ֥א כַדָּ֖הּ וַתָּֽעַל:|
What do we learn about a young (3 or 14 year old) Rivka at the outset? That she was a “toivas mareh” very pretty and fair to look upon.
Now let’s read pisukim 16 and 17 of perek 29 in this week’s parsha.
|16. Now Lovon had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rochel.||טזוּלְלָבָ֖ן שְׁתֵּ֣י בָנ֑וֹת שֵׁ֤ם הַגְּדֹלָה֙ לֵאָ֔ה וְשֵׁ֥ם הַקְּטַנָּ֖ה רָחֵֽל:|
|17. Leah’s eyes were tender, but Rochel had beautiful features and a beautiful complexion.||יזוְעֵינֵ֥י לֵאָ֖ה רַכּ֑וֹת וְרָחֵל֨ הָֽיְתָ֔ה יְפַת־תֹּ֖אַר וִיפַ֥ת
Does the heylige Toirah tell us that Yaakov was drawn to her because she had a good shidduch resume? Because she went to a good yeshiva, camp HASC for many summers and because she was otherwise a fine bas Toirah? It does not? Yaakov, like his father and grandfather, seemingly was drawn to her for her good looks and excellent shape. And because she was beautiful and fair to look upon, he loved her, and was willing to work 7 years, instead of marrying Leah and returning immediately to his parents’ home. This is not medrish raboyseyee, this is Toirah text!
Was Yaakov straying after his eyes? Shouldn’t he have been looking to her middois toivois (her fine character traits)? Why was Yaakov, about to become father of the holy shevotim (tribes), focusing on outer beauty, ver veyst?
Ober says the Ralbag azoy: it’s taka emes that Yaakov was drawn to her beauty -not that there’s anything wrong with that. Moreover, most men barely live well with their wives even when they are quite beautiful; can you only imagine the sholom bayis when living with a very unattractive wife? After all, how can a man live with a wife he’s not attracted to? Ober says the Ralbag that Leah herself was no slouch and also quite attractive. She was? Ober didn’t the heylige Toirah tell us that she had weak and teary eyes? It does ober pshat is like this. She was taka pretty but she had an eye disease. Shoin! He wanted Rochel so that the children he would have from her would be stronger and more complete. Nu, and the fact that she was also quite beautiful was just a bonus.
Ober doesn’t the heylige Toirah also make mention of Rivka’s and Soro’s beauty? Can we whitewash Avrohom’s and Yitzchok’s choices by suggesting that all the alternative girls had eye disease?
And as you can imagine, many were bothered by this issue ober said the Ibn Caspi azoy: Our Ovois (forefathers) were (also) human beings! They were but following their heart’s desire; is that bad? Yaakov was mamish a romantic. He laid his eyes on her, kissed her and the rest………..a nice love story. Gishmak! They weren’t always motivated by halachic concerns or deep spiritual reasons. Shoin, attraction to one’s wife is seemingly a good thing and should not be discounted.
And listen to this bombshell, mamish later in the parsha we will learn that Leah was quite fertile while Rochel was nebech baron. Leah kept popping out the children while Rochel was nebech brokenhearted. Ober whom did she blame? Her husband of course and listen to this exchange.
|1. And when Rochel saw that she bore Yaakov no children, Rochel envied her sister; and she said unto Yaakov: ‘Give me children, or else I die.’|
|2. And Yaakov’s anger was kindled against Rochel; and he said: ‘Am I in G-d’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?’|
Says the Ralbag azoy: Rochel at first, suspected that Yaakov, efsher because she was taka so beautiful, didn’t want to mar her body with pregnancy and was therefore mamish at fault. In plain English: he was efsher deliberately holding back children from her. Ober how? Through practicing dash mibifnim vezoreh bebachutz (coitus interruptus, if you chap). Shreklich (OMG) mamish! Would Yaakov mamish pull out of the station, if you chap, just to maintain her beautiful body? This is Yaakov Ovenu! And would this be the first time or last time the heylige Toirah would make mention of such a possibility? Seemingly not.
Nu, efsher you recall that way back in parshas Bereishis- at aliya chamishi mamish- we learned that Lemech had two wives. And says Rashi that one was for having children and the other, mistama the prettier one, was his sex toy. In other words, Lemach may have been the first to practice contraception with one of them to preserve her beauty. Moreover, in two weeks we will briefly meet Er and Oinon, both married to Tamar and we will learn that the RBSO did not like either of them. He abhorred them because seemingly they, too, made withdrawals and failed to make timely deposits, if you chap. They wanted to maintain Tamar’s beauty. And considering that the posik relates that Rochel was very pretty, and that he loved her more than Leah, one could argue that this is what Rochel suspected Yaakov of doing — having children through Leah, and keeping Rochel for her beauty, and thus taking steps to preserve her as she was. Of course we would never suspect Yaakov of such dastardly behavior and therefore Yaakov responded to her accusation azoy with some anger and said azoy: ‘Am I in the RBSO’s stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?’
One thing is abundantly clear: the heylige Toirah does certainly go out of its way to point out that our foremothers- well, at least three of them- were outstandingly beautiful. We can also argue that Leah too was beautiful. Aye (doesn’t however) the heylige Toirah tell us that her eyes were soft? And what’s wrong with soft eyes? One medrish in fact tells us that Leah’s eyes were soft from crying; she had seen through ruach hakoidesh (divine spirit) that she was efsher -as the older of the sisters- destined to marry Eisav. As an aside, one or more medroshim tell us the Leah and Rochel were themselves twins who married twins. Another tells us that she had an eye disease, efsher astigmatism, ver veyst. Bottom line: Leah too could have been beautiful, why not? Would Yaakov have married her were she not? Though he was duped, we may still wonder: would he have stayed with her were she not?
And says the heylige Gemora (Shabbis 25B), azoy: it’s good for a Toirah scholar to have a beautiful wife? He should? Is that the one quality a Toirah scholar should be focused on? What’s taka pshat? Says the Gemora azoy: eshuh mikushetes li’talmeday chachomim. In plain English: a refined wife (meaning good looking) is fit for a torah scholar. As an aside adds the Oisvorfer, azoy: it’s no sin for an ordinary person, even an oisvorf, to marry a very beautiful girl.
Says the heylige Gemora (Tanis 23B), azoy: Choni the circle maker- most famous for being able to daven to the RBSO for rain and then produce when rain was otherwise not coming, had a grandson by the name of Abba Chikiyah. Incidentally, this Abbah Chikiyah was blessed with a similar talent; he too, with the proper davening, was able to produce rain. Shoin: one time, when rain was needed, the rabbis sent a delegation to find Abba. He was not home. Eventually they found him and escorted him back to his house. Along the way, he displayed some odd behavior. The rabbis asked about the odd behavior he displayed while on the road home. Among the questions they asked was this givaldige kasha: “why, when the Master reached town, did the Master’s wife greet him adorned with jewelry?” Answered Abba Chikiyah azoy: “so that I should have no desire to glance at any other women.” Shoin! And we learn what from this question and answer? A few things. Ershtens: having a beautiful, or, at least good-looking, or at least properly adorned, or at least a wife bedecked in jewels, cannot hurt the marriage. Zicher it cuts down on men having wandering eyes. Men need to desire their wives and….wives need to chap this concept. Next: women should be adorned when their husbands come home and not greet them in their pundulas (house robe) and slippers. A man should always desire his wife and having good looks zicher cannot hurt. Is it a guarantee against men having wandering eyes and -at times- chapping elsewhere? Not! Does it help cut the odds of errant behavior? Mistama yes!
Ober, why taka does the heylige Toirah tell us that each of four forefathers married beautiful women? Is outward beauty important? Was it critical to their selection as foremothers? Moreover doesn’t Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon) tell us that charm and beauty are deceitful and vain? Indeed he does. Where? We sing these words Friday nights in the hit single Eishes Chayil. The lyrics of “sheker ha’chain, vi’hevel hayoifi” are found in Proverbs 31:30, check them out.
How do these two concepts conflate? Shoin, for the past 25+ years, when called upon to speak at a sheva brochis (a concept originated in this week’s parsha when Lovon told Yaakov to complete the week of celebrations -for his wedding to Leah- before also getting Rochel as a wife), the Oisvorfer has -from time to time- repeated a thought he heard back then in the name of Rav Gedalia Schor. As an aside, over the years, the Oisvorfer has heard other rabbis lay claim to this vort which goes azoy.
It’s taka emes that each of those attributes, charm, beauty, wealth, family background, smarts, and more, are all zeros! They are all worthless. Ober, following the words spoken by Shlomo, wherein he proclaims that charm and beauty are deceitful and vain, and are all zero’s, come these words: “isho yiras hashem hi tishalol.” Which mean what? A person should -when seeking a wife- search for a woman who is G-d fearing. That is a #1. And once you have the 1, every zero added to the equation, makes the number that much more valuable. Gishmak mamish.
Seemingly our foremother Rochel, by the actions she took to protect her sister Leah from embarrassment, had that 1. By acting totally selfless when sharing the secret signs Yaakov had given her, thus allowing her older sister to marry first, she displayed the characteristic of yiras Hashem, the #1. Accordingly, her beauty in body and face, along with her charm and all else, only added to the value of the overall package. In the end, Yaakov, ever the deal maker, got what he wanted. As well, he got the sister and both handmaidens. He started slow, he was seemingly a virgin until 84 years of age, but he did seemingly make up for lost time. He was? So we will learn in parshas Vayichi when he tells Reuvain that he was formed from Yaakov’s first seed. Any man who can hold out until 84, deserves to be our forefather. As well, he deserves to have a beautiful wife, at least one, and perhaps as many as four. Why not?
The bottom line: the heylige Toirah tells us that our forefathers and foremothers, though selected by the RBSO for greatness, were also but human. They had real feelings; they had emotions and were naturally also attracted to good looks. Looking good, whether naturally or with a little help from clothing, Botox or even some surgery when called for, is not so giferlich and can lead to continued attraction. Is that bad?
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv