Raboyseyee and Ladies,
This week’s parsha post is dedicated to the memory of Reizel Bas Reb Yitzchok, the heylige Oisvorfer’s mother, OBM- who was mowed down and killed by a yeshiva bus 16 years ago today. Gone but certainly not forgotten; may her neshomo have an aliya. Omen!
Drinking and Sex in the Toirah
Were Leah and Rochel not just sisters, but twins? Was Yaakov Ovenu drunk mamish when he mistakenly bedded Leah instead of Rochel? Was it dark outside? Inside? Ok, now that we have your attention, let’s begin.
Read this week’s edition of why the heylige Ois loves the medrish and be astonished by the new medroshim the heylige Ois came across on the Yaakov/Leah/Rochel love triangle. Their efforts to make sense of the events as described verbatim in this week’s parsha of Vayetzi, are givaldig. True? Ver veyst! A few will blow you away; lights out! Ober before we begin, let us quickly chazir (review) what took place last week.
Yaakov fooled his older twin brother Eisav into selling his birthright. Also last week, Yaakov dressed up as Eisav and fooled his father into giving him the brochis (blessings) reserved for the firstborn. And finally, Yaakov was on the run as his brother came to the realization that twice he had been “fooled” by a sly and devilish Yaakov.
The action picks up in this week’s parsha, 14 years later. Where has Yaakov been? Medrish tells us that he was hiding at the famous yeshiva of Shaim and Eyver. What was he doing there? Ver veyst? Why did he go there instead of listening to both his mother and his father, each of whom gave him a very specific destination? Ver veyst? They mamish gave him specific instructions and he didn’t listen? Indeed so. Rivka told him azoy: “And now, my son, hearken to my voice, and arise, flee to my brother Lovon, to Choron.” Did she tell him to hide out at some yeshiva for 14 years? Not! A few pisukim later his father Yitzchok then said: “Arise, go to Padon Aram to the house of Besuel your mother’s father, and take yourself from there a wife of the daughters of Lovon, your mother’s brother.” Did he tell him to spend 14 years b’ssing his way through yeshiva? Also not! Why did he go? Ver veyst?
Already in his 60’s when he left home and single for decades -at least 20 years older than his father Yitzchok was when he married at 40- efsher we can kler that Yaakov was too independent and not in the mood to listen to his parents or their advice. As well, he was seemingly comfortable as a single and in no hurry to find a mate. Where else but in yeshiva or a kollel can one spend 14 years? No place! And shoin, welcome to Parshas Vayetzey where Yaakov finally arrives to his destination, to the place where his uncle and cousins live. His mission: to find a wife, as his parents instructed. He’s ready, he’s 77 years old.
Avada you all know what happened next and of course you recall that we have previously posted on this topic, ober what the Ois dug up this year is brand new. Not new medroshim which were written hundreds of years ago, but newly found medrish by the heylige Ois just this week.
What went down? Yaakov met Rochel at the well, kissed her, began to cry, and then met her father, his uncle Lovon. Though the heylige Toirah does not paint Lovon with a bad brush and gives us the facts only, many a medrish paints him with the same strokes used for Eisav. He’s a bad guy. In fact, Lovon’s profile is much uglier and most exegetes are aligned in telling us that Lovon was a very bad man. Worse than most evildoers. Ober, is that emes? Was he that bad? Or bad at all?
And we begin here with these questions: Was Lovon really a bad actor? Was he as bad as medrish paints him? Worse? Did he really try to fool Yaakov into accidentally marrying Leah instead of Rochel? Was it all one big nefarious plot concocted by a bad uncle? Ober, what was Yaakov’s role in the events? Was Yaakov but an unwitting and unknowing participant? Let’s find out.
Let’s recall the following: Yaakov, unlike Avrohom’s servant Eliezer who arrived laden with camels and many other valuables, arrived empty-handed. Yaakov was taken in by uncle Lovon who was nice enough to host him and offer him a job. So far so good. Moreover, after some days, he asked Yaakov about wages: how much would you like to be paid for your services? In other words: Lovon was acting as an uncle should. Yaakov offered to work for no wages; he instead offered seven full years of services for Lovon’s younger daughter Rochel, the one he fell in love with, the one he kissed at first sight. Who can argue with love at first sight? Let’s keep that word sight in mind as we go veyter. Seven years later, Yaakov asks Lovon to bring him his wife and shoin. Lovon gathers the people and makes a party. Ober listen to this: Nowhere do we read that the feast was a wedding ceremony. No mention is made of either the kallah and or chosson being at the feast. Interestingly the heylige Toirah does not tell us that Lovon threw a party for Yaakov and Rochel, only that he threw a party for all the guys. Seemingly, women were not invited. Following the “mishteh” (feast), when night falls, Lovon unceremoniously brings Yaakov his bride:
בראשית כט:כג וַיְהִי בָעֶרֶב וַיִּקַּח אֶת לֵאָה בִתּוֹ וַיָּבֵא אֹתָהּ אֵלָיו וַיָּבֹא אֵלֶיהָ.
In any event, Lovon-at night- brings Leah to Yaakov’s tent where they consummate the marriage. In the morning, Yaakov – thinking that he was making love to Rochel all night, or part of it, wakes up and sees Leah. Well, blow me down. How could this happen? Did Lovon plan this bait and switch all by himself? Was Yaakov but an innocent bystander? How could this possibly happen? Nu, let us begin by reading and examining that posik one more time. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 29:23): “When evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to him; and he laid with her.” Yaakov does not seem to notice a thing all night, and the surprise only comes the next morning?
בראשית כט:כהוַיְהִי בַבֹּקֶר וְהִנֵּה הִוא לֵאָה…
When morning came, there was Leah! Yaakov had been fooled. OMG! How could this happen? On the other hand, why should Yaakov be surprised that he was fooled? Was he himself not -one parsha back- involved in a massive conspiracy to fool someone? That someone being his own father? He was! In fact, are the circumstances not quite similar? Let’s see -pun intended- as sight seems to have played a role in both incidents. Last week, Yitzchok –as a result of blindness- could not see that Yaakov became Eisav and this week, the darkness of the night prevented Yaakov from seeing that Rochel became Leah. Shoin! Even steven!? Ober why was it dark? Why couldn’t Yaakov see? Avada there were no lights back in the day, ober were there no candles? Let’s get real: what’s pshat that Yaakov could not see Leah? And what about her voice? Did he not-after seven years of waiting -efsher while engaged or at least dating- know Rochel’s voice? Or, her sister Leah’s? Are we to assume that Yaakov was efsher in quarantine, locked up, and separated from them the entire seven years? Not a sighting and not a word exchanged? Doesn’t the heylige Toirah tell us that Rochel was a shepherdess? It grada does. And wasn’t Yaakov also employed as a shepherd? He was. Were the animals and their shepherds separated by a mechitza? Nu, even the medrish could not get behind that possibility and instead gives us this account on how it came to be that Yaakov mistakenly bedded, and by definition,also married Leah instead of Rochel that night. What taka happened?
Says the heylige Toirah that it was in the evening. Shoin, was it that dark? Says the Shadal (Samuel David Luzatto) that taka it was; so dark that Yaakov could not see her. Wait! He has more to say and it goes shockingly azoy: “And there is no doubt that they had sex in the dark, and thus he did not recognize her until the morning.” ואין ספק כי כששימש עמה בחושך היו ולא הכיר בה עד הבקר..
The bottom line: When having sex in the dark, it’s seemingly possible for a mistake to happen and the wrong girl or wife ends up in your bed and tent. One should certainly ascertain what lurks in the dark. Says the medrish (Bereishis Rabbah (70:19), azoy:
ברמשא אתון מעלתאוטפון בוציניא, אמר להון מהו כדין, אמ’ ליה מה את צבי דאנן דבזיון דכוותכון
In the evening, they came to bring her into the tent and they [Lovon and Leah] put out the candles (in Yaakov’s tent). [Yaakov] said: “Why are you doing that?” [Lovon] responded: “Do you think we are crass like you [by having sex by candle light]?!” Shoin and from that medrish, a new minhag Yisroel (custom) -still practiced by many Jewish women-ad hayoim hazeh (until today) – is taka to have sex in the dark. And I mean dark mamish! Shoin, because of two shiksa girls born to Lovon, Jewish girls want the lights out and the covers on. And listen to this: Says the Radak azoy: that the rabbinic axiom not to have relations in the light is learned from this story: “And it was in the evening” – the story teaches us that it is not fit for a person to have sex by candle light, and all themore so during the light of day. The bottom line: daytime sex is verboten with one’s wife.
ויהי בערב – הודיענו בספור הזה שאין ראוי לאדם לשמש מטתו לאור הנר כל שכן לאור היום
And taka, now it all makes sense except for one thing: what about her voice? Why didn’t Yaakov instantly know that he was with Leah and not Rochel? Did they not talk at all? Not one word before, during, or after the first sexual encounter? Nu, its taka common practice not to say much after, ober before? During? Gornisht? After waiting seven years, not one word? Not one” I love you” not one word about the anticipation? Gornisht?! Wouldn’t it be obvious to Yaakov that the woman was not Rochel after some brief conversation? Yaakov is presented as having no suspicion whatsoever that he is with the wrong woman. Why does Yaakov need to wait for daylight to realize his mistake? Even Yitzchok who was blind mamish was suspicious and asked questions, ober Yaakov gornisht? Nothing?
Nu, the Radak avada also thought of these questions and tells us it’s quite poshit: why was it quiet during the intimacy and then all night long? Because Yaakov was extremely modest, so much so that he did not speak with his new bride during sex, or at any other time that night. Adds the Ois, what’s there to talk about? He knew what he wanted, seemingly so did she, and shoin. He got it and went to sleep! Shoin, another minhag yisroel and myseh b’cholyoim (happens daily)! Moreover, this one seemingly accepted universally.
ולא לספר עם אשתו בשעת תשמיש אלא בחשאי ולהיות בצניעות עם אשתו, שהרי יעקב לא הכיר בה אלא עד הבקר, לא במראה ולא בקול:
The bottom line: one should not speak with his wife during sex. The act -so says the medrish verbatim- should be done hiddenly and a person should behave modestly with his wife, for Yaakov did not recognize [Leah] until the morning, neither by her appearance nor by her voice.
Ober, efsher you’re klerring azoy: how does Radak’s idea that Yaakov and Leah were entirely silent for considerations of modesty conflate with Yaakov’s kissing of Rochel upon first sight (see posik 29:11) and his very blunt reference to sex when reminding Lovon it had been seven years? Reference to sex? What exactly did Yaakov say to Lovon? Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 29:21), azoy: Then Yaakov said to Lovon, “Give me my wife, for my time is fulfilled, that I may lie with her.” Moreover, how far is this modesty supposed to extend? Even if they were entirely silent during intercourse, did they not talk before or after either? How much conversation would it take to realize he is not with his beloved of seven years? Let us avada recall that Yitzchok, though blind, was suspicious of Yaakov after but a few sentences. The bottom line: had Yaakov but communicated, he may not have liked who was in his bed, but at least he would have known who it was.
Ober listen to this pshat, one the heylige Ois was not taught in yeshiva though he attended many over many years, oy vey: Says Toisfis in a gloss on Bereishis 29:22, found also in the Da’as Zekeinim and the Hadar Zekeinim (the quote below is from the latter):
ויאסוף לבן את כל אנשי המקום ויעש משתה. לבן היה אב לרמאים ועל כן נקרא לבן הארמי ונתכוון לשכר יעקב ולרמותו שלא יבין בין רחל ללאה ותדע שהרי לא עשה משתה ברחל.
Lovon gathered all the men of the area and had a mishteh (feast, and or drinking party). Lovon was the father of swindlers, and this is why he is called Lovon the A’ra’me (for ramai, “trickster”), and he intended to get Yaakov drunk in order to fool him such that he would be unable to distinguish between Rochel and Leah. Interestingly, Lovon did not throw another party when Rochel joined the family; there was no need as Lovon had already accomplished his mission. And guess what? Toisfis is not alone with this theory and says the Toldois Yitzhok:
ויאסוף לבן את כל אנשי המקום ויעש משתה, לא כאברהם שנתן להם לאכול, ולא כלוט שנאמר ויעש להם משתה ומצות אפה ויאכלו, אלא ויעש משתה שקביעותו עשה על היין כדי לשכר אותו, בעבור שלא ידע אם היא רחל או לאה:
Lovon gathered all the men of the area and had a mishteh (drinking party). Unlike Avrohom, who gave his guests food to eat (Bereishis 18:5-8), Lovon had only a mishteh, where wine was the main and efsher only course. Why? To get Yaakov drunk! Why? So that he would not know if the daughter he brought him was Rochel or Leah.Well, blow me down! Ober, avada you all know that this was not the first time the heylige Toirah shocked us with surprise drunken sex. Where have we seen this plot unfold before? Let’s shout out Loit’s two wonderful very righteous daughters who plied their father with wine on two consecutive nights and took turns bedding him. Check out the entire myseh in Bereishis 19:3-38. Is this the Toirah way? What’s pshat?
Shoin, now it all makes sense. When drunk enough, does any man -especially on in his late 70’s- care who’s in his bed? When night came, he (Lovon) put the other of his daughters, who was older than Rochel and who was not beautiful in appearance, to bed with Yaakov, who perceived nothing beforehand. And he, cohabiting under the influence of intoxication and darkness, then recognized her when daylight came and accused Lovon of knavery.And that’s what the Ois calls a gishmak pshat. Veyter.
What is the final bottom line? From this myseh and from others of this ilk in the heylige Toirah, the Ois has learned a few very vichtig (important) lessons. Ershtens (firstly), the heylige Toirah is mamish so real and does not ever shy away from telling us what took place. Why? Efsher so that we can all relate. It does not hide our glorious history, nor revise it. Drunken sex? No problem. Hey, let’s recall Uncle Noiach and what happened to him when he became inebriated. Did we not read how he was sexually abused? We did! Some say Noiach was raped by his youngest son while he was drunk. Both Yaakov and Noiach are described as only realizing or comprehending what happened to them in the morning, perhaps implying that it was not only the morning light but the morning’s sobriety that allowed each to realize his mistake. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, says the heylige Ois, azoy: our sages of yore to include later exegetes decided that we could not handle the truth. It was too daunting for us to know the facts as the RBSO dictated them to Moishe. What to do?
They sat and pontificated on each and every word as well as those missing. They took advantage of the heylige Toirah’s laconic style and decided that the written word could not be so. There must be more to this and every narrative. There was no way that Noiach stam azoy got drunk, there had to be more. There was no way that Loit’s daughters stam for the hec of it, decided to bed their own father. They could not be whores. There was no way Yaakov ended up in bed with Leah just as the RBSO told us he did. There had to be more. And more they gave us. They still do. Beautiful colorful exegesis, numerous medroshim and theories of what went down when Soro was taken to the king’s palace boudoir, when Rivka was abducted, when Yoisef was left alone with Mrs. Potiphar, and the list goes on.
The final bottom line: perhaps it was they who could not handle the emes. The heylige Ois never had an issue with what the RBSO told Moishe and takes Him at His word. Shoin, I said it!
And we close with this: earlier we asked if Rochel and Leah were twin sisters, were they? Says the Seder Oilam Rabbah 2, azoy: As with Yaakov and Eisav, so too with Lovon’s twins, Leah was called the elder and Rochel the younger, and like Yitzchok’s twins, so too Rochel and Leah were completely different in their character and way of life. The bottom line: According to this ancient tradition, Rochel and Leah were mamish twins. Why not? The heylige Toirah has previously introduced us to,and will again, introduce us to more sets of twins. Let’s shout out Kayin and Hevel. Why them? Because the medrish tells us that Kayin was born with a twin sister and Hevel was born with two sisters. A quick shout out as well to Yaakov and Eisav, and we will soon meet Peretz and Zerach, the heylige Toirah’s other twins, incidentally also born out of a questionable though not drunken sexual relationship. Wait: there are more. Says the medrish (Bereishis Rabbah 84:21), azoy: each of the twelve sons of Yaakov was born together with a twin sister, whom they married. Says the Ibn Ezra (Bereishis 30:21 and the heylige Gemora (Buba Basra 123a), azoy: there is a minority opinion that Dinah, daughter of Leah, was a twin sister of Zevulin. She was? Others say (also medrish) that Benyomin, was born together with two girls. And let’s not forget Menashe and Ephraim born to Yoisef and his shiksa wife. According to one medrish (Seder Hadoiros 2233), Yoisef’s children Menashe and Ephraim were actually twin brothers. And now you know.
And for all those reasons and more, one should avada learn the parsha weekly and enjoy the colorful imaginations of our sages. They were givaldig.
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv