Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Vayetzei 2021: Sex by Candlelight & Was Yaakov Drunk on his Wedding Night?

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

A very busy week filled with simchas; let’s shout them out.

Over in Lakewood New Jersey this past Sunday afternoon, the heylige Ois was in attendance at the wedding of Shana Gluck who married Yoni Friedman, daughter of chaver Avi Gluck. Mazel tov to Shana and Yoni, to their parents, grandparents, and to both respective and expanded families. May Shana and Yoni be zoche to happiness always and to build a bayis ne’man.

Early Monday morning, also in Lakewood, the Ois was in attendance at the bris of Yehudah Kushner; welcome to the world and to your people. Mazel tov to Yehudah’s parents Hudi and Yaakov Kushner, and to the entire Kushner and Weinstein mishpochos; may Yehudah you all much nachas.

And on Monday evening, back in Paterson New Jersey, the Ois and eishes chayil were in attendance at the beautiful wedding of Josh Levy who married Yali Cohen, she the beautiful daughter of Hilda and Jeremy Cohen. May Josh and Yali merit to live in peace, bliss, and harmony for many decades and to raise a beautiful family together. Mazel tov to both extended families.

And finally, this past Wednesday evening, the Ois and eishes chayil were in attendance at sheva brochis tendered by friends of the Levy’s in honor of Yali and Josh. The Ois had the opportunity to speak, entertain, and extend wishes of mazel tov.


Sex by Candlelight & Was Yaakov Drunk on his Wedding Night?

Say it’s not so but some holy people may beg to differ. Welcome to Parshas Vayetzei where the action is fast, furious, and at times rather shocking and unbelievable. Yaakov marries the wrong girl before settling down with four of a kind; two full and two half-sisters. Yes, it’s emes: according to at least one medrish, Bilha and Zilpa were siters and Lovon their father. Shoin! Is it a wonder Yaakov was selected to be the third of our forefathers? Let’s recall that our zeyda Avrohom married Soro, and at Soro’s insistence, also married Hogor. Later he married Ketura -who was either Hogor now rebranded with a new name, or yet another person. Which was it? Ver veyst? Oh, and let’s not forget the healthy number of pilagshim (concubines) Avrohom kept. How many? The heylige Toirah does not tell us; what it does tell us is this: “and to the children of the concubines, he gave gifts…” Well, blow me down. Avrohom was the man! Was he? Maybe for his time but not as good as Yaakov who married one entire family!

Ober it’s the heylige Toirah: it must be true! How do we reconcile the ‘unbelievable’ with ‘it must be true?’ Not to worry because the medrish –several of them- recognized these very issues and meticulously filled in the many lacunas in the text. At the end of the day, it all came together, if you chap, how Yaakov bedded the wrong girl on his wedding night.

Let’s get into the myseh: a still single 63-year-old Yaakov is finally ready to settle down. While many boys spend a year post high school in yeshiva, Yaakov decided to stay several decades.  Exactly what he studied, ver veyst? In any event, after 20 plus years he finally arrives to the city his mother had instructed to find himself a wife. Shoin, better late than never. And guess what? The RBSO was good to him; mamish as he enters the city limits, he spots and then meets the love interest of his life.  He is smitten by the first girl he lays eyes on, and shoin, he’s ready!  He saw her, he kissed her and veyter gigangin. Avada you all know the story of how Yaakov was fooled by his farbrecher (bad guy) future father-in-Law Lovon and how he woke up to find the wrong girl in his bed. Let’s read the posik innaveynig: Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 29:25), azoy: “When morning came, there was Leah!”

Ober shtetl zich di shaylo (the question arises), among others, azoy: what’s pshat Yaakov woke up and there was Leah? Did they look alike? Not! The heylige Toirah goes out of its way -and does so only on very rear occasions- to tell us that Rochel was beautiful and that Leah’s eyes were dark. How could Yaakov not know that he had been duped? Could Yaakov not tell the difference between the girl he’d been ogling and working for seven full years, Rochel, and her sister Leah? For a whole night? Were his eyes closed?

Shoin, as you can imagine, our sages went mamish out of their keylim (euphemism for “shocked beyond belief”) and have long tried to make sense of the story by adding color and details. The puzzle needed to make sense to them. How was it shayich that the very same Yaakov who was able to outwit and negotiate the birthright away from his older brother and also able to fool his elderly suspicious father into believing he was another person -namely Eisav- now be so easily fooled? What’s taka pshat?

Ober Raboyseyee, once you learn the various exegesis and approaches each took, you will quickly chap -as did Yaakov that night- just how clever each one was and how their imaginations helped them solve the puzzle. Let’s go back to the beginning where we read azoy:  When Yaakov arrives at the city of his uncle Lovon, he meets his cousin Rochel at the well and is struck by her beauty. Yaakov stays with Lovon for a month and starts working for him. Eventually, Lovon is ready to put Yaakov on the payroll and asks Yaakov’s name his salary. Let us read the relevant pisukim. First posik 15:

And Lovon said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you work for me gratis? Tell me what your wages shall be.”   טו וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לָבָן֙ לְיַֽעֲקֹ֔ב הֲכִֽי־אָחִ֣י אַ֔תָּה וַֽעֲבַדְתַּ֖נִי חִנָּ֑ם הַגִּ֥ידָה לִּ֖י מַה־מַּשְׂכֻּרְתֶּֽךָ:

At this point, the heylige Toirah tells us that Lovon had two daughters: Leah was the older one but Rochel was the beautiful one. As an aside, another medrish tells us they were twins. Yaakov who loves Rochel responds that he will work for Lovon for seven years in exchange for Rochel’s hand in marriage (29:28). Lovon seems to agree to this deal. In posik 19, we read this:

And Lovon said, “It is better that I give her to you than I should give her to another man. Stay with me.”   יטוַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָבָ֗ן ט֚וֹב תִּתִּ֣י אֹתָ֣הּ לָ֔ךְ מִתִּתִּ֥י אֹתָ֖הּ לְאִ֣ישׁ אַחֵ֑ר שְׁבָ֖ה עִמָּדִֽי:

Ober did Lovon ever agree to the deal? If he did, the heylige Toirah does not share. What it does share is that Lovon said the words above. Stay with me! Lovon is clever, perhaps too clever for the seasoned yeshiva boy who knows more tricks than the average college graduate. Nevertheless, Yaakov naively takes this as an acceptance and works seven full years, after which he approaches his uncle to demand that he move forward with the marriage; let us read posik 21

21 And Jacob said to Lovon, “Give me my wife, for my days are completed, that I may come to her.”   כאוַיֹּ֨אמֶר יַֽעֲקֹ֤ב אֶל־לָבָן֙ הָבָ֣ה אֶת־אִשְׁתִּ֔י כִּ֥י מָֽלְא֖וּ יָמָ֑י וְאָב֖וֹאָה אֵלֶֽיהָ:

Yaakov is all business: we made a deal, bring me my wife! I want to come to her, meaning consummate the marriage. What does Lovon do?  He throws a party! Let’s read 22.

22. So Lovon gathered all the people of the place, and he made a feast.   כבוַיֶּֽאֱסֹ֥ף לָבָ֛ן אֶת־כָּל־אַנְשֵׁ֥י הַמָּק֖וֹם וַיַּ֥עַשׂ מִשְׁתֶּֽה:

Let’s read that again. Did Lovon make a wedding? That’s not what the heylige Toirah tells us; he threw a party. The feast is not a wedding ceremony; no mention is made of the bride being at the feast, and it seems to be an all-male event, efsher the forerunner of the bachelor party -men only please. After the feast, when night falls, Lovon unceremoniously brings Yaakov his bride. Let us now read posik 23:

And it came to pass in the evening that Lovon took his daughter Leah, and he brought her to him, and he came to her.   כגוַיְהִ֣י בָעֶ֔רֶב וַיִּקַּח֙ אֶת־לֵאָ֣ה בִתּ֔וֹ וַיָּבֵ֥א אֹתָ֖הּ אֵלָ֑יו וַיָּבֹ֖א אֵלֶֽיהָ:

Yaakov does not seem to notice a thing that night, and the surprise only comes the next morning: let’s read part of posik 25 for the morning surprise: And it came to pass in the morning, and behold she was Leah! כט:כהוַיְהִי בַבֹּקֶר וְהִנֵּה הִוא לֵאָה…

Well, blow me down! How could this happen to Yaakov? Why was he fooled? Was the RBSO involved? What went down?  Was the RBSO unhappy with the way Yaakov treated both his father and older brother? Was the RBSO repaying Yaakov for his trickery? Was Yaakov -known for emes- now being punished by the RBSO for being less than honest? Are there mamish parallels between what Yaakov did to Eisav and Yitzchok in Bereishis 27 and what Lovon does to Yaakov in our parsha (Bereishis 29)? In the former case, Yaakov took advantage of the fact that his father was blind in order to trick him into believing that he, Yitzchok’s younger son, was really Yitzchok’s older son Eisav. In this story, Lovon takes advantage of the nighttime darkness, in which Yaakov was “blind” to make him think that his older daughter, Leah was really his younger daughter, Rochel. Did the RBSO teach this to Moishe in order for us to learn the lesson of getting “one’s just deserts?” Of what goes around, comes around? For tricking his father?

How did our sages deal with this myseh? Let’s find out; pick the pshat that talks to you. As an aside, it’s likely the case that only one of the scenarios -or maybe not- actually took place. The heylige Toirah tells us it was dark, and thus we can assume Yaakov couldn’t see her properly. Says the Shadal with certitude, azoy: “And there is no doubt that they had sex in the dark, and thus he did not recognize her until the morning.” In plain English: the tent was dark mamish, not a candle lit.

ואין ספק כי כששימש עמה בחושך היו ולא הכיר בה עד הבקר

And says the medrish (Bereishis Rabba 70:19) azoy:  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]?!”

ברמשא אתון מעלתא וטפון בוציניא, אמר להון מהו כדין, אמ’ ליה מה את צבי דאנן דבזיון דכוותכון,

And listen to this shtikel Radak: based on Yaakov’s experience with the switched wives because of darkness we learn the rabbinic axiom not to have relations in the light. Grada, the opposite would be more logical; shouldn’t there be an obligation for lights to be on the first night? Shouldn’t some form of light be required to make sure that the Leah/Rochel switch-a-roo is not repeated? Ober try convincing your wives otherwise: good luck with that!

ויהי בערב – הודיענו בספור הזה שאין ראוי לאדם לשמש מטתו לאור הנר כל שכן לאור היום

“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 the more so during the light of day.

The bottom line: no day sex! And no light!  Another bottom line: the medrish makes sense of this entire fiasco by blaming it all on darkness, ober this explanation seems insufficient and lacking in verisimilitude. Nu, taka a big word for a Boro Park boy; let’s translate. Verisimilitude is the appearance of being true or real. “The detail gives the novel some verisimilitude.”

Wouldn’t it be obvious to Yaakov that the woman was not Rochel after some brief conversation? Taka a good question. And yet, in the narrative, Yaakov is presented as having no suspicion whatsoever that he is with the wrong woman. Ober, was Yaakov that naïve? Why did Yaakov need to wait for daylight to realize his mistake? Was he not all suspicious? Or, was he efsher thinking it’s best, or at least more practical ‘to love the one you’re with’ and then worry about getting the right wife into his bed the next day? WARNING: DO NOT TRY THIS EXCUSE AT HOME!

Says the Radak that 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:

ולא לספר עם אשתו בשעת תשמיש אלא בחשאי ולהיות בצניעות עם אשתו, שהרי יעקב לא הכיר בה אלא עד הבקר, לא במראה ולא בקול:

Now in English: “And one should not speak with his wife during sex, but it 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.” Nu, if it’s pitch black, you don’t look at, and don’t speak to your sex partner, it’s of course understood how one could be fooled. Perhaps happily so! On the other hand, does this make sense? Didn’t we just read that Yaakov saw Rochel, kissed her, and was smitten by her at first sight? Would he -the hopeless romantic- not be excited to exchange a few words with her? Epes? The same confident Yaakov who demanded of Lovon that his wife be brought to him because he had completed his seven years of servitude, suddenly went shy? Is that what happened? And we’re supposed to believe that all night long they played in silence with eyes closed?

Ober, listen to this blow away pshat that we can efsher wrap our heads around. Says Josephus, that Yaakov was drunk! Mamish? Our man Yaakov mamish inebriated to a point of not knowing who lays in his bed? Say it’s not so please! And he basis this on what? Let us get back to text where we read that Lovon threw a party and let’s read the words carefully again. Where was Yaakov coming from? From Lovon’s feast; the Hebrew word for “feast,” משתה (mishteh), literally means “drinking party.”

But when night came, he 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. Well, blow me down! Ober lest you think that Josephus was on his own with this vilde (wild) theory, let’s take a quick look at Toisfis on Bereishis 29:22, and recorded elsewhere (Da’as Zekeinim and the Hadar Zekeinim- the quote below from the latter) which give this theory some validity and says azoy:

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, lit. drinking party) – Lovon was the father of swindlers, and this is why he is called Lovon the Aramean (i.e., understood as a metathesis 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. Note [in support of this] that he made no “drinking party” for Rochel.

The same pshat is offered by Reb. Yitzchok Karo (1458-1535) in his Toledos Yitzchok:

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 (feast, lit. drinking party) – unlike Avrohom, who gave his guests food to eat (Bereishis 18:5-8), or Loit, regarding whom it says (Bereishis 19:3) “he made them a drinking party and cooked unleavened bread and they ate.” Instead, [Lovon] had only a mishteh, whose main item is wine, in order to get [Yaakov] drunk, so that he would not know if [the daughter he brought him] was Rochel or Leah.

Drunken sex? Oy vey! Ober, was Lovon the first to use drunken sex to get his way? Not! Hey, let’s not forget to shout out Loit’s two wonderful daughters who took turns mounting their father, if you chap; such nachas. Check it out (Bereishis 19:30-38). Let’s look at the words exchanged between the girls when they concocted, if you chap, their idea.: In posik 31 we read how the elder said to the younger.

And the elder said to the younger, “   לאוַתֹּ֧אמֶר הַבְּכִירָ֛ה אֶל־הַצְּעִירָ֖ה

And let’s look at the words Lovon used when confronted by his duped son-in-law

And Lovon said, “It is not done so in our place to give the younger one before the firstborn.   כווַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָבָ֔ן לֹא־יֵֽעָשֶׂ֥ה כֵ֖ן בִּמְקוֹמֵ֑נוּ לָתֵ֥ת הַצְּעִירָ֖ה לִפְנֵ֥י הַבְּכִירָֽה:

Bottom line: when the older and younger get together or find themselves in the same plot, interesting things happen. Ober were they the first? Also not! Let’s harken back to the myseh of Noiach and his youngest son (Bereishis 9:20-27). Although the heylige Toirah is silent on what went down, medrish is not and tells us azoy:

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.

Is that what happened? Does the heylige Toirah tell us that Yaakov was drunk? It does not! It might have been how it all went down, but do we know with certainty? Not!  In the stories of Noiach and Loit, the text is very clear that the protagonist is drunk; no such statement is made about Yaakov. Moreover, it’s taka emes that משתה (a party) typically includes drinking, but it could also refer to a dry party or a feast. Is it written anywhere that drinks were served? Not!

On the other hand, it’s shayich that Yaakov and Leah were entirely silent for considerations of modesty. Mamish? On the other hand, are we discussing the same Yaakov, the one who met Rochel and kissed her before they had a chance to exchange hellos?  Are we to emulate the ways of our forefathers in this manner? And was this the same Yaakov who approached Lovon and told him to bring Rochel because he wanted to be with her sexually? What really happened? Ver veyst? Ober, says the Radak that it’s precisely what played out: Yaakov was practicing extreme modesty: No talking at all; besides what’s there to talk about?

The bottom line: we’ve only scratched the surface on what medrish has to say about the Yaakov/Rochel/Leah fiasco.  What about Leah and Rochel? What roles did they play? Were they at all complicit in the sex-capade? Shoin, all that for another day. The heylige Toirah if silent, most of the juicy details never revealed by Moishe when he took dictation. Thankfully, our sages of yore, real people living in the real world of romance, scandal, challenging father daughter relationship and much more, were given license to play loose with facts. The good news: their stories certainly piqued the interests of many a yeshiva bochur, opened many eyes, and still have us reviewing these parshas quite often.

The final bottom line: long before romance and other novels came along, sages of the heylige Gemora and medrish knew just how to make a story come alive: sex sells!


A gittin Shabbis-

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman



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