Lesson 41

Ok, I’m doing it.
I’m going back to the roots of the shul.
I’m talking Jew things.
And I’m going back in with the feminist-frames on.

There are these names that keep coming up in Judaism – the names of our forefathers and foremothers.
The names Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The names Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

I’ve heard these names – recited as a collection – so many times in my life that I struggle to say one without the others.
And a couple of things have struck me about them over the years.
I know who they are – that is, in terms of the stories of our people and our ancestors and whatever, I know who they are.
I know who was married to whom.
Who was the parent of whom.
I know whose Hebrew name is which.
I know which of my family members are named for each.
In my dad’s case, he’s named for all three men.
And in the correct order.
I even understand why there are more women than men.
But this is where the free thinking has stepped in.

I want to talk about Jacob, Rachel and Leah.

We always recite it as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
Not Leah and Rachel.
But, Jacob married Leah before he married Rachel.
He didn’t want to.
But he did.
He had lots of babies with Leah, but he made it very clear that he loved her sister more.
You see, they were the actual definition of sister-wives.

The story goes that Jacob met a hottie called Rachel – sure, she was his cousin, but who wasn’t related in those days, right? – and he wanted to marry her.
Her dad was all “Sure, you can marry her. But you’re going to work for me for seven years in exchange for the match.”
Cut to the wedding day and Jacob was tricked into marrying her sister, Leah.
They’d done the old switch-a-roony.
Jacob doesn’t realise this fact until after the wedding.
This is why, today, in Jewish weddings, there’s a tradition of the groom checking under the veil to see that he’s got the right girl before the proceedings start.
After he’s dismayed to realise he’s got the dud sister, he demands the same deal again and weds Rachel too.

Let’s put aside the polygamy for a minute.
That’s a separate issue for me – it’s one of social, political and historical context that we don’t need to explore currently.

I want to talk about the fact that Jacob didn’t realise he’d married the wrong woman until the day after the wedding.

Sorry, you’re in love with Rachel?
She’s the hottest thing you’ve ever seen?
You’re obsessed with her?
But somehow you don’t realise until after you’ve married AND bedded your bride, that you’ve married her sister?

Lesson 41

I’ve seen siblings in my time.
Siblings who aren’t twins but still look similar.
I’ve also seen identical twins.
You can tell the difference between the two.
Especially if you’re in love (or at least in lust) with one of them.

If you don’t realise they’re playing a trick on you and pretending to be each other, I can forgive that.
For five minutes.
Until you have a conversation with them.

Had Jacob never spoken to Rachel or Leah before the first wedding?
Did he decide he loved Rachel and hated Leah purely based on looks?
Then that’s even more reason to be able to tell the difference between them!

I can’t believe that Leah kept a veil over her face after the wedding ceremony was done, after the eating and drinking was done and during sex with her new husband.

I also don’t believe that Rachel was happy to stay hidden somewhere away from the whole event so that Jacob didn’t realise the trick.

If Jacob didn’t love Leah the way that he loved Rachel, that’s one thing.
But this story stinks of plot-holes.
And how has no-one made a deal of this before?

And to put the icing on the wedding cake – so to speak – we still, thousands of years later, treat Leah as if she was the bride no-one wanted or cared about.
She gets referred to last of all because she’s the foremother who matters the least.
Leah has been painted as the ugly, boring, uninteresting, unwanted bride forever.
The woman that must’ve looked enough like her sister that her groom didn’t notice, was so repulsive that she’s resigned to the end of a collection of names.
She gets swept to one side.

I call #bullshit on the Jacob, Rachel, Leah triangle.
I call #bullshit
Jacob was a dick.
I’ve said it.
Whether or not he ever wanted her, or asked for her, or noticed her, he got her.
He managed to suffer through that fact enough to have a lot of sex with her.
They had so many sons (not to mention the daughters that no-one cares about) that I need the help of Lloyd Webber to remember them all.
But all we hear about is how much he loved Rachel.

Well here’s a thought:
If someone had spoken to these two women about what they wanted, what they thought, who they liked, then maybe this whole debacle could have been avoided in the first place?
Or was their free thought the problem here?
Maybe Jacob did like Leah.
Until she voiced some opinions.
And then the whole story got re-man-written.

Something to think about.
But I’m saying Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel.
Because that’s the order they came in.

And Leah counts.




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