ויצא

This week’s parsha details the twenty-year stay Yaakov endures at the house of Lavan, during which time he is tricked into marrying Leah before Rachel, makes both himself and Lavan wealthy, and has twelve children (Binyamin is born in the following parsha).  Sforno treads a very pious line in his commentary throughout the narrative, and I have had to summon all of my charitable reading skills I employed while reading Rashi to make sure I get something out of what Sforno brings to the text.  One classic example of this worldview is the need to see our matriarchs and patriarchs in a perfect, almost angelic, light.  Half-way through the parsha the story of the דודאים – mandrakes – is related, where Reuven, the eldest son of Leah, brings mandrakes (an aphrodisiac) to his mother, who in turn sells them to her sister and co-wife Rachel in exchange for the privilege of spending the night with Yaakov.  The text relates: “And Yaakov returned from the field that night; and Leah emerged to greet him, and she said: ‘to me you will come [tonight] because I surely bought you with the mandrakes of my son; and he [Yaakov] lay with her that night” (30:16, translation mine).  While I might read this as the epitome of the petty and spiteful relationship that Leah and Rachel had with each other, Sforno sees a totally different angle.  He comments that this story tells us that the purpose of childbearing for our forefathers and -mothers was strictly for the sake of establishing progeny to serve Hashem, and had nothing to do with pleasure – hence the selling of a night with Yaakov (commentary to 30:16, s.v. “to me you will come because I surely bought you”).  Intimacy was so detached not because there was any hate in this particular family, but because the whole purpose of the marriages were cold and calculating: have many kids to spread the word of Hashem in future generations.

Reading a story

To speak to your own time;

This is the Torah

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