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Table Talk – Vayeitzei

The Problems with Blessings: Leah’s children, Reuben, Shimon, Levi, Judah, Yissachar and Zebulon each received a blessing that came with baggage: Reuben’s birthright, as the First Born was forfeit to Joseph. Shimon’s

blessing, as instituted by Yehoshua ben Gamla, to be the teachers of children came at the price of not living, as did the other tribes, in one central location. It is not optimal for anyone other than a parent to teach Torah to his or her children. Levi’s role in the Temple service was criticized by God; “I prefer one day of your Torah study to a thousand offerings on the alter.” (Shabbat 30) Judah’s great blessing of producing the royal line was also a mixed blessing. The first temple was destroyed primarily because of the influence of corrupt kings. Yissachar was so busy sitting as judge in the courts that he could not study Torah. (See Shabbat 10: Rav Chisdah and Rabbah bar Rav Hunah suffered because they could not study Torah.) The challenges of Zebulon’s blessing of business success are obvious. Do all blessings come with a price? Why?

Was Leah an Ingrate?

How could Leah complain to Rachel that the latter took Jacob away from the older sister? Had not Rachel given Leah the secret signals assigned by Jacob to help Leah fool Jacob?

Defining Modesty

Jacob expected Laban to switch Leah for Rachel, so he developed secret signals for Rachel to use in their marital bed so that Jacob would know which sister was in his bed. When Rachel realized that Leah would be humiliated if thrown out of Jacob’s bed, she gave the secret signals to her sister; the most intimate body signals between a man and woman. The Talmud praises Rachel’s act as one of the great Biblical acts of modesty. (Megillah 13b) Is that how we would define T’zniut/Modesty?

Bonus: Where else were those bodily signals used in the Bible?

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