We are all aware of the selfless actions that Rachel took in order to save her sister from traumatic shame and embarrassment. When Lavan switched her at the wedding night with Leah, Rachel gave over the code given to her by Yaakov as he suspected that Lavan would pull a fast one on him. This zechus of Rachel is carried by Klal Yisrael throughout the generations and defends them when the prosecutors assemble to negate Am Yisrael’s existence (Pesichta to Aicha Rabba 24).
However, what most of us don’t know is how deep the chesed and selflessness of Rachel was. When Reuven brought to her mother the special flowers that were a segulah to conceive, Rachel asked Leah if she could have some of the flowers. Leah responded to Rachel’s request with what seems to be acting like an ingrate, “Isn’t it enough that you took away my husband and now you desire my flowers as well”? How can Leah react with such harsh and bitter words when the person who is asking for mere flowers gave over her husband and her future destiny of Am Yisrael in order to save her from embarrassment? Secondly, what was the intention of Leah’s brazen words when she said Yaakov was her husband that Rachel took away? It was Leah who was given to Yaakov by Rachel and her enormous sacrifice, without which she would have been destined to be Eisav’s spouse.
The answer to this question is remarkable. Tosfos on the Torah learns that the code Yaakov prepared with Rachel was the three mitzvos of a woman, Niddah, Challah, and Lighting the Shabbos Candles. Every Jewish woman before she gets married must learn these three obligations. Yaakov, therefore, taught them to Rachel. Once Rachel learned them, Yaakov then told her that these Halachos will serve as the password which will identify her when they get married. Rachel then taught Leah these three mitzvos which must be learned anyway by every Bas Yisrael who is getting married. However, she did not tell Leah that these mitzvos were the password. Rachel incredibly restrained herself from never relating to Leah that in truth Yaakov was supposed to marry her but our father switched me around with you. So in order not to embarrass you I surrendered my marriage with Yaakov for your sake. As far as Leah was concerned she was the intended one that Yaakov was supposed to marry. After all, as Lavan himself claimed, that the accepted way is to marry off the older daughter before the younger one.
Therefore in Leah’s eyes it was Rachel who was the one who barged into her marriage which Leah has to now share with another woman. This is why she responded without compunctions that you already took my husband away from me and now you ask to also take my flowers.
Why did Rachel hold back this truth from her thereby putting herself in a very compromised and awkward position for the rest of the marriage? Rachel allowed herself to be the underdog so Leah won’t have continuous pain and agony knowing that she was not the chosen one of Yaakov and that she was the second rate and entered the relationship by deceit. It was Rachel who took upon herself to be pained during such incidents as the flowers, being the one who is accused of intruding into another’s partnership and still be silent not to answer back with the real truth. Rachel had so much mesiras nefesh to continuously bite her tongue in order not to respond to Leah’s hurtful accusations. All this time, on the tip of her tongue she had all the arsenal to set the record straight once in for all and thereby humble Leah to be forever grateful to her for her unimaginable kindness, sensitivity, and generosity.
Chazal (Esther Rabba 6,12) describe the righteousness of Rachel during this trying episode, that of taking upon herself the virtue of silence. Because of her phenomenal self control, Rachel was rewarded with individuals in future generations who emulated her unimaginable silence in their own experiences such as Binyamin who knew about the sale of Yosef yet he did not reveal it to anyone, Shaul who did not inform anyone that he was anointed as king over Yisrael, and Esther who did not reveal her true identity even under severe pressure and seductions. What is this silence that Chazal are talking about? It is the silence that when she gave over the Three Mitzvos she did not relate to her sister that she was not the intended partner in marriage for Yaakov. Not just for the wedding night alone but for weeks, months and years throughout the marriage she still restrained herself from divulging to her sister the devastating truth while at the same time taking upon herself the consequence of suffering because of it.
Chazal tell us, that when Chava was seduced by the Nachash and ate from the Aitz Hadass, she then gave the fruit to Adam from fear and jealousy, that if she dies she did not want Adam to mate with another woman. The Nachash’spoison of jealousy and Lashon Harah to the degenerative degree of acting out of spitefulness, was infused into Chava. It led her to the point that she was willing to cause death to the life of Adam, the hand created crown and purpose of the universe, solely because she would feel that someone else replaced her (Bereishis 3,6 Rashi).
Rachel rectified this shortcoming of Chava by acting in just the opposite manner. With her virtuousness of saving the life of her sister (since embarrassment is compared to death), she allowed another woman to be married to her destined spouse (which is tantamount to her demise), even though she herself would be pained from her benevolent action for many years to come. In this way she even surpassed Chava’s falling while making the tikkun for her since she would undergo prolonged suffering by her sister’s remarks and actions which did not apply to Chava if she would have died from eating the fruit of the Aitz Hadaas and allow Adam to live.
We would like to suggest that the three mitzvos of a woman Niddah Challah and Hadlakas Haneir correspond to the tikkun of the three lures that seduced Chava to eat from the AitzHadaas. The passuk says (Bereishis 3,6) that Chava saw that the fruit were good to eat. This parallels the mitzvah of Challah whereupon one must give a portion of the dough away to the Kohen who is involved with Avodas Hashem in the Bais Hamikdash. Before Chava ate, she should have made a calculation if her eating is part of Avodas Hashem or just pure desire. If one happily shares her food with others who are less fortunate or they are involved in the service of Hashem and do not have the opportunity to earn and work, then it is a strong indication that one’s eating becomes the service of Hashem and one’s table becomes an alter. Otherwise even a party with many people eating and having fun could be merely self indulgence as the name suggests party פרטי – perati (private).
The second lure of “a lust to the eyes” was the second cause of her seduction, and the tikkun that corresponds to this is the mitzvah of Niddah. We can interpret a lust to the eyes to mean that by eating from this tree your eyes will benefit in their ability of sight and you will see from one end of the world to the other. It is very possible to say that even though Adam Harishon had such a supernatural vision, she did not possess it. The Nachash suggested such a result to Chava by saying (Bereishis 3,5) ונפקחו עיניהם you will then possess the “Smart Eyes” feature. The Targum explains the lure of the eyes to mean a refuah for the eyes. According to our interpretation, it makes sense why she sought a refuah for her eyes by eating from the Aitz Hadaas.
The problem with Super Eyes is what’s your business snooping around and seeing what’s doing by everyone else? You live so far away and yet you want to enter everyone else’s kitchen and bedroom from a distance (Bamidbar 24,5 Rashi). The tikkun of the mitzvah of Niddah is that even to your husband with whom you are normally intimate, now you must become distant.
The third seduction was נחמד להשכיל a source for intellectual upgrades. The word שכל also has the root word שיכול which means to bury one’s child (Bereishis 27,45). The relationship between the two words is that not all wisdom must be acquired or promoted. Too much light can cause the breaking of the vessel. As it says in Yalkut Shimoni (Iyuv 20)
ר”א בשם רבי פדת אמר בגדול ממך אל תדרוש, ברחוק ממך אל תחקור, במופלא ממך אל תדע, במכוסה ממך אל תגלה, במה שהורשית התבונן אין לך עסק בנסתרות
Before one begins a journey on the path of new knowledge he must ask himself is my new knowledge going to cause a situation where I will need to bury myבן c”v? The word בן can be interpreted literally as my child and as בינה understanding. Both interpretations go hand in hand in this arena. If the new intellect, whether it be wisdom or technology, is beyond or in conflict with my spiritual vessels and those of my children, and it will cause a distortion and a breaking of wholesomeness, then abstain from it and bury that wisdom. Hashem banned man from the Knowledge of the Aitz Hadaas. It was supposed to be buried and not partaken from. Chava lost her בן Hevel as a repercussion of not burying her בינה and listening to Hashem’s ban.
The הדלקת הנר of Shabbos is a tikkun for the third lure of wisdom gained from the Aitz Hadaas for it brings in the light and knowledge of Hashem. ‘World Knowledge” can be a weapon of destruction in the wrong hands. Shabbos Knowledge (Shmos 34,11)לדעת כי אני ה’ מקדישכם brings one closer to Hashem and to the Emes without stepping over one’s boundaries אל יצא איש ממקומו ביום השביעי (Shmos 16,29).
Yaakov was occupied with the tikkun of Adam Harishon שופריה יעקב כשופריה אדם הראשון (Baba Metziah 84). He was seeking that Rachel would also make the final tikkun for Chava. It is for this reason that he taught her the three mitzvos of a woman which parallel the three rectifications that must be made because of Chava’s eating from the AitzHadaas. The gematriah of these three mitzvos נדה חלה ונר add up to משיח. Because Rachel was switched with Leah, the final tikkun was postponed to a later time. Nevertheless, we have never lost hope and continue to yearn for its coming. The reason is because Rachel Imeinu is still crying on our behalf. When she gave to Leah the password of the mitzvos she also gave away momentarily משיח which is the same gematriah. If we could only become more selfless like Rachel and show more compassion and sensitivity for other Yidden, we would connect to her tears for geulah and hasten its coming. If we could only hold our tongue and not say what is bursting inside of hearts, stop being spiteful, be more diligent in fulfilling the three mitzvos and their inner meanings, Moshiach would already have been here.