Parashat Va’yetzey, Dec 10, 2016 – We Are Leah
“God saw Leah was unloved, and opened her womb.”
Her sister-wife Rachel, however, will long remain barren, following the tradition of her husband’s mother and grandmother.
Leah’s spectacular fecundity is the singular deviation from infertility issues plaguing each of our tradition’s three patriarchal/matriarchal families. No sooner does she wed Jacob, than a cascade of sons in quick succession pours forth: Reuben, Levi, Simeon. Leah gives each son a name indicating her hope that the “new addition” will cause her husband to love her. To no avail.
When the next son arrives, Leah goes in a completely different direction, giving him the name Judah, meaning “I will thank the Lord.” The Talmud observes, “No one was ever more thankful to God than Leah.” With Judah, not only does Leah overcome the disappointment of an unloving husband; she also develops the ability to focus on, and be very thankful for, her life’s bright side. In time, Judah will become the name by which the world knows the principal entities of our tradition: People, Land, and Spiritual Tradition: Jews, Judah, Judaism.
In truth, the aptness of Judah as our name goes much deeper. We are Leah, unloved. That story our history tells. More important is how we view our condition. Against the odds, we have grown able to give thanks for the many blessing God gives us. No people has ever been more thankful.