Parashat Vayetze

Jacob flees to his uncle Laban's household and lives there for several years, marrying Laban's daughters, Leah and Rachel, and building a large family.

Print this page Print this page

Laban threw a big feast. When it was evening, he took his eldest daughter Leah, and brought her to Jacob for their wedding night. But when morning came and Jacob saw it was Leah, he said, "What have your done to me? Did I not serve you for Rachel? Why have you deceived me?"

Laban responded, "It is not our tradition to give the younger daughter before the elder. Complete the wedding week with Leah and we shall give you Rachel for another seven years of work."

The Tribes are Born

Jacob served another seven years, and Laban gave him Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. When God saw that Leah was the hated one, God opened her womb. Leah conceived and bore a son, Reuben, for, "God has looked into my affliction! Now my husband will love me!" She conceived another son, Shimeon, saying, "God has heard that I am the hated one and has given me another son." Then she had another son, Levi, saying, "Now my husband will attach himself to me for I have borne him three sons." Next she had Judah, saying, "Now I shall give thanks to God." Then Leah stopped conceiving children.

When Rachel saw she had not born Jacob any children, she envied her sister. She said to him, "Give me children or else I will die."

But Jacob was angry with Rachel saying "Am I in God’s place? Who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?"

So Rachel gave Jacob her maidservant, Bilhah. Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Rachel said, "God has judged me and has heard my weeping and given me a son," and called him Dan. Bilhah then bore Jacob another son, Naphtali, for "I have fought a Divine struggle with my sister and I have prevailed."

When Leah saw she was no longer bearing children, she gave her maidservant Zilpah to Jacob. Zilpah bore Jacob a son, Gad, saying, "Good fortune has come." Zilpah then bore Jacob another son, Asher, for Leah said, "I am happy in my progress, for women have praised my progress."

Then Leah conceived a fifth son for Jacob. She called him Yissakhar, saying, "God has given me my wages because I gave my maidservant to my husband." Leah conceived a sixth son, Zebulun, for Leah said, "God has given me a good portion, now my husband will make his home with me, for I have borne him six sons." Leah also bore Jacob a daughter, Dinah.

God Remembered Rachel

Then God remembered Rachel. God opened her womb and she bore Jacob a son, saying, "God has taken away my disgrace." She named him Joseph, adding, "May God give me yet another son."

At this time, Jacob said to Laban. "I want to go home."

Laban answered, "I believe that God has blessed me for your sake. What shall I give you?"

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at www.TiptoeThroughTheTorah.com, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.