Monday, December 5, 2011

Vayeitzei - We are Yehudim

The Jewish people are called Yehudim, after the tribe of Yehuda. The Stone Chumash from Artscroll tells us that in Parshat Vayeitzei Leah named her fourth son, Yehuda, from Hodaya (thankfulness and praise) because as the mother of one-third of the tribes, she had been given more sons than her share. Torah Treasury quotes the Talmud (Berachot 7a) in saying that since Creation, "no one offered gratitude to Hashem until Leah." While this is a little difficult to understand, what the sages mean is that Leah finally realized that the pain she had felt at being "unloved" was ultimately a positive thing, because to comfort her,  Hashem granted her the privilege to give birth to the majority (six) of the twelve tribes.
And it is a Jewish characteristic "always to be grateful to G-d with the attitude that He has given more than our rightful share."
But G-d did not grant Leah the most amount of children (between the four wives) simply because she was unloved.
When we meet Leah for the first time in the Torah (Vayeitzei 29:17), we are told "Leah's eyes were tender." Rashi says this is because she spent her life in tearful prayer that she not be forced to marry Esau, which everyone expected - "the elder daughter (of Lavan) will marry the elder son (of Yitzchak)".
Because of her untiring prayer, Hashem answered her not only by allowing her to marry Jacob first, but to become his "primary wife", who not only gave birth to six out of twelve of the tribes, but who was also buried by Yaakov's side in Me'arat HaMachpela.
The Stone Chumash quotes Michtav Me'Eliyahu in saying that Rachel was Jacob's intended mate in this world. Leah was the wife of Israel in a higher spiritual world.
Yehuda reflected Lea's recognition that Hashem's greatness has no limits. He can even make an unloved woman into the primary wife of a tzaddik and the mother of Am Yisrael. It is due to Leah's unceasing prayer, that we are all named after her son, Yehuda.
And why Yehuda, as opposed to Leah's other sons? Yehuda is the son whose birth reflected the first positivity of the family. Yes, later on, there was Gad (good luck has come to me) and Asher (good fortune has come). But Yehuda's birth was the essence of thanks to Hashem. And that is the purpose of every Jew, understanding that everything comes from Hashem, and understanding, as well, that everything G-d does for us and to us is ultimately for the best. Therefore, the kindship of the Jewish people descends from Yehuda.
A king is the highest mortal on Earth. There is no mortal above him. As we have seen throughout history with Alexander the Great, Caesar, Pharoah, Stalin, etc., a king can believe that he is totally "all powerful", and act as such in a destructive or overbearing manner.
A Jewish king comes from the line of Yehuda, whose very birth is proof that Hashem guides the world. We must praise Him. We must appreciate Him. We must follow in His ways.
Please share Savta's Torah thoughts with our next generation, and let them enjoy this Parsha song of old:

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