Midreshet Amit


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Parshat Vayetzei

By: Leora Prince

This week's parsha is Parshat Vayetzei. As it opens, Yaakov runs away from home because Eisav wants to kill him, and ends up at his uncle Lavan's home. There, he works for seven years, marries Leah by mistake, and then works for another seven years after marrying Rachel. The *parsha* then relates the births of Yaakov's ever extending family. Tonight I'm going to focus on one particular wife, Rachel, and her struggle with having children.

It is known that Rachel was the favored wife and Yaakov originally only wanted to marry her, not Leah. It's also well known that Rachel was barren, and while Leah, Zilpa, and Bilha were providing Yaakov with children, she was not able to. This tore Rachel apart and she was in so much anguish that she finally went to Yaakov and said "*hava li banim v'im ayin meita anochi*" - Give me children or else I die. Rashi explains that she said this because whoever is childless is accounted as dead. Yaakov replies very angrily and
says, "*hatachat elohim anochi*?" Can I take the place of God?

This seems like a very harsh response to someone who is suffering as much as Rachel. In fact, Chazal condemn Yaakov for his behavior and say that he belittled himself through his unwillingness to help pray and in relieving himself of responsibility.

Despite Rashi's criticisms, however, there might have been a valid reason for his anger. Rachel might have been at fault here with her request. The Ramban takes the approach that Rachel falsely accused Yaakov of not praying for her when he of course had been and just hadn't been answered. Rachel wanted Yaakov to daven for her like Yitzchak davened for Rivka. However, there was a difference between the two situations; Yitzchak had only one wife and he was destined to have children so they had to come from her. Yaakov had other wives and other children so the problem was really Rachel's alone.

Not taking that into account, Rachel made the mistake of thinking that the righteous's prayers are  automatically answered. Yaakov had to rebuke her for believing that tzadikim could not manipulate God. Yaakov had been davening for her, but this was her own problem and he was trying to show her that she
needed to daven for herself.

The Radak takes an even angrier approach saying that Rachel asked Yaakov to give her children as opposed to asking him to pray for her to have children. She elevated him to a godly level and attributed powers to him that only God is capable of. If she had instead asked him to intercede on her behalf, she would have been justified and he would not have gotten angry.

One final approach—and one that I think relates very well to the entire Amit program—is that of the Akeidat Yitzchak. He says that there are two names for a woman: "isha" - meaning from man and "chava" - meaning mother. Women have two sides. Their intellectual half which makes them equal to men in terms of their learning, morals, and performing mitzvoth and their maternal half which gives them the ability and love to raise children. Women are capable of exemplifying both of these traits, but are not considered dead if
they only possess one. This was Rachel's mistake. She believed her entire reason for being was to have children and without that she was nothing. Yaakov had to reprimand her for this and show her that she was not "dead" in terms of her joint purpose in life to be an intellectual, religious, and moral person.

I believe that there is a lot to be learned for the Akeidat Yitzchak's approach and that the girls at Midreshet Amit are the perfect example of women's joint purpose in the world. We spend half the day learning and
strengthening our intellectual side and the other half of the day helping to raise and nurture the children of Beit Hayeled. We are not nothing without one side or the other, but combined, these two halves of a woman create something truly remarkable.

Leora Prince comes to AMIT from Frisch High School and plans to attend University of Maryland next year.