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Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
P20–- Leah
December 29, 2006
© Rabbi Jack Moline

The last of the matriarchs to be mentioned when we use the traditional list is not actually the youngest. In fact, some people advocate restoring Leah to her rightful birth order, and reciting "Sarah, Rebecca, Lean and Rachel." Leah is the overlooked ancestor.

We know a few things about Leah from the Torah, and they all point to her being overlooked a lot. Rachel was the pretty sister. When Jacob came to Haran, he noticed Rachel right away, and he only had eyes for her. She was a shepherdess; could it be that her sister had the same job, but Jacob just didn't notice her? Perhaps he looked right through her.

When Jacob arrived at the wedding canopy to be married, Leah was there instead of Rachel, but her father had veiled her. Jacob wanted to see Rachel he never saw Leah until it was too late.

And even in a household in which fertility was valued, Leah was overlooked. She named the first-born Reuven "Look! A son!" but Jacob dismissed her and loved Rachel, hating Leah, in spite of her motherhood.

Leah had "soft eyes," says the Torah. We don't know whether that meant she had astigmatism, or she was cross-eyed, or she squinted and therefore looked unattractive. Whatever this description is meant to convey, it stands opposite the description of Rachel, who was "beautiful of form." No one noticed Leah. And all Leah wanted was to be seen.

In fact, all any of us really wants is to be seen not to be invisible to others, not to be overlooked.

Torah tells us about Leah's relationship with God. God saw Leah in her misery. God did not overlook Leah. When we include the God of Leah in our prayers, we call upon "Ro'eh Leah," the One who sees Leah, who does not overlook us.

(Please note: there will be no posting this coming week)

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