> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Kindness Hacks

Rachel's Ultimate Sacrifice and Hidden Love

Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3 )

by Shoshanna Dresner

The anniversary of the death of the Matriarch Rachel brings to mind the famous story of her delayed marriage, and selfless sacrifice.

Rachel is engaged to marry her soulmate Jacob, waiting for him for 7 years as he works for her father, Lavan, to earn her hand. Knowing the dishonest nature of her father, Rachel and Jacob arrange secret signs between them, so that should some other veiled lady be brought to Jacob in Rachel’s stead, he would know that it was not the right woman.

Their caution is not misplaced, and Rachel realizes that her father plans on leading her sister Leah to the wedding canopy, rather than herself.

She faces a life altering choice, and makes a mind-blowing decision. She gives over the secret signs to her sister before she is led to Jacob, sparing her from the mortification of being discovered to be the wrong bride in public.

Not knowing at the time that she would go on to marry Jacob one week later, Rachel was fully prepared to give up her entire future and dreams, solely for the sake of her sister's dignity.

An incredible act of selflessness.

But this just scratches the surface of what Rachel did. Looking at later interactions between the two sisters, we discover more beauty and depth to her actions.

Both now married to Jacob, Rachel faces the challenge of waiting to conceive. Rachel asks Leah to give her some of her ‘Dudaim’ a plant known to bring fertility. Leah surprisingly responds by saying ‘Isn’t it enough that you took my husband...?’ (Genesis 30:15). A strange reply considering it was really the other way round!

The answer to this question brings to light the extent of Rachel’s incredible kindness. Her entire life, Rachel never actually told Leah what she had done for her and was unaware of the sacrifice that Rachel had made on her behalf!

The Daat Zekenim explains that the secret signs between Rachel and Jacob were actually Jewish laws. The plan was that when he would question her on these and she would respond correctly, he would know that he was marrying the correct woman. Rav Shalom Shwadron explains that Rachel taught these laws to Leah and never told her why. Not only did Rachel make a life changing sacrifice, she did it with complete modesty and sensitivity, sparing her sister any feelings of guilt.

According to this approach, Rachel’s act of kindness was not a one-off act, it was an act of continuous hidden love, selflessness, coming from the purest of motivations.

Perhaps the more obvious lesson in Rachel’s story is the importance of never embarrassing another human being. Embarrassing another person is considered to be one of the most severe prohibitions in the Torah, compared to the seriousness of shedding blood (Bava metzia 58b).

But the insights into Rachel’s secrecy, convey another powerful lesson in addition to this, and demonstrate how we can bring acts of kindness to the next level.

Kindness is not always a convenience. In fact, more often than not, it involves going out of our way, giving up time, energy, or comfort. This is the greatness of the act. However, even greater is to not disclose the inconvenience involved. To preserve the dignity of the recipient, perhaps through anonymity, or concealing the difficulty of the action.

Like Rachel, we must try and keep people's feelings at the forefront of our minds.

It’s not just about what we do, but about how we do it.


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