This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Marry Two Sisters?
Jacob’s marriage to Rachel and Leah, Laban's daughters, is related in this week’s Torah portion, and many commentators grapple with the question of how Jacob was permitted to marry two sisters -- in view of the fact that he kept the entire Torah before it was given, and the Torah explicitly forbids such a marriage. A summary of a profound and scholarly explanation of the question by the Rebbe follows.
Our forefathers took upon them-selves to keep the entire Torah -- even though they had not been commanded to do so -- as an extra added measure of devotion to G-d. If those Mitzvot or commandments of the Torah which they were not ordered to observe happened to conflict with precepts that they had been explicitly ordered by G-d to observe, then they obviously did not keep the Mitzva that they were not commanded. In fact, such action constituted for them true Torah-observance; the Torah itself required that they refrain from doing an extra, added act of devotion when this was in conflict with an explicit command.
A double gift
Isaac blesses his son Jacob: "...And may G-d give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fat of the earth..." The famed commentator Rashi explains the implication of the words "And may G-d give you": "The Al-mighty will give, and give again."
What was missing in G-d's initial giving, that could be perfected and completed by a second giving? Man is finite, limited; should he give even a magnificent and generous gift to another, it can still be improved upon by additional giving. But even the initial "gift" of the omnipotent and perfect Creator would be perfect. What could be added by "giving again"?
Flow Chart of Goodness
Kindness is often presented as a central virtue of the Jewish people. Abraham, the hero of our parshah, together with his wife Sarah, is a paradigm of kindness. One sees their hospitality to wayfarers at the beginning of the parshah, and later G-d says that He loves Abraham because "he will instruct his household after him to keep the way of G-d, doing charity and justice" (Genesis 18:19).
"Charity and justice" signify acts of kindness, and the Talmud cites this verse when it declares that there are three distinguishing features of the Jewish people, the descendants of Abraham: They are 1) modest, 2) merciful, and they 3) do acts of kindness. "Anyone who has these qualities," the Talmud goes on to say, "is fit to join the Jewish people."