Torah Readings for Vayeitzei
Kislev 10, 5777 – December 10, 2016
Torah Reading: Vayeitzei: Genesis 28:10 – 32:3
Haftarah: Hosea 11:7 – 12:14
Why did Jacob kiss Rachel? Genesis 29.11
Wouldn’t that be an improper display of immodesty?
“and Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.” Genesis 25.27 and Rivkah loved Jacob. Genesis 25.28
“And Jacob kissed וַיִּשַּׁק Rachel, and he raised his voice and wept.” Genesis 29.11
RASHI – and wept: Since he came empty-handed, he said, “Eliezer, my grandfather’s servant, had nose rings, and bracelets and sweet fruits in his possession, and I am coming with nothing in my hands. [He had nothing] because Eliphaz the son of Esau had pursued him to kill him at his father’s orders; he (Eliphaz) overtook him, but since he had grown up in Isaac’s lap, he held back his hand. He said to him (Jacob), ”What shall I do about my father’s orders?“ Jacob replied,”Take what I have, for a poor man is counted as dead.” – [from Bereishit Rabbathi by Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan]
10 “And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.”
11″And Jacob kissed וַיִּשַּׁק Rachel, and he raised his voice and wept.”
12 “And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman and that he was Rebecca’s son, and she ran and told her father.”
Here, the Torah is telling us that Ya’acov is being reminded of Rivkah (Rebecca) at the moment he sees Rachel. It repeats the phrase “his mother’s brother” three times in passuk 10 to emphasize he is the son of Rivkah but only to tell us of the emotional encounter – “and he raised his voice and wept.” VaYishaq is related to 29.10 VaYashe’qe “watered” – the Torah is emphasizing he watered Rachel with his tears!!! (Rachel means an ewe – a sheep. VaYishaq and VaYashe’qe are spelled the same in the Torah without the nikud – the vowel points to emphasize that weeping and watering are similar, vibrant actions.)
verse 29.12 by mentioning Rivkah by name the Torah is emphasizing he his his mother’s son –
a quiet, peaceful, but emotional man of the tents of Beer Sheva 28.10 – plural- the tents of Shem and Eber!!!
He has left his homeland and father’s house (out of fear of his brother’s wrath and out of honor for his parents) for a distant land;
He has prayed a vow while having a G-D consciousness, 28.20 “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying: ‘If G-d will be with me, and will keep me in this way (b’derek) that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then shall the L-RD be my G-d, ” – up until this point he only has an awareness of G-D – a G-D consciousness as it were!
His way is that he should go to take a wife from his distant relatives – (he was sent by Isaac 28.5)
He has been robbed of his wealth by Esav’s son Eliphaz; arriving in Haran empty-handed!
When he recognizes he is successful in his way (derek – his journey, that is, in meeting his kinswoman, Rachel) he demonstrates his great strength
and he kisses Rachel out of affection for seeing a close relative for the first time, as was the custom in those days.
The Torah is emphasizing his emotions to tell us that in spite of his great strength, he was a man of perception, emotions and customs – for instance, it also tells us he allows Laban to kiss him out of custom! (while contrasting it with: “And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban;… I see that your father is not disposed towards me as before-times.” 31.2, 5)
Besides 31.2, and 5, how is he demonstrated as a man of emotional perception?
The Torah tells us, “when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother,” while previously having stated, “Behold, Esav my brother is a hairy man, I am a smooth man….;” to emphasize he feels from the depth of his soul what he perceives to be the simple, plain, truth – a man of tents
a man of emotional perception –
31.53 May the God of Abraham and the god of Nahor judge between us, the god of their father.” And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.
28.2 Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.
28.5 And Isaac sent away Jacob; and he went to Paddan-aram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.
29.13 “Now it came to pass when Laban heard the report of Jacob, his sister’s son, that he ran towards him, and he embraced him, and he kissed him, and he brought him into his house. He told Laban all these happenings.”
The Haamek Davar (The Netziv, R’ Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin, author of Haamek Davar, 1817-1893) states that we see from Jacob’s crying, that his kissing Rachel was not meant to be a frivolous sexual act, [tifluth] but rather an expression of closeness and fondness for a [close, younger] relative.
tifluth – lasciviousness, literally it translates as childishness or foolishness.
Tanhuma Exodus 28, which says that “all kisses are of tifluth, except for the kiss of parting, the kiss of honoring and the kiss of meeting.
Another point to note is the context of the kiss. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (leader of Frankfurt, Germany Jewish community in the late 19th century) comments that the Torah mentions a number of times, in various phrases surrounding the kiss, that Rachel was Jacob’s kin. The Torah wishes to point out that Jacob’s actions were within the context of the realization that Rachel represented the continuation of his family’s traditions and values. In addition, Jacob sensed the embodiment of his sainted mother, Rebecca’s, persona. The intense emotion engendered by these awarenesses caused Jacob to kiss Rachel. Indeed, notes Rabbi Hirsch, Jacob’s tears should be sufficient proof that his Jacob’s intentions were completely pure.