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In Parashat Vayetzeh, Yaakov goes to Lavan's house, but prior to his arrival he meets up with Rachel. Shockingly, the Pasuk says that he kissed her and cried (29:11). How exactly are we to understand this episode? Do we not say that the Avot kept the whole Torah before it was given, and can we not assume that the righteous Yaakov would not do something so immodest as to kiss a girl he isn't married to yet - in public?

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Are you asking because of the issur negia (whereby I'd tell you she wasn't a niddah) or because of some subjective standard of modesty (whereby I'd tell you they had a different standard; recall that Yaakov and Rachel were first (and second) cousins)? –  Double AA Nov 25 '12 at 22:46
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By the way, who is "we" that says such a thing? Many Rishonim did not think Yaakov kept the whole Torah when he was in Charan. (See shortvort.com/vayishlach-parasha/… , rationalistjudaism.com/2010/11/… , yeranenyaakov.blogspot.com/2012/05/… and many more.) If you are asking according to a certain interpretation please say so, and don't declare what the rest of us think. –  Double AA Nov 25 '12 at 23:20
    
Some say the reason he cried after is because he realised how people might interpret his action. –  Michoel Nov 26 '12 at 3:24
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Double AA- 1. I was asking more from a "modest" approach, but i feel it's hard to say the standard was different. For example: when avraham avinu went down to egypt he said "hineh na yadati.." and according to some opinions he hadn't even looked at her until this point out of modesty. Moreover, when Lavan switched Leah for Rachel, Yaakov did not find out until the next morning that is was Leah. If the standard was so different that they would kiss before marriage don't you think Yaakov would take a peak at Leah during their wedding? –  AEML Nov 26 '12 at 22:59
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2. I assumed that just as chazal in yoma 28b say that avraham avinu kept the whole torah, it would be fair to say that yaakov did as well. (But i guess isn't a fair assumption based on the rema (7) in the first link you posted.) Rashi's comment on Im Lavan Garti also led me to think this way –  AEML Nov 26 '12 at 22:59
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The gemaroh in Kesubos daf 17 says that Rav Acha danced with the kallah on his shoulder. When the Chochomim asked if they were allowed to also? He answered - if she is like a beam in your eyes then you could do it too. But if not then certainly not. That was all only in those days when they were on a tremendously higher level then us today. Nowadays, shulchan aruch (pischei tshuva on Even Haezer 65:1) rules that we are not allowed to because nobody could say that holding the bride effects him like a wooden beam.

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Are you saying that Yaakov Avinu was considering his cousin/future-wife like a beam when he cried and kissed her? –  Isaac Moses Jan 13 '13 at 19:08
    
Beam, as in the beam of a house the pillar of the Jewish family, is the understanding that I've heard. In which case his love and tears could be argued to be not sexual or pleasurable, merely an expression of emotion. –  user3114 Aug 28 '13 at 21:40
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Many commentaries have offered explanations to this issue. Even if you disregard societal differences of modesty or niddah concerns, there are other possibilities. Here are a few:

Rachel was too young to arouse passion

Ramban argues:

ורחל היתה קטנה ואין לחוש לה. וזה ענין וישק יעקב לרחל

Rachel was young and so there was no concern [that she went shepherding alone], and that is the way "Jacob kissed Rachel" [was permissible].

The Seforno indicates (on 29:18) that Jacob had to work so long for Lavan so that she be old enough to marry:

בתך הקטנה. כי תוך ז' שנים יהיה עתה עת דודים ותוכל בין כך להשיא הגדולה

your younger daughter - During these seven years she would reach marriageable age and in the meanwhile [Lavan] would marry off the older daughter.

Jacob was related to her and old.

This argument bolsters the first and is usually explained concurrently. As the Seforno comments, this is why in the verse after the kiss does Jacob tell Rachel that they're related :

וישא את קולו ויבך. על שלא זכה לשאת אותה בנעוריו והיו לו לעת כזאת בני נעורים

And he raised his voice and wept - that he didn't merit to marry her in his youth for then he would have had children born to him as a young man.

כי אחי אביה הוא. להודיע שלא חטא במוסר כשנשק אותה

that he was her father's relative - to assure her that he did not act improperly by kissing her.

וכי בן רבקה הוא. הזכיר לה את רבקה אף על פי שהיתה בלתי נודעת לרחל כדי שתגיד לאביה

and that he was Rivka's son - He referred to Rivka even though she didn't know her, so that she would tell her father.

In this case, being related and the age gap permitted it in the spirit of the halacha (Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 21:7) that parents can kiss their young children.

Jacob kissed her head/shoulder/hand or blew her a kiss

Ramban offers this other explanation. He refers to Ibn Ezra's commentary on Jacob kissing Isaac (27:27). In both cases, the verb "kiss" is following by the preposition "to" or "towards." This could mean that he didn't actually kiss her, or that it wasn't on the lips. Ramban writes:

או הוא כדברי רבי אברהם (לעיל כז כז), כי נשיקה בלמ"ד איננה בפה, רק נשק אותה על ראשה או על כתיפה:

Or perhaps this is like R. Avraham's explanation (cf. 27:27), that kissing with a lamed means it wasn't on the lips. It was only kissing her on her head or on her shoulder.

It seems that explanation softens the potentially erotic conjuring of kissing.

There are other explanations, especially kabbalistic ones, but these are the most common peshat explanations.

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