I have never had any understanding of this statement by Leah to Rachel: "Isn't it enough that you took away my husband?" in parsha vayetze.

The obvious truth seems to be the opposite: after all, Rachel made the supreme sacrifice of giving Leah the secret signs Yaakov gave her (Rashi to 29:25), which would risk losing Yaakov and winding up with Esav just so that Leah would not be humiliated.

Can anyone shed light on this?

  • ,Another question asked on this is, that what a child finds belongs to the father not the mother, so it should have been yaakov to decide who to give the violets to.
    – preferred
    May 7, 2014 at 14:06
  • Some good answers. See also Bava Basra 123a: "The firstborn should have been from Rachel, but Leah 'out-prayed' her [and got it]. And because of the modesty of Rachel [to give Leah the simanim] Hashem gave it back to her [when Yosef was rewarded]." The gemara is telling us to understand - the opposite of what we would have thought! - that Leah would have gotten it anyhow without Rachel's sacrifice. Rachel is actually the one who would have lost out.
    – MichoelR
    Nov 17, 2021 at 14:15

6 Answers 6


I heard from my Rebbes that this was the greatness of Rachel. Not only did she give away the Simonim but she did it in a way that Leah never noticed and would not feel embarrassed. All part of the great Sacrifice of Rachel. And she never even replied to Leah saying she was the one who let her sister's marraige!

  • 1
    This sort of fits with the gemara's (megillah 13b) calling this action of hers צניעותא, but I have a hard time imagining that Leah didn't know what Rachel did.
    – Double AA
    Nov 24, 2012 at 23:25
  • +1. Who are these teachers of yours?
    – msh210
    Nov 25, 2012 at 1:54
  • But see judaism.stackexchange.com/a/22430.
    – msh210
    Nov 25, 2012 at 15:19
  • this answer refuted by Yehuda below
    – ray
    Nov 27, 2012 at 21:18

There is a fascinating Daat Zekenim which explains the answer to your question. He writes that the Simanim -"signs"- that Yaakov and Rachel made to be able to confirm that Lavan would not pull a "switcharoo" on them and substitute Leah for Rachel on the wedding night (Megillah 13b) where actually the laws of Niddah (women's menstruation cycle), Challah (separating bread), and Hadlakat Haner (Lighting the Shabbat candles). Thus, when Rachel feared that, should Lavan actually substitute Leah for her, Leah would become embarrassed if she didn't know the Simanim (see ibid.), she gave over the Simanim to Leah. However, says the Daat Zekenim, Leah did not know these were Simanim; she thought Rachel simply wanted to teach her some laws! And when she "passed the test" of knowing the signs when Yaakov tested her, she assumed it was a mere coincidence that she had learned these laws previously with Rachel. Thus, it turns out that Leah actually never knew of this whole scheme, and of Rachel's sacrifice for her; she honestly believed that Yaakov was originally her husband! It is this that led Leah to exclaim "it's not enough that you took my husband, etc." (Rachel, however, did not answer back and tell Leah the whole sacrifice she actually made for her. This was the Tzeniut -modesty- of Rachel mentioned in Masechet Megillah 13b.)

  • 1
    This is a great answer, but I don't think the Daat Zekenim says that Leah didn't know. That is probably another answer based on the Daat Zekenim. You can see the Daat Zekenim here: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=9597&pgnum=383
    – Menachem
    Nov 25, 2012 at 15:29
  • Oh interesting.. i originally never looked up the Daat Zekenim to be honest, i just heard this answer in his name and it probably was just an answer based on it
    – AEML
    Nov 25, 2012 at 22:10
  • I think I heard a similar explanation from Rabbi Frand.
    – robev
    Aug 7, 2020 at 1:05
  • The Seforno writes that Leah's point was that after Yaakov had married her, Rochel should not have agreed to get married to Yaakov as it is not permitted to marry two sisters.

  • The Malbim explains that Leah's tone was not confrontational but rather she had pure intentions. Rochel was requesting the dudoim to help her conceive. Leah tried to explain that the fact that Yaakov stayed so often with her proved that evidently the reason for her barrenness was not physical which could be helped by natural remedies and the proper course of action should be for her to daven to Hashem. However Rochel misunderstood this and thought Leah wanted something in return for the dudoim.

  • The Ben Ish Chai (Oid Yosef Chai - Droshos) explains that Leah understood with Ruach Hakodesh that the tremendous self sacrifice of Rochel to give the signs to her has a merit which would stand for the Jewish nation forever (as the famous Midrash states that all our forefathers will implore on our behalf to bring the redemption, and it will be only the merit of Rochel that will convince Hashem). Leah wanted to prove that the Rochel's deed was selfless and thus she said "You have taken my husband away", knowing that Rochel would not reply, "He was my husband originally".

  • I have seen an interpretation of the posuk that explains that Leah was not telling of/complaining to Rochel that she took away her husband (בתמיה) but rather negotiating a deal; if you let me have my husband for a bit I will give you the dudoim (בניחותא).


Having just seen a Medrash that refutes my previous answer, I will suggest another. The Medrash relates that Rachel hid under the bed whilst Leah was together with Yaacov, and every time Yaacov asked Leah something Rachel would answer from under the bed so that Yaacov would not recognize Leah's voice. This proves that Leah knew about it because she had to keep quiet when Yaacov spoke to her.

Therefore I believe the correct answer is that Leah's reasoning was as follows: either you do me a favor properly or not at all. Perhaps she didn't consider it a favor that Rachel gave her Yaacov if Rachel immediately became her competitor. She was telling Rachel that she should either do the Mitzvah properly and leave Yaacov just for Leah, or not start the Mitzvah. But don't offer me a husband, and then come and join yourself!


The explanation that Rachel did it in such a way that Leah didn't even realise is given by Rav Chaskel Sarne z.l. The explanation given by Ahron Levian based on the Daas Zekeinim as surmised by Menachem is given by Rav Sholom Schwadron z.l.


I think one answer is simply -- once a couple is married, no matter what else happened, you don't look back.

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