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Every year, I see questions and answers regarding how could Ya'akov marry two sisters, etc. but it struck me this year that one thing I've never seen is the question whether Ya'akov was right to marry Rachel after he'd married Leah.

My initial thoughts were that the pesukim emphasise that Ya'akov loved Rachel and that it would be "unfair" for him not to marry her but why should this be relevant? There are many times when we find ourselves in situations which require us to give up what we'd prefer.

My second thoughts were that there are a whole bunch of midrashim which work based on the idea that the Avot and Imahot were navi'im and thus they knew there were going to be 12 tribes, etc. but now that I think about it, I've never seen a midrash which says that Ya'akov knew he was going to marry 4 wives or that he had to. Occasionally I've heard the statement that Ya'akov was going to marry Leah afterwards anyway and the only thing which Lavan did was effect the order but I've never seen a solid source for that idea and it really jars with the pesukim.

Given how much pain and suffering was caused by his marrying Rachel after Leah, in his own life, his children's lives (i.e. Yosef) and in Jewish history (i.e. split kingdoms etc.), was it healthy for him to do so and if yes, why?

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for the question! Hope to see you around. :) – Scimonster Nov 28 '14 at 12:43
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See commentary Ohr Hachaim on Breishit 29:28. He explains that it was a belittlement of Leah that she was married by deceit, and this fact would diminish his love for his wife. Therefore, he registered a complaint to Lavan. However, at the same time, Ya'akov was willing to accept what had occurred and didn't attempt to divorce Le'ah.

(I'm unfamiliar with halacha of marriage if a husband must give a get to a wife that he received against his will, such as what happened with Leah and Ya'akov. Should be a separate question.)

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Excellent question.

There are many times when we find ourselves in situations which require us to give up what we'd prefer.

Agreed. But think about it from Rachel's perspective. She wanted to be married to him! (And my impression is that even after he was stuck with Leah, she still wanted to be married to him.)

Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky basically makes this point. He suggests that the patriarchs tried to keep the 613 commandments when possible, as an extra measure of piety. However, here he had pledged to marry Rachel, and she was expecting him to keep up with that pledge; he couldn't now say "oops, sorry lady, I'm extra pious and can't do it now."

But yes, all this assumes that being a co-wife is better than being a spinster. It sounds strange to our 21st-century ears, but apparently that was the case then.

  • Perhaps she wasn't just concerned about being a spinster, but being forced to marry Esau. (Rashi 30:22) – Yishai Nov 28 '14 at 14:16
  • Interesting. You essentially agree with the premise that it would have been better for him not to have married Rachel but think he had to because he had a prior commitment to do so. Thinking out loud, wouldn't it then follow that Rachel's holding him to his commitment was an extremely negative thing for her to do? – Meh Nov 29 '14 at 21:16
  • @ThinkingSkeptically not really. Okay oops he married Leah, now what. Rachel is thinking, "I still want to marry Jacob, co-wife and all." Jacob is thinking, "I still want to marry Rachel, co-wife and all; plus I made that commitment to her." Again, given that people at the time were used to the co-wife relationship, going ahead and marrying Rachel seemed like the least-damaging resolution at the moment. – Shalom Nov 30 '14 at 0:03
  • @Shalom Now you've confused me. In your answer, you appeared to agree that it would have been better for Ya'akov not to have married Rachel. Are you saying now that it didn't actually matter and therefore they could do whatever they wanted? If so, what does the aspect of Ya'akov's commitment add to the answer? If you agree with the premise that marrying Rachel had negative consequences which could have been avoided, I don't see how you can avoid reaching the conclusion either Ya'akov or Rachel or both of them made a mistake. – Meh Nov 30 '14 at 13:57
  • Just wanted to point out that the torah never actually goes out and says that Rachel wanted to be married to Yaakov. It only says that "7 years passed quickly for Yaakov because he was in love". The only time the Torah ever references Rachel's feelings is when it says that she was jealous of her sister Leah. – Nic Dec 1 '14 at 16:29

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