The Gemoro Nedorim 20b is critical of children born to a wife who is hated.

וברותי מכם המורדים והפושעים בי אמר רבי לוי אלו בני תשע מדות בני אסנ"ת משגע"ח בני אימה בני אנוסה בני שנואה

And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me.  R. Levi said: This refers to children belonging to the following nine categories: children of fear, of outrage, of a hated wife …..

Leah was hated. How is it then that Yaakov continued his relationship with her? See Braishis 29 (31 - 32)

31 And the Lord saw that Leah was hated, so He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. 32 And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben, for she said, "Because the Lord has seen my affliction, for now my husband will love me."

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    I don't see in that quote any prohibition on continuing the relationship, only predictions about the children. And does Reuven do all that well in life? He sleeps with his step-mom, loses his birthright, helps Yosef get captured, isn't trusted to protect Binyamin, and ends up with his territory outside of Israel.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 18:32
  • 1
    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/26679
    – msh210
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 21:29
  • @DoubleAA Tosefos to niddah 12a seems to assume there is a prohibition. Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 6:17
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    @DoubleAA - Reuven didn't actually sleep with his step-mom. I do not know why having territory outside of Israel "proper" makes a difference? If it were true, then all Leah's children should have suffered? I heard that it was the result of perhaps the father being with one woman while having in mind she was someone else. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 23:14
  • To all who brought the "loved her less than Rochel" interpretations. I don't remember who, but he rejects all those, as the Torah uses extra words for impure animals, why would it use "שנואה" for "loved less"?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 20:56

5 Answers 5


As per DanF's comment and the commentary of the Stone Chumash:

Ramban cites Radak that Jacob surely loved Leah, but that his greater love for Rachel made her seem unloved -- or even hated -- by comparison.

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    This explanation makes the most sense. We must be honest, Ya'aqov Avinu was surely a righteous man, but he also just as surely married a woman that he was never interested in. To further the difficult circumstances involved his marrying her, he was expecting someone whom he longed for and was defrauded. After the fact, he did his best to be a righteous and kind husband, and he surely loved her, but it was not what he had with Rahel.
    – user3342
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 21:52

Rav Hirsch explains that

Not "Ki Leah Senuah", that Leah was hated, but כִּי שְׂנוּאָה לֵאָה that the hated one of the two, i.e. the less beloved, was Leah. ... It is significant that the real pith of the Jewish nation has not the one for its mother whom Jacob - as far as the text itself relates - chose primarily more for the impression her beauty made on his senses, and it was just the one who felt herself placed somewhat in the background whom Hashem appointed to be the principal ancestress of His people ... For the names which this less-loved wife gave to her sons shows us how, just in the feeling of being at first set back she was all the more deeply in love with her husband, and how she succeeded in working herself up to the highest pitch of mutual happiness with her husband by the happy and happiness-giving valuation of the vocations of motherhood and wifehood ...

Also Rav Hirsch explains that each child born showed a greater acceptance of Leah by Yaakov as expressed by the name that he was given.

The successive names show, how, with the blessing of each fresh child for which Jacob had to thank Leah, his attitude to her became increasingly more and more loving. ... With the birth of her third son, however, she felt the difference had quite disappeared.


Bava Basra 123a says that since she hated the ways of Eisav therefore she got pregnant.

אלא ראה הקב״ה ששנואין מעשה עשו בפניה ויפתח רחמה

  • It's true that that answer is also brought in Rashi to explain the Pasuk. But according to the pshat, there needs to be an explanation too.
    – LN6595
    Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 2:55

Through his hatred he imagines another woman (Ran). Therefore, because of hatred, the act is likened to mere fornication, and not a real union (Rashi). The level of hatred is not one of divorce (Rosh). Tur (240) rules that if the union is desired while hated it is permitted (Magen Avraham 8; Kaf Hachaim 31). Raavad cites the proof from Yaakov who hated Leah in comparison to Rachel, nevertheless, during copulation she was desired (Perishah 5; Beis Yosef 8; Kaf Hachaim loc. cit.).


I went through all Pshat interpretations and could not find a sound answer for myself. I did find some hints in Ariz"l interpretation, brought in "Beit Gnazay, by R. Moshe Luria Ztz"l.

In his interpretation, "שנואה" means distant. Yaakov intentionally kept a distance between him and Leah, as opposed to Rochel that was very close (as himself), based on Shir Hashirim "הסבי עיניך מנגדי שהם הרהיבני". That allowed her to have 6 tribes. As long as Rochel was "בשר מבשרי" she could not have children, until she made a quarrel with Yaakov that kept her away from him and allowed her to have children.

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    Consider adding links to the Beit Gnazay, and / or R. Moshe Luria.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 19:57
  • The main point is just that the post should be clear. There is no rule that answers need to be consistent with some style, e.g. that of the rishonim, the only rule is that posts should be clear, understandable, and preferably sourced.|| The site it meant for users with different backgrounds. Accordingly, even ideas that are clear to you may not be to others. Accordingly, it is vital to make yourself as clear as possible. || Remember to always include any relevant clarifications in posts; not comments.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 3:06
  • The English in your posts often renders them indecipherable. This has nothing to do with people who prefer the clear approach of the Risohnim to mysticism. For example: Yaakov intentionally kept a distance between him and Leah, as opposed to Rochel that was very close (as himself), based on Shir Hashirim "הסבי עיניך מנגדי שהם הרהיבני" It is unclear what you mean by based on Shir Hashirim "הסבי עיניך מנגדי שהם הרהיבני" Do you mean that Do you mean that Yaakov based himself on Shir HaShirim, or that this verse in Shir HaShirim tells us that this is what Yaakov did? Consider clarifying.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 3:09
  • @mevaqesh I try my best. By "Based" I mean this is consistent with, or this behavior is described by, or is a implementation, so to speak, of an idea in Shir Hashirim. It's like a falling apple is an implementation of the law of gravity, that's written elsewhere. In "Hassidisher" terms we use "בחינת" or simply "בחי'".
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 29, 2017 at 12:42

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