In Sefer Bereshit, 30:3-13 the maidservants of both Rochel and Leah are given to Yaacov in their stead to build Yaacov's house through bearing additional children. Since the text states that any offspring will be counted not only to Yaacov but to Rochel or Leah, it implies that the maidservants, Bilhah and Zilpah, were acting as agents of Rochel and Leah.

Since bearing children is life threatening for women and in light of the possibility of legal agency, it raises the question of whether a maidservant is required to risk their life for their master? Or does this reaffirm the idea that their participation was voluntary, like a legal agent, meaning a shluchah?

One added insight in connection with this is that if shlichut is present, this could resolve the question revolving around whether Bilhah and Zilpah were like Rochel and Leah, meaning of equal status or not.

  • 1
    related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/44941/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 21:49
  • These answers appear to be related to a husband and wife. The maidservants were at least initially not in that status. Also surprised Rabbi Moshe Feinstein says childbirth in proper time is not life threatening for a woman. The Torah states this clearly in connection with the signs given to Puah and Shifra (when the thighs cool). Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 22:05
  • It should be noted that the question is probably only relevant to the imahot if there was pre sinaic halakhic observance.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 22:07
  • 4
    "this could resolve the question revolving around whether Bilhah and Zilpah were Rochel and Leah" What such question is there?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 22:08
  • As far as I know the concept of legal agency preceded Sinai. It would probably be some derivative of the seven Noahide laws. So that is what would apply for Rochel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah. But the absence of a requirement to sacrifice ones life as a servant is critical in my eyes for it to work. Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 22:13


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