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In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we read of the marriage of Yaakov to Lavan’s two daughters, Rachel and Leah.
Many of the commentaries question this. We are taught that even before the Torah was given, our forefathers kept all of its commands. One of those commands is the prohibition against marrying two sisters; as the Torah says “you shall not take a woman with her sister in marriage …” This being the case, how was Yaakov, our forefather, permitted to marry Rachel and Leah, who were sisters?
Each of the commentaries answers this question in their own manner. However, Rashi does not deal with this question. He explains the simple meaning of the Torah; everything which is needed in order to understand the entire Torah. Yet he disregards this question. In other words, according to Peshat, there is no question. How can that be?
The status of the Patriarchs and their descendants prior to the giving of the Torah was that of among the rest of the population, i.e. Noach’s other descendants. The entire population of the world was commanded to follow seven commandments. After the Torah was given to the Jewish Nation, the Jews acquired a special status and were obligated to fulfill 613 Mitzvos.
In addition to the seven universal commandments, the population of the world accepted upon themselves other commandments for the benefit of society. These were equally binding upon one and all. For example, it was accepted not to deceive another. Accordingly, we find that Yaakov scolded Lavan, “why have you deceived me?”
These commandments which were binding upon everyone took precedence over the 613 commandments of the Torah. For our forefathers keeping the Torah’s Mitzvos was something extra that enhanced their service of G-d. If the fulfillment of any the 613 commandments would render it impossible to observe one of the binding commandments, it could not be fulfilled. Yaakov had already promised that he would marry Rachel, hence he was obligated to do so.
There are times that helping our fellow Jew, and keeping our word must take precedence over another law. May we all take care (after checking with a competent Rabbi) that we are not being too religious, and remember to help our fellow Jews.
Wishing everyone a good Shabbos.
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 5, Beginning with Page 141
IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR FATHER
Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
DEDICATED BY HIS SON-IN-LAW AND DAUGHTER
RABBI SHMUEL AND RIFKA שי’MENDELSOHN
* * *
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יו”ל ע”י חתנו ובתו שיחיו
הרה”ת ר’ שמואל ורבקה שי’ מענדלסאהן
. This is cited in a number of places in the Midrash. Among them, see Bereishis Rabbah, Chapter 95, 3.
. Parshas Acharei, Vayikroh 18:18.
. Our Parshah, Bereishis 29:25.