On Parshas V’ayetzei

Rabbi Israel Chait

A friend of mine asked me the following question: “How can we understand that Yaacov did not know he was sleeping with Leah and not with Rachel, after he spent the entire night with her?  Even if there were no light in his tent, he would certainly recognize her by her voice.  It is difficult to assume that he never spoke to her during the entire first night of their wedding.”  I added that the halacha states clearly that a blind person can live with his wife because he can recognize her voice.

I believe the answer is based on something we said in the past. We said the peculiar character of Laban was that he outwardly presented himself as the most righteous of people. [Laban whose name means “white” clearly belied his under lying nature, Chazal.] Hence, when Eliezer told the story of his meeting with Rivka at the well, he immediately jumped up and said, “Mayhashem yatzah hadavar”, “This is surely min Hashamayim.” It is for that reason that Eliezer prayed to G-d that the maiden who comes forth and greets him saying “drink, and also for your camels I will draw water, she is the one whom G-d has determined to be the wife of your servant Isaac.” [This type of action is actually prohibited, as it is a form of nichush, magic.] We read how Eliezer repeated the story and said, “I had hardly finished speaking and behold Rivka came forth with her pitcher on her shoulder and did exactly as the sign Eliezer set forth.” Eliezer knew that religious people are often superstitious looking for signs in everything as the expression of the divine will for their own benefit.  Thus, Laban acting out his outward religiosity proclaimed, “This is min Hashmayim”,  “This is surely the Divine will.” 

Returning to our original question, we must presume that Laban in his religious disguise acted with the utmost ‘tznius’, modesty, he covered the face of the bride so Yaacov couldn’t see her and had them both enter the tent while the members of the wedding festivities did not leave, causing the conjugal pair to not be able to speak to each other during their first night of matrimony.  This must have been a ritual employed by Laban in order to impose on the couple according to his distorted thinking a supreme level of modesty. Thus Jacob forced to comply with Laban’s rituals being alone in the tent with people nearby outside the tent had to refrain from speaking. Laban felt it was a righteous act to reduce the privacy of the couple on their first night so they could not fully indulge in the joys of their first encounter. It was therefore not until the morning that he discovered he was deceived.