Seeing the world through Leah’s eyes - Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio
In this week’s Torah portion we continue to follow the story of Jacob as he flees from his brother’s wrath, after stealing his blessing, in an act of deception. Jacob, alone in the desert has a dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder and he awakens and exclaims: “God was in this place and I did not know it!” Jacob then makes his way to his uncle Lavan’s home where he meets Lavan’s daughter Rachel. He is besotted and agrees to work seven years for her hand in marriage. At the same time he meets Rachel, he also encounter her older sister Leah. We are given a description of the two sisters: “Now Lavan had two daughters: the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Now Leah’s eyes were weak (cloudy) but Rachel was comely of form and appearance. And Jacob loved Rachel”
The description of the two sisters has often been interpreted as Rachel having great outer beauty and Leah being less attractive, with her weak/cloudy eyes. But the word “rakot” translated as ‘weak’ or ‘cloudy’ can also mean ‘soft, gentle or tender.’ So perhaps the description of Leah is not one of her physical beauty but rather her inner soul, her spiritual beauty. When she looked at the world, her eyes saw with softness, gentleness and tenderness. She saw the suffering of others, she recognised the pain of those around her; she looked at the world through a lens of compassion and care. Leah, the one who was unloved by her husband, who named her children from the depths of her pain, reflecting her hope that perhaps she too, could one day be graced a measure of the love bestowed on her sister, she could understand and see her struggles reflected in others. Her heart was moved through her eyes and her sight was filled with beauty and compassion.
From Leah we can learn to see through eyes of gentleness, to look at the world and notice the pain of those around us. It is tempting to see only the physical and outer beauty, to find magnificence and delight in the visual. But Leah calls us to a deeper seeing, a more present knowing where we can look and see where help is needed, and then reach out our hands to provide it.
The Torah portion begins with Jacob’s dream, his vision and seeing the world as he wanted it to be. Leah manifests that dream through her longing and her ability to see the wrongs, the pain and the struggle of those around her. And then, with her child Judah, the first in the Torah to have the name of God included in theirs, she joins a partnership with the Divine to work to bring to fruition the dreams of a caring, compassionate world.When we look around us through Leah’s eyes, we see so much pain, struggle and loneliness. There are so many who are in dire need of our support and help, both emotional and physical. Our Social Justice Committee this year has had limited opportunities to do the work we usually undertake, reaching out to those in need. We have recently been made aware of a desperate need from the Asylum Seekers Centre, for help with food and toiletries for the vulnerable populations with which they interact. This year at Yom Kippur we were unable to do our usual food drive for Mazon and similarly with our Mitzvah Day collections, so we are reaching out now for donations to help the Asylum Seeker Centre. Click here for details of goods needed and drop-off points so that we can all reach out and bring some light into the lives of others as Chanukah approaches.
I hope and pray that we can all continue to see the world through Leah’s eyes of compassion, gentleness and tenderness and bring to fruition the dream of a caring, just world for all.
Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio
7 Ocean Street
Woollahra, NSW 2025
p: 02 9389 6444
Parashat Chayei Sarah
Shabbat, November 14, 2020
27th of Cheshvan, 5781
Friday, October 9 7:16PM
Motzei Shabbat 7:53PM
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