Parshas Vayeitzei-Torah Or-The mystical levels of Leah and Rachel

This article is an excerpt from our Sefer

Buy me here or on


Ulelavan Shtei Banos….…”

[Torah Or p. 22a]

The stories told in the Torah are at times exciting, passionate, and filled with drama. At other times, the narrative appears redundant or superfluous, puzzling the reader as to its meaning and intent. The Shlah Hakadosh states that the Torah speaks to the Elyonim and hints to the Tachtonim. This means that the Torah speaks of spiritual sublime matters that are simply expressed in a physical context within our world below. Thus, while one may think he understands the physical episode described in the Parsha, in truth he only understands the metaphor and may be missing the entire internal aspect of the story. In light of this, the Mamar of this week focuses on the esoteric meaning behind the Matriarchs, Rachel and Leah, the wives of Yaakov. What were the two levels represented by Rachel and Leah? Why did Yaakov love Rachel and not Leah? Was he simply after physical beauty or did Rachel represent a spiritual level specifically pertinent to Yaakov’s Divine service? Why was Rachel barren while Leah had six children? Who was Lavan, and what did he represent? Why did Yaakov agree to have such a conniving father in-law? This leads to a discussion on the Holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Which revelations were apparent in Eretz Yisrael during the years of the Temple, and which level of revelation is experienced today? On the one hand, we find that in the times of the Temple there existed thousands of prophets and Tzaddikim that had Ruach Hakodesh. On the other hand, it is testified that specifically in the time of exile, after the destruction of the Temple, there were Sages whose Divine Wisdom exceeded even the knowledge of the greatest of prophets of the previous generations. What is it about Eretz Yisrael that causes it to produce prophets and Sages, and what is the difference between the times of exile and times of the Temple?



Explorations of the Mamar

1.      The mystical meaning of Rachel and Leah and what they represent in Kedusha.

2.      The revelations experienced in Eretz Yisrael during the Beis Hamikdash era and during Exile.

3.      Why Yaakov specifically loved Rachel.

4.      Why Rachel was barren.

5.      Torah or Mitzvos-which is more important?



The two levels of Leah and Rachel:

Lavan had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. These two daughters represent the level of Machshava and Dibbur, thought and speech, the world of Iskasya [the hidden world] and the world of Isgalya [the revealed world]. Rachel represents the level of speech, Alma Deisgalya, while Leah represents the level of thought, Alma Deiskasya. The level of speech and Alma Deisgalya are the spiritual levels that relate to the worlds and are experienced by its creations. The level of thought and Alma Deiskasya are the sublime spiritual level that surpasses the world’s capacity of intake and hence breaks the barriers of the creations. In Avodas Hashem, the level of Rachel/speech represents the practical Mitzvos, the level of action. Leah, on the other hand, represents the level of Torah learning and prayer that is similar to the level of thought as it does not involve any interaction with the world. 

The two revelations in Eretz Yisrael:

During the times that the Beis Hamikdash was established, there were two levels of revelation that shone in Eretz Yisrael: the level of Rachel, Alma Deisgalya, and the level of Leah, Alma Deiskasya. This is the inner meaning of the verse, Beartzos Hachaim/The lands of Israel, in the plural form, as in the single land of Israel there are two revelations.

The revelation of Rachel-Prophecy and Ruach Hakodesh:

The main level of revelation that shone during the times of the Mikdash was the level of Rachel, who is considered the Akeres Habayis, the main wife of Yaakov. This is similar to one’s speech, which contains one’s thoughts, but nevertheless it is one’s speech that is specifically revealed. Similarly, during the times of the Temple, although both levels were revealed in Eretz Yisrael it was specifically the level of speech, Rachel, Isgalya, that was experienced by its inhabitants. It was due to this revelation that Eretz Yisrael experienced a great exposure of G-dliness. As a result of this G-dliness, many great Sages arose in Eretz Yisrael and there were many who experienced the Divine spirit of Ruach Hakodesh and prophecy. For this reason, it states that prophecy only resides in Eretz Yisrael. This especially applies to the Beis Hamikdash, the Kodesh Hakedoshim, the Urim Vetumim, and the Avoda of Karbanos, for which a fire would descend from Heaven. However, after the destruction of the Temple, the Jewish people and the Shechina, which is the level of Rachel, were exiled into the angelic princes of the seventy nations. This caused the revelation of Rachel not to shine at all in Eretz Yisrael to the same level that it shone previously when the Temple was established.

The revelation of Leah-Increase in G-dly wisdom:

Although the level of Rachel no longer shines in Eretz Yisrael, nevertheless the level of Leah remains shining. This level is higher than the level of Rachel, just as thought is higher than speech. However, being that the level of Leah is concealed, as it is the level of Alma Deiskasya, the revelation of Elokus today in Eretz Yisrael is therefore incomparably less than the level of revelation experienced in the time of the Temple. Nevertheless, despite the lesser revelation, the great Tzaddikim of Eretz Yisrael are able to comprehend today in Eretz Yisrael much more sublime matters than the Tzaddikim were able to comprehend in the time of the Temple. The reason for this is because the level of Leah, which is more sublime than the level of Rachel, is revealed. This was vividly seen with the Arizal, who comprehended such sublime spiritual matters that his understanding surpassed the comprehension of even the greatest Tzaddikim of previous generations.  


The Neshamos of Eretz Yisrael:

The Rebbe Maharash once stated that the Neshamos of Eretz Yisrael are different than regular Neshamos. A certain Chassid challenged this assertion, stating that he has never noticed any difference. The Rebbe Maharash proceeded to tell him a story of a certain simple ignorant Jew living in Eretz Yisrael, who had to go to the Rabbi each day to be directed as to which prayers he should recite. One day, when he came to the Rav, he saw that all the shops were closed and automatically assumed the day was a Holiday that required special prayers. He hence asked the Rav why he had not shown him the special prayers for that day. The Rav replied that in truth it was a regular weekday and the shops were closed because of a special prayer session that was held due to a drought.

The simple Jew replied, “I do not understand. Whenever I need rain for my crops, I do not close my business and perform special prayers. All I do is go outside, raise my hand to Hashem, and ask Him to send me rain, and it immediately begins to rain on my fields.”

The Rebbe Maharash concluded, “Now that is a Neshama of Eretz Yisrael.” From here, we see the special Kedusha of Eretz Yisrael even in times of Galus and concealment and how it still contains a sublime and holy spirit that is not found in other lands.


Why Yaakov loved Rachel more than Leah:

The verse states that Leah was despised. Why did Yaakov despise Leah? Certainly, Yaakov comprehended the level of Leah, which is the world of Iskasya and even higher than Rachel. Rather, the explanation is as follows: Yaakov is considered the middle of the three Avos. He is referred to as the Beriach Hatichon, which was the middle rod that extends from one end of the Mishkan to the other. Thus, we see that the position of Yaakov was to connect. In spiritual terms, this means that Yaakov was given the spiritual task of connecting the upper worlds with the lower worlds; to draw down Elokus from the Or Ein Sof of Kesser to the world below, the level of Malchus. It is for this reason that Yaakov loved Rachel more than Leah, as although Leah represented the high and sublime level of Alma Deiskasya, it was nevertheless Rachel that represented the purpose of Yaakov’s life to draw down Elokus into the world below, Alma Deisgalya, the level of Rachel. Yaakov’s entire desire and yearning was for this revelation, the level of Rachel, [and hence also physically he had greater attraction to Rachel than Leah]. This is the inner meaning behind the kiss that Yaakov gave Rachel. A kiss represents the level of Chabad, known in Kabbalistic terms as Zivug Neshikin. Yaakov drew into Rachel the most inner level of Chabad that came from his most inner love for her representation in Kedusha.

The generation of the Midbar and the sin of the Meraglim-The level of Leah:

The difference between the form of service of Rachel and Leah leads us to understand the generation of the Midbar and the Meraglim that did not want to enter Eretz Yisrael. That generation was from the level of Leah, the level of Machshava, thought. They desired to remain in the desert, immersed in spiritual matters, and not descend and involve themselves in the physical world. Entering Eretz Yisrael would begin a new phase in Torah and Mitzvos, a phase that involved working the land and performing Mitzvos through labor and toil. This would disturb the Jewish people from being able to focus on learning Torah and Avodas Hashem. They therefore did not desire to enter into Eretz Yisrael. They claimed that the Mitzvos could be performed on their spiritual plane, the level of thought, and it was not necessary to stoop to physicality in order to perform the Mitzvos. However, this was a grave mistake as it is not possible to draw down a high level of G-dliness through mere thought, Torah learning, and prayer. Rather, one is required to perform actions, as the actions of the Mitzvos are in truth rooted in a much higher level than Torah learning and prayer. It is for this reason that Moshe Rabbeinu prayed 515 prayers in order to enter into Eretz Yisrael, as he wanted to merit this great revelation below. According to all of the above, it is understood why Yaakov loved Rachel and despised Leah, as Rachel was speech and action, the purpose of entering Eretz Yisrael, while Leah was mere thought, the level of the Dor Hamidbar.

The level of Lavan:

Lavan, in his physical form below, was a very powerful level of Kelipa, evil. This, however, is because Lavan was rooted in an even higher level of Kedusha. The word Lavan means “white.” The level of Lavan in Kedusha represents the level of Lavnunis, Kesser. This is a level of pure Chassadim [kindness] that contains no severity. This is the meaning of Vayashkem Lavan Baboker, that “Lavan woke up in the morning.” It represents the arousal of the side of kindness in the mornings, as each morning the kindness of Hashem re-shines. This level of the Lavan of Kedusha was drawn down into Rachel through Yaakov.

Why Rachel was barren:

Rachel was unable to have children for many years, in contrast to Leah who immediately bore Yaakov children. Why? If Rachel represents the level of Giluiy, speech, then she should specifically be the one with the ability to draw down into the world and bear children. Why do we find that specifically Leah, who is the level of thought, had children right away? The explanation is as follows: Since Rachel is the level of speech, Alma Deisgalya, everything that she reveals into the world must be on a level that the world can accept and take in. Since Rachel had received the level of Lavan of Kedusha, she was unable to give birth and reveal it to the world, as this level is too sublime and is above the world’s capacity. 


The six children of Leah:

Leah was the level of Alma Deiskasya, the world of Atzilus. Each one of her children corresponds to another one of the Middos of Atzilus. Each child represents another sublime level of Avodas Hashem that corresponds to the level of thought. Reuven stems from the level of sight, while Shimon originates from the level of hearing. Levi represents the level of Hiskashrus, a deep intellectual connection to Hashem. It was for this reason that Moshe, who derived from the tribe of Levi, had a speech impairment, as his great intellectual connection prevented him from being able to reveal his thoughts within speech. This, however, is merely internal Bittul. Yehuda represents external Bittul, bowing down to Hashem and revealing his subjugation before all. This is the level of Hodayah.

One must incorporate both levels of Rachel and Leah within his Avodas Hashem:

After Leah gave birth to Levi, she stated her belief that her husband would now desire her. In spiritual terms this does not mean that she felt that Yaakov would now shun Rachel and attach himself only to Leah, but rather that he would incorporate both Rachel and Leah within his form of Avoda. In truth, one is required to serve Hashem with thought, speech, and action, through Torah, Tefillah, and Mitzvos. It does not suffice to have one without the other. Nevertheless, even then, the main aspect of Avoda that is relevant to all Jews equally is the level of action-Mitzvos. Not all Jews are able to dedicate most of their time to matters of Torah and prayer, which is the service of thought. It was for this reason that Yaakov’s main residence was the tent of Rachel.


Chabad versus Chagas:[1]

Chassidim teach that one of the major differences between Chabad Chassidus and other Chassidic schools is the idea of thought versus action. Many Chassidic Masters emphasized the importance of emotion, love, and fear of G-d, and even belittled the level of action. They emphasized that the entire purpose of action of the Mitzvos is to refine the heart and bring one to a rapturous state of love of G-d and Dveikus. This followed the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov in his emphasis on Dveikus and emotion. The Alter Rebbe, however, taught that the main Avoda is the action of the Mitzvos and not the emotions, or love and fear. It is just that emotions are also required in order to elevate actions to Kedusha. It is said that this was one of the reasons that Chabad Chassidim were thought of by other Chassidic groups as the Litvisher Chassidim, as they were viewed to have demoted the philosophy of Chassidism, which emphasizes emotion, and in turn emphasized the classical teachings of the Misnagdim, which emphasize only action. Nevertheless, the Alter Rebbe merited revealing that even according to the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, it is not enough to have emotion.  In fact, action is even higher than love and fear, and it is action that creates the Dirah Betachtonim. It is interesting to note that the Rebbe once stated that the Alter Rebbe was similar to Yosef, who derived from Rachel [action], and was opposed by the other Chassidic masters who were similar to Yosef’s brothers, who derived from Leah [thought and emotion]. It was this opposition of the other Chassidic masters that caused in Heaven for the Alter Rebbe to be decreed to sit in prison for spreading Chassidus, similar to Yosef’s brothers who had him thrown into the pit.



Lessons of the Mamar

·         The main emphasis must be on action. Many of us get caught up in thoughtful ideas and discuss deep emotional and intellectual topics. The main function, however, of our thought and speech is to bring it to practical fruition. Make the action of these ideas your main focus.

·         The purpose of learning Torah and prayer is to bring us towards the proper action of the Mitzvos. Always embrace something you learn into a practical resolution that will affect your day to day actions.

·         Visiting Eretz Yisrael? Living in Eretz Yisrael? Be aware that even today, in the times of Galus, Eretz Yisrael contains great Kedusha, and in certain matters even surpasses the Kedusha in the times of the Temple.


[1] Heard from Rav Chaim Shalom Deitch

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Leave A Comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.