Throughout the saga of our forefathers and their families there are many moments depicting powerful emotions.
The joyous laughter of Avraham and Sarah. The expressed ‘love’ of Yitzchok for Rivkah, and their love for their children. The ‘trembling’ fear of Yitzchok when discovering Yaakov having preempted Esav. The ‘flaring anger’ of Yaakov when Rachel demands of him children. The anguished ‘cries’ of Yosef and his brothers throughout their ordeal.
In each of these instances although our sages reveal deeper layers to their emotions, yet the פשוטו של מקרא, the simple reading of the text, speaks for itself.
Avraham and Sarah thrilled over the news they would have a child. Yitzchock met his ‘bashert’ and sensed a genuine love. He and Rivkah infused love in their children. Yaakov was upset with Rachel’s expectation of him. Yosef relived the pain of his distance from them, and they cried upon reuniting.
Yet when Yaakov emotionally reacts to his finding Rachel, it is unclear what exactly he is emoting over.
Then Yaakov kissed Rachel; and he raised his voice and wept. (בראשית כט יא)
The Midrash describes this kiss as a ‘kiss of closeness’, a loving expression of a pure and platonic connection Yaakov sensed upon discovering his beloved mother’s niece. This fits into the plain meaning of the text. But, why the raised voice? What is he crying about?
The Midrash teaches that he cried out loudly over the fact that he foresaw she would not be buried with him. He also bemoaned that he had been fleeced by Elifaz and came empty handed of any gift to present to his very special bride to be.
The Torah chose though to merely report the emotion without revealing any obvious cause for it.
The motivation for the kiss is self-evident. Yet, the reaction of tears coupled with an elevated vocal expression leaves us wondering. What is the Torah seeking to teach us here?
Perhaps the emphasis here is on the ingredients for meaningful connection and relationships. In addition to bonding in friendship to one another physically, whether through a handshake, kiss or embrace, one must express one’s feelings for each other. It must be evident not only in the verbal expression and words one chooses to articulate, but more importantly in the feeling that is conveyed in both the tone and volume of the ‘voice’; the sincerity, the passion, the warmth, the concern and empathy. But most important of all is the ability to show vulnerability, a lack of fear in displaying one’s deepest emotions to those we are closest to. Displaying our empathy for another to the point of tears indicates the deepest of connection.
Certainly, Rachel was not expecting any gifts, but that didn’t diminish Yaakov’s pained frustration in not being able to express to her how worthy and extraordinary she is.
Rachel too possessed this remarkable quality. Her exquisite bond with Leah and her ability to truly identify with Leah’s pain is what compelled her to grant her the secret signs that would enable Leah to marry Yaakov. The character trait that Yaakov and Rachel evidently shared, is what gave Rachel the confidence to know that Yaakov would readily accept her deception.
Might that also be the deeper sentiment in Yaakov’s crying over Rachel’s eventual burial on the road to Beis Lechem rather than in the Me’aras HaMachpela. It was his allying with her distinguished ability to feel for her children in crying for them as no other could, when they would descend into their long exile later in history.
Yaakov’s displayed anguish over not being able to proffer a gift for Rivkah is contrasted with the coldhearted Elifaz who negotiates with Yaakov a way to fulfill his contract with his ‘Godfather’ Esav who commissioned him to kill him. Yaakov suggests that by taking all of his possessions, he will be impoverished and considered as ‘dead’.
Elifaz instills his home with the creed of the Esav clan, to look coldly at the world and never permit emotion to interfere with one’s objectives. It’s no wonder, Amalek his emotionless son is termed the one who, קרך בדרך, cooled off the world’s reverence for His chosen people, on the way out of Egypt.
It is irrelevant, for the plain meaning of the text, what the catalyst for Yaakov’s emotional outburst might have been. What the Torah sought to teach is the practical formula to creating meaningful relationships. In this marriage of Yaakov to Rachel, which represented the nucleus of the family that would bring the world to its perfected state, there had to be present the seeds for that magnificent fruit.
Bond, express, and pour out your heart to one another, for in these qualities lay the foundation of a relationship that will ultimately bind us inextricably to the One above.
צבי יהודה טייכמאן