Laban had two daughters. The name of the older one was Leah and the name of the younger one was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were tender, while Rachel was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance . . .
When Jacob first saw Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, he instantly fell in love with her. So much so, in fact, that he agreed to work for Laban for seven years in order to marry her. As the story goes, Jacob was so taken with Rachel that those years went by as if they were minutes.
But on their wedding night, Leah, the older daughter, is sent to the wedding canopy in Rachel’s place. In the morning, Jacob realizes that he’s wed the wrong sister and confronts Laban. But what was done was done, so Jacob agrees to work another seven years in order to marry his true love. For the rest of their lives, the two sisters vie for Jacob’s attention, raising a family that reflects their rivalry, despite the ultimate good that comes of it.
Deception is a big factor in this story: Not only does Laban trick Jacob, but Rachel also tricks him by giving her sister the secret signals that she and Jacob had made up in advance of the wedding so Leah wouldn’t be embarrassed. And Leah also agrees to go through with the deception.
Commentators say that when Jacob woke up in the morning, he first confronted Leah, asking how she could have lied and pretended to be her sister. Leah responded that she’d acted much like her new husband, who once lied to his own father and pretended to be his evil twin brother, Esau, in order to get the blessing of the firstborn. With that reality as the basis for their marriage, it’s no wonder that this love triangle is one of the most famous in history!
Leah is described as having had “tender” eyes—in other words, she’s the less attractive of the sisters. While some biblical scholars say this description indicates that she was cross-eyed, others note that her eyes were damaged from excessive weeping, to the point where her vision was impaired.
Why was Leah crying so much, even before she met and married Jacob and entered her less-than-perfect relationship? According to kabalistic sources, Leah was predestined to marry Esau, and Rachel to marry Jacob; the two couples were then meant to produce 12 sons, each of whom would become the head of a tribe that would together comprise the Jewish nation. Leah, who knew that Esau was a man of the field who wouldn’t follow his destiny, cried constantly over the fact that she wouldn’t be able to fulfill her part in the history of her people as a result.
When Jacob meets Rachel, he’s instantly smitten, not only because she’s so beautiful, but because their match was “meant to be.” When he marries Leah, he must work very hard to come to terms with the lies he’s told in his life and the way they’ve all reconfigured the neat, orderly family saga as it was intended.
Leah is the one who best understands this situation, and although she’ll suffer as the wife who’s known to all as “second choice,” she’s comforted by being able to fulfill her destiny after all. By marrying Jacob and having six sons with him, she manages to become a matriarch after all.
Leah is the consummate example of a woman of valor—someone who suffers for her ideals, yet is unwavering in her faith and devotion. Throughout her long life with Jacob, the two develop a bond that in the end is stronger and more enduring than the bond that exists between him and Rachel. Because they had to conquer their anger at one another, and because her love for him was unreturned for so long (despite the family they were building together), Leah and Jacob represent a mature, adult relationship that deepens and blossoms with time. In the end, it is Leah who is buried next to Jacob when she dies, and it is Leah’s children who will fulfill the more substantial roles in history as the heads of the Messianic line and the Priestly class.
The Lamed is the tallest letter of the alephbet, stretching far into the upper realms. It is the letter that spells the word “lamed”, meaning “learn” or “teach.” Therefore, the Lamed represents a higher, spiritual form of knowledge.
The Kabala says that Leah represents the upper world of the Shekina (God’s feminine form) revealed, whereas Rachel represents the lower world of the Shekina in exile. With this in mind, we can see another interpretation of Leah’s “tender eyes”: If eyes are the window into the soul, then Leah’s soul is one that recognizes her own suffering. She’s seen her path in life and taken control of it, changing the circumstances of her life in order to put things into place. Leah is clearly in charge of her own destiny—she’s the one who reveals it.
The Lamed card comes to reflect the inner knowledge of Leah. Accept yourself and realize that any shortcomings you may think you have are, in essence, your strongest attributes. When you come to truly understand and accept your destiny, you’ll find ways to make it happen.
Reach up and look deep into the windows of your own soul—there you’ll find the tools you need to make your dreams a reality.