The Lost Matriarch: Finding Leah in the Bible and Midrash

The Lost Matriarch: Finding Leah in the Bible and Midrash

The Lost Matriarch: Finding Leah in the Bible and Midrash

The Lost Matriarch: Finding Leah in the Bible and Midrash

Synopsis

The Lost Matriarch offers a unique response to the sparse and puzzling biblical treatment of the matriarch Leah. Although Leah is a major figure in the book of Genesis, the biblical text allows her only a single word of physical description and two lines of direct dialogue. The Bible tells us little about the effects of her lifelong struggles in an apparently loveless marriage to Jacob, the husband she shares with three other wives, including her beautiful younger sister, Rachel. Fortunately, two thousand years of traditional and modern commentators have produced many fascinating interpretations (midrash) that reveal the far richer story of Leah hidden within the text.

Through Jerry Rabow's weaving of biblical text and midrash, readers learn the lessons of the remarkable Leah, who triumphed over adversity and hardship by living a life of moral heroism. The Lost Matriarch reveals Leah's full story and invites readers into the delightful, provocative world of creative rabbinic and literary commentary. By experiencing these midrashic insights and techniques for reading "between the lines," readers are introduced to what for many will be an exciting new method of personal Bible interpretation.

Excerpt

Why a book about Leah? Other biblical heroines perform more impressive deeds and deliver more memorable speeches than Leah. After Deborah leads the Israelites in a grand battle against the Canaanites, she commemorates her victory in a song of praise to God (Judg. 4:4-5:31). Hannah resolutely corrects the mistaken accusations of the priest and later expresses her thanks for the birth of Samuel in a song of prayer (1 Sam. 1:1-2:10). and in the Apocrypha, Judith saves the Israelites by killing the Assyrian general Holophernes, memorializing her victory in a song of glory to God (Jdt. 8:1-16:25). But the Bible does not describe any great victories for Leah, and she doesn’t deliver any impressive prayer-songs.

It is true that Leah is a member of that exclusive club of biblical heroines whom we remember as our Matriarchs. in contrast with how the Bible describes the other Matriarchs, however, the text remains stubbornly mute about Leah’s words and deeds. Those other Matriarchs are shown living brave and memorable lives of action and initiative, performing acts that change their families as well as the destiny of the Jewish people: Sarah protects her son by demanding the removal of his half brother Ishmael, a proposal expressly ratified by God (Gen. 21:9-13). Rebekah in turn intervenes for Jacob, her favorite son, by orchestrating Isaac’s blessing ceremony so that it will be for the benefit of Jacob and ultimately for the Children of Israel (Gen. 27:5-17). and Leah’s sister, Rachel, forcefully assumes responsibility over her own life and her posterity when she res-

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