This past Shabbat, we welcomed Miriam Udel, Yiddish Professor at Emory University. Her talk was titled “Sisters Before Misters.” She first read through a midrash about Rachel and Leah. Udel explained the relationship between these two sisters and their desire to protect each other. Before their wedding night, Rachel and Yaakov had agreed on signals so that if a switch was attempted, Yaakov would be able to pick up on it and stop the marriage. At the last minute, Rachel gave these signals to Yaakov and helped Lead fool him in order to help her avoid embarrassment. It may seem backwards for Rachel to do this. I can’t think of many sisters that would give up their fiance to their older sister. However, this action speaks volumes about Rachel. She felt so strongly that her sister not be shamed and went out of her way to help her and save her from hardship of waiting longer to be with the one she loved. Not only was this a sacrifice, but it also shows Rachel’s intentionality and her desire to be a player in her own life and not just let her uncle decide for her. Had she not helped Leah, Leah would have been embarrassed and Rachel would have lost out on the marriage anyway.
Udel connected this midrash to Tisha B’Av as we started to prepare for the day on Sunday. She read what Rachel begged when the destruction had begun. Rachel used her empathy for her sister and put aside her jealousy so she wouldn’t embarrass her.
Udel concluded the talk by reading a Yiddish poem called “Two Roses” by Eliezer Shtaynbarg. The poem was about a metal rose that was beautiful and a natural rose that was slowly wilting. Though there was an imbalance in their beauty and the metal rose was pushy that she was young and beautiful and the natural rose should want to be more like her, the natural rose took a final stand and taught that she would be reborn and her beauty would be strong again.
This oneg was not one to be missed and was appropriate for Tisha B’Av following on Sunday. We are looking forward to welcoming our Shabbat guests this week, Sorqi Reguer and Joe Reimer!