By Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski
Yaakov suggests to Lavan that in reward for his shepherding Lavan’s sheep he will marry Rachel his younger daughter. Lavan agrees and Yaakov fulfills his side of the deal. Yaakov asks Lavan in turn to give him Rachel as a wife.
Upon the wedding night Lavan switches Leah his older daughter for Rachel whom Yaakov only discovers the next morning. The Torah (29 25) tells us Yaakov questioned Lavan as to why he tricked him, nonetheless there is no mention of Yaakov having any regrets as to having married Leah. The Torah even seems to imply that Yaakov actually had affection for Leah for it tells us (29 30) that Yaakov also loved Rachel, in other words in addition to loving Leah. Yaakov would have had every reason to despise Leah, let alone love her. Not only did Lavan trick Yaakov, but Leah as well deceived Yaakov and didn’t tell him anything of the switch.
The passuk later tells us (29 30) Hashem saw that Leah was hated, and hence opened her womb (blessing her with children). The Medrash tells us that indeed Yaakov despised Leah for deceiving him and had entertained divorcing her. Hashem knew that Leah did so for the ultraistic purpose of marrying a Tzadik and having children from him. Being this her intent Hashem had mercy on her and blessed her with children. Yaakov in turn for the sake of the children stayed married to her (see Ramban). The Ramban however shies away from such an approach and offers a different explanation. The Ramban suggests (in the name of the Radak) that the passuk only calls her hated in comparison to Rachel, his greater love. Seemingly the Ramban is bothered by the fact that the passuk seems to infer Yaakov indeed loved Leah.
Yaakov Avinu transcended the bounds of human compassion, while he had every right to loathe Leah, he didn’t. Yaakov stayed married to her; he loved Leah Imeinu. Yaakov understood the pain and anguish Leah would have had if he uprooted their marriage. He didn’t entertain the idea for a second of not staying married. To Yaakov Leah’s emotions were his priorities in his sticky situation. Instead of thinking about his rotten end of the deal he thought of another’s emotions. From Yaakov’s sensitivity were most of the shvatim born.
One could say: Klal Yisroel is built upon sensitivity.
Rabbi Krakowski is The Rov Hamachshir for OU Israel and a recognized Posek in the Shaarei Chesed and Rechavia neighborhoods of Yerushalayim. He served as Rov of Kehilas Torah Vechesed.