Vayeshev- Blurred Gray or Clear Gray

After the brothers sold Yosef into slavery, tore his garments, dipped them in goat’s blood and told their father that Yosef was torn apart by a wild animal, Yaakov ripped his garments and was inconsolable. “All his sons and daughters got up to comfort him and he refused solace, he said ‘I will mourn for my son until I am buried’ and his father cried over him” (Breishis [Genesis] 37:35).
The Daas Zekeinim asks who these daughters were, for there was only one known daughter of Yaakov, Dinah. The Daas Zekeinim answers that, according to one opinion, each of Yaakov’s sons were born with a twin sister, and the twins married each other. The Daas Zekeinim askes an obvious question; doesn’t it say in Gemara [Talmud] tractate Yoma 28b that Avraham our forefather observed every single mitzvah, even eruv tavshilin (the rabbinic enactment which allows one to cook on Shabbos for Yom Tov when Yom Tov falls on Friday)? They even fulfilled the mitzvah of yibum [levirate marriage] as Yehuda told his son to do after his brother passed away without children. If this was the case, how did Yaakov’s sons marry there sisters? Also, how did Yaakov marry two sisters?

The Daas Zekeinim answers that since they were not commanded to follow the Torah, even though they knew it through Divine inspiration [ruach hakodesh], whatever they wanted to do they fulfilled and whatever they did not want to do they set aside.

Yet when it says in Gemara [tractate Pesachim 119b] that ‘in the World to Come at the Feast of the Righteous Yaakov will be given the cup of wine to lead the Grace after the Meal (bircas hamazon) but he will refuse it because he married two sister,’ this implies that it was an inappropriate thing to do. So why did he marry them?
The Daas Zekeinim say that one can answer that despite it not being forbidden at the time, never the less, since the Torah declared it forbidden in the future, he deserved a slight punishment. And despite knowing that he would receive a slight punishment for marrying them, he did so because he only wanted to marry righteous women and he was unable to find, in that generation, women as righteous as them. To marry one (just Leah or Rochel) would have been impossible, because one woman could not have given birth to all twelve tribes. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

Taking this to a deeper level, we arrive at something very perplexing. Yaakov, and all the tribes for that matter, were on extremely high levels of belief and understanding of Hashem, of reward and punishment. They understood that the Torah is the blueprints of creation and they were divinely inspired to live their lives with this tool. They obviously, therefore, felt that the right decision was to observe what the Torah entails in order to  ensure they lived a healthy and moral life, and that they keep the world functioning in a healthy and moral manner. We can assume they wouldn’t do anything too negligent, which might compromise their belief system.

If so, something is not right here. If it was deserving of punishment, why did Yaakov marry two sisters? And if they were the ones he was supposed to marry, because they were the best candidates, why was he even slightly punished?
We must conclude, then, that not everything is black or white; rather, many things in life are shades of gray. It is possible that Yaakov had to marry two sisters even if the Torah said that it was  forbidden to do so, and that there would be automatic consequences to him, which would, to some degree, effects the whole entire world. It was still the right decision to make, as there was no one else in the world befitting to marry.

After the Torah was given to the Jews on Har Sinai [Mount Sinai] the mitzvos inside were no longer voluntary. However we can still learn a tremendous lesson; that one cannot assume every situation in life is black or white. We have to acknowledge there are many shades of gray. It is very likely that we won’t be able to make some decisions on our own, especially tough ones. But that is why it isimportant to seek advice, especially from a Torah authority, who has a stronger understanding of the intricacies of right and wrong.

Leave a Reply