Yaakov gets married to Leah, Rochel, Bilhah and Zilpah. Eight of the twelve shevatim are born!
Yaakov wants to marry Rochel: Yaakov Avinu saw that Rochel was very special, and he wanted to marry her. So he asked Lavan if he could marry Rochel instead of getting paid for the work he did. He offered to work even for SEVEN YEARS — the amount of time his mother had told him to work for Lavan.
Since Yaakov knew that Lavan was a sneaky person, he tried to be extra-careful so he wouldn’t get tricked. He told Lavan EXACTLY who he wanted to marry, so that Lavan couldn’t pretend he didn’t understand: Rochel (not someone else), Lavan’s daughter (not a different Rochel), and the younger one (so he shouldn’t switch their names)! Yaakov also gave Rochel secret signs so he would know it’s her, in case Lavan would still try to trick him.
Yaakov worked very hard for seven years, but it felt like the time went by very quickly since he was so excited to have such a special kallah! Then Yaakov asked Lavan if he can marry Rochel already, since he had to go home, and he was already 84 years old.
Lavan tricks Yaakov into marrying Leah: Lavan made a big chasunah. But instead of bringing Rochel to get married, Lavan brought Leah. He kept her covered during the chasunah, so Yaakov wouldn’t realize. Even though Leah was older, Lavan gave her the younger maid, Zilpah, to make it harder to figure out his trick.
Rochel knew that Leah would be very embarrassed if Yaakov found out right away. So she had Mesiras Nefesh and told Leah the secret signs. Since she knew the signs, Yaakov thought she was Rochel and married her. But in the morning, Yaakov realized that it was Leah, and asked Lavan why he tricked him!
Lavan didn’t feel sorry! He said, “Well, it’s not nice for the younger sister to get married before the older one. So you had to marry Leah first, and only then you can marry Rochel also. After Sheva Brachos, you can marry Rochel, but then you’ll have to stay here and work for seven more years.”
Yaakov agreed, and married Rochel also. Lavan gave Rochel a maid, Bilhah.
Yaakov kept the whole Torah, even before Matan Torah. Even though the Torah teaches that it’s asur to marry two sisters, Yaakov married Rochel even though he was already married to Leah. That is because before Matan Torah, keeping the mitzvos was a chumra, something extra that he didn’t NEED to do. But hurting another person is an aveira always, even before the Torah was given! We learn a lesson from Yaakov Avinu that even if we want to be extra strict with our Yiddishkeit, we need to make sure that we won’t be hurting someone else. (Likutei Sichos chelek He, Parshas Vayeitzei)
Yaakov worked for seven more years, just as hard as he had worked before, even though Lavan had tricked him.
Leah has children: Hashem saw that Yaakov thought Rochel was more special, and that Leah felt bad. Hashem made a neis and let Leah have children, while Rochel still couldn’t.
Leah had a baby boy, along with a twin sister. At first she was afraid since Avraham’s oldest child and Yitzchak’s oldest child had become resha’im, that Chas Veshalom this baby might be a rasha too! But she saw with Ruach Hakodesh that this baby would be very special, so she called him Reuven (Re’u means “see”, bein means “between” — see the difference between my oldest and Yitzchak’s oldest!). “Also,” she said, “Hashem has seen (re’u) that I feel bad that Yaakov loves Rochel more than me, so Hashem gave me a special son so Yaakov will love me too.”
Then Leah had triplets, two girls and a boy, whom she named Shimon. She called him this because “Hashem heard (shama) that I felt that I was not loved as much, and gave me this baby.”
Then Leah had another set of twins, a boy and a girl! The boy she named Levi, because it means “attached.” Since now she had her three Shevatim, Yaakov would be attached to her! (She knew with Ruach Hakodesh that there were supposed to be 12 Shevatim from four wives, and thought that each of them would have three.)
AGAIN Leah had twins, a boy and a girl. She called the boy Yehudah, since she wanted to thank (odeh) Hashem for giving her more than three Shevatim! Then she stopped having children.
Rochel asks Yaakov to daven for children: Rochel was jealous of the good things Leah must have done to deserve to have children. She told Yaakov that without children, her life would not be worth living. She asked him to daven for her, just like Yitzchak davened for Rivkah. Yaakov was upset, because it wasn’t the same kind of thing! When Yitzchak Avinu davened, he didn’t have any children yet, and so he knew it was at least partly his fault. But Yaakov HAD children, only Rochel didn’t — so it seems that Hashem only was stopping HER from having children!
Rochel said, “So daven like Avraham davened for Sarah, even though he already had children with Hagar.”
Yaakov answered, “But Sarah TOLD Avraham to marry Hagar, hoping that in that zechus she would have children.”
Rochel said, “If that’s the problem, you can marry my maid Bilhah, and I hope that in this zechus I will deserve to have a baby too.”
Bilhah has children: Yaakov married Bilhah, and she had twins, a boy and a girl. Rochel said that Hashem had judged her for good, and named Bilhah’s son Dan (judged).
Bilhah had another set of twins, and Rochel called this boy Naftali, since she begged Hashem (niftalti) to have as many children as Leah.
Zilpah has children: Leah realized that she was not having any children, and since Rochel had told Yaakov to marry Bilhah, she did the same thing, and told Yaakov to marry Zilpah.
Zilpah also had a twin boy and girl. Leah said, this is good mazal (gad)! and called him Gad. Gad was born with a bris milah already.
Zilpah had another twin boy and girl, and Leah said that since people would say good things about her (ishru)because of this, she would call him Asher.