Rachel said, "I have wrestled mightily with my sister and won," and called him Naftali [my wrestling].
(Gen 30:8 CJB)
I was asked a question recently, “Why is it that so many of the mothers of our faith had difficulties having children. Of course, since we are not told the answer will vary from rabbi to rabbi. In a sense, this is the beauty of the Torah that we are not told everything; it keeps us seeking. “God gets glory from concealing things; (Pro 25:2 CJB)
Some of the sages mention that it was because the child they would give birth was so special that HaShem wanted to draw attention to it. After all, from Sarah to Rachel going through Rivka, the reason the fact that it was miraculous or an answer to prayer is why we talk about it.
I would like to also give a shot at a suggestion.
In Gen 30:8, Rachel mentions that she, “wrestled mightily”. Why did she wrestle? Was it to earn or keep the love of Jacob? She already had it from the beginning. Was she in such competition with her sister? I am not so sure as they both felt that Jacob rescued them from their father (Gen 31:14-16) Leah surely made sure to be part of the contest. Though she already had four children she engaged the help of her servant (Gen 30:9).
JACOB, NOT ANY MAN!
Jacob was not any man. The reason why Laban wanted to keep him is that he saw HaShem's blessing on Jacob. He knew HaShem would bless his household and his business as long as Jacob was there because HaShem blessed Jacob. We will see the same blessing follow Joseph, the son of Jacob.
Leah and Rachel knew that. Both had become entitled to Jacob’s household and they were not about to let it go. They also knew that the blessing upon Jacob was intergenerational. It came from the generation of Abraham and would follow and be multiplied through their children. Since death was commun, they also wanted to ensure their dynasty, and the continuation of the covenant through the multitude of their children.
FIGHTING FOR THE COVENANT.
From the days those covenantal words were spoken to Abram, "I have given this land to your descendants -- from the Vadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River --the territory of the Keni, the K'nizi, the Kadmoni, the Hitti, the P'rizi, the Refa'im, the Emori, the Kena`ani, the Girgashi and the Y'vusi." (Gen 15:18-21 CJB) he who opposes HaShem’s purposes (HaSatan) has done everything he could to thwart the fulfillment of that prophecy.
First this enemy of all HaShem’s purposes made Sarah sterile but Abrahm never lost trust, “for he was fully convinced that what God had promised he could also accomplish.” (Rom 4:21 CJB) “By trusting, Avraham obeyed, after being called to go out to a place which God would give him as a possession; indeed, he went out without knowing where he was going. By trusting, he lived as a temporary resident in the Land of the promise, as if it were not his, staying in tents with Yitz'chak and Ya`akov, who were to receive what was promised along with him. For he was looking forward to the city with permanent foundations, of which the architect and builder is God. By trusting, he received potency to father a child, even when he was past the age for it, as was Sarah herself; because he regarded the One who had made the promise as trustworthy. Therefore this one man, who was virtually dead, fathered descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as countless as the grains of the sand on the seashore. “(Heb 11:8-12 CJB)
Abram’s love for these covenantal words; his love for HaShem’s purposes was so great that he felt they were worth the fight, so he fought no to lose trust and his trust was rewarded. Sarah stood right there with her husband in that trust. Though laughing at first at the announcement of the fulfillment of the promises made to Abram for a posterity, it could be said of her, “HaShem did many miracle there because of her trust!” (paraphrase on: Mat 13:58).
Yitzchak and Rivka were also a fighter for the covenant. Yitzchak implored HaShem for his wife. Rivka also who had a difficult pregnancy asked HaShem for help. They both knew that the promises made to their Abraham were at stake. This writer also believes that it is not fear that compelled both Abraham and Yitzchak to deceive Kings concerning third wives, but this inner consumption to preserve and protect the covenantal promises. They were at the hand of these kings who would maybe kill them for their wives. This writer alo believes that it is this burning desire towards HaShem’s covenant that compelled Rivka and Jacob to make sure that Abraham’s blessing fell on Jacob and not the canaanite-women lover Esau. If the covenant was to be fulfilled, they needed to stay alive no matter what.
When Jacob received his vision of the ladder, he was given the promises made to Abraham. He then took courage and for the sake of that covenant worked 20 years for an ungrateful and ungodly boss.
This brings us to Leah and Rachel. If indeed these two girls were competing, they were competing for being the mothers of the covenantal promises. For the first 400 hundred years of Israel as a nation most of its leaders were descendant of Rachel. It is when King David took the throne that the descendant of leah came into the pictures. The later division of the kingdom reflected the two houses; the house of Leah and the House of Rachel. Ezekiel prophesied that in the Messianic Ages the two houses will be finally reunited,
The word of Adonai came to me: "You, human being, take one stick and write on it, 'For Y'hudah and those joined with him [among] the people of Isra'el.' Next, take another stick and write on it, 'For Yosef, the stick of Efrayim, and all the house of Isra'el who are joined with him.' Finally, bring them together into a single stick, so that they become one in your hand. When your people ask you what all this means, tell them that Adonai Elohim says this: 'I will take the stick of Yosef, which is in the hand of Efrayim, together with the tribes of Isra'el who are joined with him, and put them together with the stick of Y'hudah and make them a single stick, so that they become one in my hand.' The sticks on which you write are to be in your hand as they watch. Then say to them that Adonai Elohim says: 'I will take the people of Isra'el from among the nations where they have gone and gather them from every side and bring them back to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Isra'el; and one king will be king for all of them. They will no longer be two nations, and they will never again be divided into two kingdoms. (Eze 37:15-22 CJB)
The fight for the fulfillment of the covenantal promises will continue through Joseph and Judah until this day when the enemy of all HaShem’s purposes continues to try to kill the descendants of Abraham.
AND WHAT DOES THIS TEACH US?
We today, live in the continuation of the promises made to Abraham. We are the fulfillment of the promises made to the fathers. We exist and are partakers of HaShem’s inheritance because of their fight and their determination to not let go of the covenantal promises. We must also therefore honor them and honor HaShem with our own fighting spirit, with a faithful trust that does not let go of the promises of God. That is why James exhorted the Jewish Israeli disciples of his day with,
Regard it all as joy, my brothers, when you face various kinds of temptations; for you know that the testing of your trust produces perseverance. But let perseverance do its complete work; so that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach; and it will be given to him. But let him ask in trust, doubting nothing; for the doubter is like a wave in the sea being tossed and driven by the wind. Indeed that person should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord, because he is double-minded, unstable in all his ways. (Jas 1:2-8 CJB)
So, brothers, be patient until the Lord returns. See how the farmer waits for the precious "fruit of the earth" -- he is patient over it until it receives the fall and spring rains. You too, be patient; keep up your courage; for the Lord's return is near. Don't grumble against one another, brothers, so that you won't come under condemnation -- look! the Judge is standing at the door! As an example of suffering mistreatment and being patient, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of Adonai. Look, we regard those who persevered as blessed. You have heard of the perseverance of Iyov, and you know what the purpose of Adonai was, that Adonai is very compassionate and merciful. (Jas 5:7-11 CJB)