This week’s parsha, Vayeitzei, is where we first encounter Yaakov’s future wives. His most beloved wife, Rachel, is the first wife we are told about. When Yaakov asks the people in the land if they know who Rachel’s father Lavan is, they answer him that Lavan is doing well and that his daughter is coming with the sheep, רָחֵ֣ל בִּתּ֔וֹ בָּאָ֖ה עִם־הַצֹּֽאן. A few pesukim later, it brings up Rachel and the sheep again. This time it omits saying Rachel is Lavan’s daughter. Instead, it says Rachel is coming with the sheep for her father because she is a shepherdess. In both of these pesukim there is an indication that Lavan is Rachel’s father and that they are his sheep, but why does it tell us the second time around that Rachel is a shepherdess?
The first time we hear of Rachel, we think that Rachel is her father’s daughter. The second time we get a different picture of her from the change in wording. It does not state again that she is Lavan’s daughter, but rather that she comes with the sheep for her father. Rachel takes care of her father’s livestock because she had kibud av v’emm, respecting your father and mother. Then ite Torah continues by saying that she does this because she is a shepherdess. The word shepherdess teaches us that Rachel isn’t like her father, Lavan. Rachel is more like the forefathers and the Jewish people. She is humble, cares about animals, reflects on herself and takes time to think. Rachel shows that while we should help our parents, it is okay to veer from their paths at times and be different. We are not only the children of our parents but have individual qualities within us. We have something to give to the world, our own unique aspect. Rachel was able to share that aspect and be one of our mothers who helps guide us until today. It is up to us to be shepherds and shepherdesses and take a step back, reflect on who we are and what we want to become.
By Shira Sedek