Leah and Rachel: Two Midrashic Poems–by Ahavya Deutsch & Ayala Emmett

I. Leah Knows the Secret of Joy—by Ahavya Deutsch

Leah knows the secret of joy.
She names her children, instead of nursing her loneliness.
Even after all these years, she trades her bitterness for one more night with Jacob.
She turns her tender eyes inward. She turns her tender eyes upward.
If Rachel is the flame, Leah is the wood that’s burning.
And she is not consumed.

II. Rachel Loved Leah*—by Ayala Emmett

At sunrise the mother died.
In the tent the women wept,
Leah, soft eyes and seven years
lifted the flailing, helpless baby
“Rachel” she whispered.
She wrapped her in their mothers’ still warm multicolor shawl
letting the slave woman nurse her
when she cried and Laban hated her.
Leah held her tight,
“I will never leave you.”

People called Rachel “the beautiful cursed”
whose birth killed her mother.
Leah held her tighter,
Rachel’s head on her sister’s beating heart.
When she got too big for the shawl sling
Rachel twisted the hem of Leah’s dress in her little fist,
holing tight she wouldn’t let go.

When she bled for the first time
Leah told her that it was the way of women.
When Leah stayed behind on her monthly way of women
Rachel had to go to the well alone
there she met Jacob, her kindness turned to fear
“I am a child and a stranger wants to marry me.”
“I will never leave you,” Leah said.

On her wedding night Rachel dressed Leah in her intended Bridal garments.
She rubbed Leah’s body with her aromatic potions,
combed Leah’s hair with oil and left the dark tent.
Seven years later
Rachel stood, a second wife, with Leah by her side.

They left their father’s house, together,
Leah powerless as Rachel died
in childbirth
on the road to Bethlehem
crying forever,
inconsolable when the prophet Jeremiah found her
among the ruins of Jerusalem.
Some say that she left
to write poems on the shores of the Sea of Galilee
others swear they saw her on kibbutz Sdot Yam
dressed as a paratrooper
writing “Eli, Eli,
Oh God, My God, I pray.”

*Written for the Women’s Shabbaton with B.J. Yudelson. B.J’s new book is now available at Amazon.