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ASK THE CYBER RAV First Come, Last Served? You've Got a Question-We have an Answer!

By Rabbi Rafi Rank

Dear Cyber Rav,

When blessing our daughters we say: May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. Also, in our shul, during the Amidah for Shabbat, we have an introductory blessing which includes our Matriarchs, "the God of Sarah, God of Rebecca, God of Rachel, and God of Leah." Question: Why is Rachel named ahead of Leah in both? I know Rachel was the real love of Jacob, but he wed Leah first because of his father-in-law's deceptive ways. and Leah bore Jacob six sons and Dinah. Leah's son, Judah, became the leading tribe and ultimately, the surviving kingdom in Israel. Also, Leah was buried in the Machpelah beside Jacob. Is it to teach us that true love is the most important aspect of our lives? Shalom and todah rabah for your forthcoming answer to my question. Friends of Restore Leah to Her Rightful Position as #1

The Answer

Dear Friends of Leah, Great question. I think we place Rachel before Leah to make that blessing parallel to the blessing of the sons which places Ephraim before Menasseh. The youngest is given preference which is a repeated theme in the Torah. I think, ultimately, what the Torah is trying to teach us is that we should question societal norms when they appear to make no sense. Why should the firstborn be preferred? No egalitarian society would accept that as normative. And the Torah, evolving over 3,000 years ago, questioned it too. Should not preference be given to the most deserving? And so the Torah constantly challenges us to not behave out of the habit-itself a kind of idolatry-but to always look beyond social convention for ultimate truths. This would be akin to your assumption that what matters is true love. No offense to the firstborns (even though I am the baby in my family), but first come is not necessarily the first served. Cyber Rav

Rafi Rank is Rabbi of Midway Jewish Center in Syosset, NY as well as Vice President of the International Rabbinical Assembly

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