Vayeitzei: Great Source(s)

And Rachel saw that she had borne no children to Jacob, and Rachel was jealous of her sister, and she said to Jacob, “Give me sons, for if you don’t, I’m a dead woman!” and Jacob was incensed with Rachel, and he said, “Am I instead of God, Who has denied you fruit of the womb?”
— Genesis/Breishit 30:1-2, Alter translation*

According to Akedat Yitzchak [1], just as man has two names — Adam and Ish — in the story of Creation, so, too, does woman have two names — Ishah and Chavah. The two names of woman indicate two purposes. The first — Ishah — teaches that the woman and man share the responsibility to understand and advance in the intellectual and moral field. The second–Chavah — alludes to woman’s power of childbearing and rearing children….Therefore, if we go back to the brief conversation in Genesis between Rachel and Jacob, we can understand that Jacob’s anger was to remind Rachel that her childless state did not render her “dead” regarding their joint purpose in life: to act as a moral being in the world. His anger is directed at Rachel’s forgetting the true and chief purpose of her existence, which is no different from his [2]. Thus, Rachel becomes a matriarch only when she understands her purpose in life outside of childbearing and rearing–and has a direct relationship with God.
— Margot Adler-Traines, in Beginning the Journey*

[1] Akedat Yitzchak — Commentary to the Torah by the fifteenth-century Spanish exegete and talmudic scholar, Isaac ben Moses Arama (1420-1494).

[2] Nechama Leibowitz Studies in Breishit, pp.334-335 [where a quotation from Akedat Yitzchak can be found, along with discussion of his commentary, that of other medieval writers and earlier perspectives*].

* For complete citations and more information on Robert Alter’s translation of the Torah, Beginning the Journey: Toward a Women’s Commentary on the Torah, Leibowitz’s studies and related works, see Source Materials.

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Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.

The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.
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