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    Jacob’s wives – Vayyetzei

    A well known principle is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob kept the Torah even before it was given.

    Rachel, Leah and Jacob by Raffaello Jacob, 1518-19

    If this is the case, how could Jacob have married Leah and Rachel, two sisters, the daughters of Laban?

    Indeed the handmaids who became his two additional wives were also daughters of Laban, which only makes the question more difficult.

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe examines this issue in detail.

    He quotes Ramban, who thought that Jacob contracted these marriages in Haran and only kept the commandments when in Israel.

    However, this contradicts Rashi, who says that when living with Laban in Haran, Jacob kept all the 613 commandments.

    Another view is that Jacob kept only those rules that were stricter than the earlier Noachide commandments, but the Rebbe thinks this argument is unsatisfactory.

    He prefers to say that the patriarchs accepted the commandments on the level of personal stringency, not necessarily as commands from God. At that stage the observance of the commandments was not a national obligation but a personal commitment expressing individual piety.

    Jacob married Rachel in addition to Leah out of personal concern for her welfare.

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