Before I wrote “The Secret Legacy of Biblical Women: Revealing the Divine Feminine,” I secretly blamed women for creating the chaos in the world. I learned that Eve, the first women, seduced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and brought evil and death into the world. Sarah sent Ishmael and Hagar away and created the conflict in the Middle East between Arabs and Jews. There are too many biblical stories for me to recount all the damage that Biblical women caused. I did not want to identify with Biblical women as they had been presented to me.
Yet, after my extensive research into the Zohar, midrashim, along with my meditations on Biblical women, and the actual writing of “The Secret Legacy of Biblical Women”, my whole understanding of the role of women was transformed. I now saw clearly that it was the independent and courageous choices of Biblical women that actually protected and strengthened all that was good and precious in the world. Biblical women changed the world forever and should be praised.
In last week’s Torah portion, we read of Rebecca deceiving her husband to secure the blessing for her son Jacob. Rebecca had received a prophecy when her twins were in her womb that she kept secret until she took the necessary steps to secure the blessing for Jacob. Questions as to why she kept it as secret, why it was necessary for her to deceive Isaac and why Isaac wanted to bless Esau rather than Jacob are explored in my books. In my newest book “Biblical Women Who Changed the World” I even expound on Rebecca’s prophecy and its importance in understanding world events today, particularly the fate of America.
In this week’s Torah portion we read once again of female deception. Leah and Rachel tricked Jacob into marrying Leah when he thought he was marrying Rachel. Their father Laban switched Leah for Rachel and forced her to stand under the wedding canopy. This was an answer to Leah’s prayer as she had been crying to not have to marry Esau. So as to not embarrass her, Rachel lovingly and selflessly gave her the secret signs that she and Jacob had agreed upon in event that a possible switch would take place. It was so important to Leah to marry Jacob that she was willing to do it through deceit. Only in the morning after the wedding, after sexual relations had taken place, was Leah’s true identity revealed to Jacob. By that time she was already pregnant with her first son. The midrash says that Leah might have said to Jacob, ” Just like you deceived your brother and father, it was necessary for you to be deceived. When you lied to your father, you showed me that it is permissible to life for a good cause. I am merely following your example.”
If Leah had married Esau as had been previously arranged, history would have been radically different. Jacob would most likely not have had 12 sons and one daughter as Rachel was largely infertile. We would not have had the rivalry between the brothers, Joseph would not have been sold and would not have risen to be the prime minister of Egypt, and on and on. The famine might have occurred and the Jewish people might still have sought refuge in Egypt, but they would not been invited to settle in Egypt and become so prosperous as they were.
Everything that happened was part of the divine plan and had even been part of a prophecy given to Abraham years before. ” Know for sure that your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs for 400 years. They will be enslaved and oppressed. But I will finally bring judgment against the nation who enslaves them and they will then leave with great wealth.” ( Gen 15,13-15)
This prophecy was fulfilled though the time of oppression of the Jewish people in Egypt was lessened. When a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph rose in power, he oppressed the Jewish people. Moses was born as the redeemer at that time and was even raised in the house of Pharaoh. When life became too hard, the Jewish people cried to God. In miraculous ways God took the Jewish people out of Egypt along with millions of Egyptians who chose to join them. Ultimately these Egyptians assimilated and became members of the Jewish people. This was also part of the Divine Plan. There are always windows in time when non-Jews can become Jews.
The history of the Jewish people and the world were radically changed because of the lie of Leah and Rachel and the lie of Rebecca. Such is the power of a holy lie. Holy lies are different than regular self serving lies. In holy lying it is clear, after the deception, that is was the way it was supposed to be and that the outcome could not have been achieved another way. It was necessary for Rebecca to lie to secure the blessing for Jacob. And it was necessary for Leah and Jacob to lie to build the nation of Israel.
Do you wonder why these matters of great holiness regarding the Jewish people had to take place through the agency of a lie? Why do particularly Jewish women lie in the Bible? Aren’t truth and honesty important? What do you think?
For a deep understanding of the importance of a holy lie one has to look into Kabbalah. The chapter on Rebecca in both books offers a Kabbalistic explanation for holy lies. The Torah is considered a moral compass for much of the world, yet the stories of Jewish women particularly those who lied are actually treasured. This is a matter for some reflection. Blessings, Melinda Mindy Ribner