TWO SISTERS – THE DICHOTOMY OF DESIRE
Leah’s and Rachel’s situation had always seemed so strange to me; so inexplicable and so unfair.
I’d always looked at it from Leah’s side; why would God condemn Leah to be stuck in a marriage where she was unloved? It just didn’t seem fair.
And to have to share her husband with her far more beautiful sister, Rachel, who WAS adored and loved, seems almost too much for a girl to bear.
I had to say, “What was God thinking?”
And be honest ladies, if you’ve read this story, you’ve thought the same thing: What was God thinking?
However, when we look at this story, and the actions of the two sisters, through the lens of non-duality, then we see that both sisters have been given the opportunity to choose not to react, to choose to be content, to work off karma, and to choose to grow toward their destiny.
Leah SEEMS to ‘get it’ in Gen 29:35 where, after giving birth to Judah (her 4th son), she let’s go of trying to earn her husband’s favor and affection by bearing children, and instead she says, “This time I will give grateful praise to the Lord.”
Meanwhile Rachel, who is barren, is positively stewing in her own brew of envy and desire. In Gen 30:1 she looks and sees that her sister has four sons, and she tells Jacob (their husband), “Give me children, or I shall die!”
In response, Jacob gets angry and says (sic), “Hey, it’s not my fault; it’s you.”
Instead of letting go and being content in the situation where she had her husband’s total love and adoration, Rachel chose another path, and thus set the sisters’ conflict back in motion again.
She tells Jacob, “Sleep with my maid … so that I may have offspring through her.” So Jacob does and has first one son, and then another by the maid.
Rachel counts these children as her own and runs around crowing, “God has vindicated me; I’ve struggled with my sister and won!”
It might have ended there, even though Rachel still would’ve had a lot of karma and issues to work through regarding her own actions; but at least Leah might have risen above it.
But, as so often happens once we start on our journey towards awakening and enlightenment, it’s often two steps forward and one step back.
Leah seems to have let go of the rivalry with her sister, and the desire for Jacob’s love, but as soon as Rachel starts running around bragging about her own two proxy sons, Leah let’s herself get sucked right back in to the conflict.
Leah appeared to have settled into contentment with her own four sons. Perhaps, though, it was a contentment not just for its own sake, but also based in having something that her sister did not.
So now, Leah looks around and realizes, “Uh oh, I’ve stopped having children, my sister might catch up with me,” and so she gives HER maid to Jacob. And Leah’s maid has first one son, and then a second.
Leah responds slightly more positively than Rachel though, simply saying, “How fortunate.”
You might think it ends there, but it doesn’t. The sisters go on to fight over mandrakes (believed to be an aphrodisiac and a fertility enhancer), and to barter about which nights Jacob sleeps with which one of them.
While Leah at one time had seemed content in the blessings of the sons she’d given birth to, she still clearly desires her husband’s affection and hopes that she can someday win it.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with Leah’s wanting Jacob’s love, or with Rachel’s wanting to bear her own children. Desires are a normal occurance, and are not inherently good or bad. It’s what we do with those desires – how we choose to respond to them – that either moves us towards awakening or moves us deeper into slumber and unknowing.
Each of us is given numerous and continuous opportunities in our lives to move towards awakening. Non-duality doesn’t look at this story as having a ‘good’ guy or a ‘bad’ guy. It doesn’t label one sister as ‘right’ and the other as ‘wrong’.
Instead, it recognizes that both sisters are children of God, and contain a spark of the divine, and that if they don’t sort it out and overcome their situations, they’ll be given more opportunities to work on it.
*This story can be found in Genesis, chapters 29 and 30.