Leah’s eyes were weak, while Rachel was of pleasant appearance. (Bereshit 29:17)
On his journey to find a wife, Yaakov Avinu reached a crucial fork in the road when he arrived at the house of his deceitful uncle Lavan. Lavan had two eligible daughters. The elder, Leah, was constantly crying because she assumed that she was destined to marry the elder of Yitzchak’s two sons, the wicked Esav. The younger, Rachel, was beautiful of character and of pleasant appearance and should have been in line to marry Yaakov, the righteous younger twin. Rather than accept this horrible fate, Leah prayed wholeheartedly and constantly for the Torah-true husband.
It is told that during the days of the Chatam Sofer, a position as Rav became available in one of the towns near Pressburg. The committee’s search boiled down to two candidates. One was a student of the Chatam Sofer known for his Torah brilliance and leadership qualities. The second was not as learned or skilled, but he was known as one who vigorously recited Tehillim and beseeched his Creator for success in all his spiritual pursuits.
The Chatam Sofer advised that they engage his student; yet, the decision was made to give the position to the other candidate. When the community’s decision was told to the Chatam Sofer, he said, “Look how powerful is the reading of Tehillim. I believe everyone realized that my student was better qualified for the leadership position and he had my endorsement as well. Yet, the prayers and tears of the other candidate overcame the facts of the situation and he was chosen!”
In the opening verses of Parashat Toledot, Rivkah and Yitzchak prayed ardently for a child. The passuk (Ber. 25:21) saying that Hashem accepted Yitzchak’s request uses the word “va’ye’atter.” Rashi explains that this word refers to a garden tool that is used to turn over the soil. This is meant to teach that prayer has the power to turn a situation upside-down. Leah Imeinu knew that her lot was to marry the wicked Esav, yet she prayed and cried constantly for Hashem to save her from a life of misery. She approached her Maker with tears, pleading with Him to save her from her predetermined fate.
Not only was she saved from marrying Esav, but quite the opposite occurred. She married Yaakov and merited establishing six of the 12 tribes of Israel, a number equal to the number established by the other Matriarchs combined. In addition, the three crowns of our People fell in the lot of her offspring. The crown of Torah was earned by Yissachar. The crown of Kehunah (priestly service) was granted to Levi. Sovereignty is the exclusive right of the tribe of Yehudah, from the days of David until the coming of Mashiach. The Arizal has revealed that the place of Leah among the Matriarchs is higher than the others, including Rachel.
Most of us pray to Hashem daily and request all that is good. There are times when one might think one’s prayers have fallen on “deaf ears.” The lesson of Leah is to never assume the worst, but rather to increase our sincerity and express our desire wholeheartedly time and time again. Tears have the power to carry prayers to the Throne in Shamayim and turn things upside-down for good. Don’t give up! Realize the power and try, try again!