The Unexpected Reward for a Mitzvah

Vayizkor Elokim es Rochel vayishma eileha Elokim vayiftach es rachmah (Bereishis 30:22)

The Torah tells us that “Elokim” remembered Rochel and answered her prayers for a child. Harav Avraham Yaakov Pam, zt”l, questions the usage of the word Elokim, which represents the Divine attribute of strict justice. Wouldn’t the name Hashem, which reflects His attribute of mercy, have been more appropriate?

Harav Pam explains that according to the laws of nature Rochel could not have had any children. However, on the day of her wedding that she had been looking forward to for seven long years, she learned that her father was replacing her with her older sister. In a moment of pure selflessness, she placed her sister’s consideration above her own and shared with her the simanim (signs) that Yaakov had given her to prevent any potential deceit by Lavan (Rashi 29:25). In doing so, she created such a tremendous merit for herself that Hashem’s middos hadin had to change nature and reward her with a child which she otherwise would not have had.

Harav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, shlita, points out that at the time of the incident, Rochel must have been sure that her actions would doom her never to marry Yaakov and bear children with him, but in Heaven, the reality was different. Had she gone ahead and married Yaakov, as was her right to do, she would have had a beautiful marriage, but unbeknownst to her, she was barren and would never have had any children. It was specifically through this act which appeared to destroy her chances of having the children that she so badly wanted that Rochel generated the merit which changed her fate and that of the Jewish people.

Similarly, Chazal teach that when Yitzchak was bound on top of the altar and his father was holding the knife and poised to slaughter him, he was overcome by fear to the point that his soul literally left him, and only a miracle brought him back to life. A little-known fact is that the Zohar Hakadosh teaches that Yitzchak’s neshamah was incapable of bearing children. The soul which was given to him now, however, was.

The Shelah Hakadosh derives from here a beautiful lesson. As Avraham went to the Akeidah, he thought that he was about to doom the future of the Jewish people by sacrificing his only Jewish offspring. He was willing to do so, as that was the test Hashem gave him, yet it seemed that he would have no Jewish descendants as a result.

In reality, Hashem knew that without the Akeidah, were Yitzchak to marry, he would be incapable of having children. The reason Rivkah wasn’t born until the time of the Akeidah was that until that time, Yitzchak was incapable of having children with her. The exact episode which seemed so clearly destined to eradicate the future of the Jews was instead the precise mechanism which enabled their continuation. Rochel and Yitzchak teach us that a person never loses out by doing a mitzvah.

Q: Besides the twin who was born with each of the tribes (Rashi 35:17), which other set of twins appears in Parashas Vayeitzei?

Q: In which two months were no children born to Yaakov?

Q: Rochel’s intention in stealing her father’s terafim (idols) was to prevent him from idol worship (Rashi 31:19). Does this mean that if somebody possesses something forbidden it is permissible to steal it from him?

A: 1) The Seder Olam writes that Leah and Rochel were twins.

A: The Yalkut Shimoni records that Reuven was born on 14 Kislev, Shimon was born on 28 Teves, Levi was born on 16 Nissan, Yehudah was born on 15 Sivan, Dan was born on 9 Elul, Naftali was born on 5 Tishrei, Gad was born on 10 Cheshvan, Asher was born on 20 Shevat, Yissachar was born on 10 Av, Zevulun was born on 7 Tishrei and Binyamin was born on 11 Cheshvan. The Midrash concludes by stating that the two months in which none of the tribes were born are Iyar and Shevat. However, the Zayis Raanan points out that this is difficult to understand, inasmuch as according to these dates, none of the tribes were born in the months of Tammuz and Adar, either. Further, Asher was in fact born in the month of Shevat. Therefore, he suggests editing the Midrash to state that Yosef was born in the month of Tammuz and Asher was born not in Shevat, but in Adar.

A: Harav Aharon Leib Steinman, shlita, writes that if somebody has something which can only be used for prohibited purposes, it is permissible to take it to prevent him from sinning. However, he notes that this is difficult to reconcile with Yaakov telling Lavan that whoever has the idols should die, which the Meshech Chochmah explains is due to the fact that non-Jews are killed for stealing.


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email