The Unexpected Reward for a Mitzvah

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

The Torah tells us that “Elokim” remembered the barren Rochel, heard her prayers. Harav Avrohom Yaakov Pam 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?

Rav Pam explains that Rochel was barren and according to the laws of nature should 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 sense of justice was compelled to change nature and reward her with a child that she otherwise would not have had.

Harav Elya Ber Wachtfogel 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 that appeared to destroy her chances of having the children that she so badly wanted that Rochel generated the merit that 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 was born with a female neshamah. The soul that was returned to him, however, was a new one, that of a male.

The Shelah Hakadosh derives from here a beautiful lesson. As Avraham went to the Akeidah, he thought 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 that seemed so clearly destined to eradicate the future of the Jews was instead the precise mechanism that enabled their continuation. Rochel and Yitzchak teach us that a person never loses out from doing a mitzvah.

Q: After Rochel attempted to express the depth of her pain at her inability to conceive children, saying that without children she was like a dead person (30:1), Yaakov became angry at her. What was wrong with Rochel’s expression of pain that upset Yaakov?

A: Dayan Yisroel Yaakov Fisher writes that Yaakov was upset at Rochel’s statement that if she was unable to have children, she considered herself like a dead person, which revealed that she believed that the entire purpose of her existence was to bear offspring. This was incorrect, because in reality, the purpose of a woman’s creation is not solely to have children, but to perfect herself and to assist her husband in reaching his own spiritual completion. Because Rochel trivialized her true essence and life mission, Yaakov responded sharply to her statement.

Q: Rashi writes (32:2) that there are different sets of angels that minister in the Land of Israel than those outside of it, and they may not cross the border from one side to the other. How was Yaakov, who had returned to the Land of Israel, able to send angels (32:4) to his brother Esav, who resided outside the Land of Israel?

A: Dayan Yisroel Yaakov Fisher explains that there are two different types of angels: those that are created as a result of mitzvos that a person does, and those which are established and permanent, such as Michoel and Gavriel. The restriction against angels exiting or entering the Land of Israel only applies to the first category, as mitzvos that are performed in the Land of Israel are qualitatively different and superior to those that are done outside of Israel, and the resulting angels are therefore restricted to the region where they were created.

Angels in the second category, however, have no such limitations and are free to roam the entire world as necessary and may enter and exit the Land of Israel at will. He suggests that this is the intent of Rashi’s comment (32:4) that Yaakov sent “malachim mamash” to Esav, meaning that he sent already-established angels to Esav, not ones that had been created through his good deeds.

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