Reuven had the best of intentions. He saw that his mother, Leah, was in tough against her younger and prettier sister, Rahel, in the competition for dad’s attention. So he goes and picks dudaim, mandrakes, and gives them to his mom. He obviously knows the mythical power of mandrakes–a known aphrodisiac in the ancient world. This is one thoughtful child, looking out for mom’s best interests and giving her a gift out of love.
So imagine how Reuven must have felt the next morning when he saw those mandrakes in Aunt Rahel’s tent. For Rahel had seen the mandrakes and boldly asked her sister to share them. Leah, herself no fool, drove a hard bargain, trading the mandrakes for a night with Ya’akov on Rahel’s turn. And now, Reuven’s gift has been transferred to his mom’s rival.
Long before Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David thought of the term, do you think Reuven felt like our friends in this classic episode?
In all seriousness, I think that this Biblical scene can teach us a great deal about the idea of giving. With Hanukkah on the horizon, let’s explore the nature and meaning of presents in light of this story and Jewish values. That’ll be our study on Shabbat morning; I hope to see you then!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise