God is very powerful in the Bible. When Jacob is tricked into marrying Leah before his beloved Rachel, God opens the womb of the elder sister to have more children than the younger. By the end of the story, the score will be 7 Leah, 2 Rachel; plus 2 for Leah’s maidservant Zilpah and 2 for Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah. By ancient standards, that would be 9 to 4 for Leah.
The first three sons are named by Leah recognizing God’s place in her fertility followed by her hope that her husband will now love her. Reuven means Look, a son -- and now her husband will love her. Shimon signifies that God has heard her and now her husband will love her. Levi is derived from the word that means accompany, named with the hope that her husband will now be by her side. Finally, Yehudah means gratitude and she finally thanks God for the children and ceases birthing for a spell. Yes, biblically speaking, God controls whether a woman will have a child or not. But there’s one thing that even the Bible knows that God cannot control and that is how Jacob will feel about his wives or how he will treat them.
In 1973, the Israeli lyricist Ehud Manor was as poignantly sad for his ancient matriarch Leah as God had been and wrote a song for her, set to music by Tzvikah Pik, the first Israeli singer to play the Hebrew version of Claude in ‘Hair’. This setting has Jacob looking back at his insensitivity to his un-chosen bride years later, exclaiming that she’s as beautiful as Rachel ever was and ending each chorus with the statement that if he forgets her, as we are wont to say about Jerusalem, he’s no longer Israel! His very identity, he understood in retrospect, was dependent on those children who were born to Leah and who would carry the bulk of the surviving Jewish people in the centuries and millennia to come.
Most of us live some form of plan B as did Leah. According to a This American Life podcast I heard a couple years back, most of us have to make do with plans D, E or even Z sometimes. That’s just the way life can be.
Shabbat, however, is always plan A, if we prepare for it and live it the way it was intended.