This Torah portion begins with Jacob’s departure to travel to Laban’s home. Rashi says, “A righteous person’s departure from a place leaves a void. As long as this person lives in a city, he constitutes its glory, its splendor, and its beauty. When he departs, its glory, splendor, and beauty depart with him.”
Interestingly, on his Jacob decides that God is in a particular place. The Hebrew word for place is “maqom,” which is also a name for God (“The Place”). Jacob calls the location of his vision of the angels ascending and descending the ladder to Heaven God’s place, and builds an altar. The Talmud says this place is Mount Moriah, where Abraham bound Isaac. It also says it is the place that will become the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Abraham, on the other hand, understood that God is everywhere. God and Heaven are not at the top of the ladder, but here on earth with us and within us, as God stood over Jacob. The Holy Spark within every person is a gift from God, given as a doorway to God, and accessible at any time.
In this parsha, Jacob is conned by his uncle Laban into marrying Leah as well as Rachel. There is a line in the Talmud somewhere that says a man is required to love all of his wives equally. But is also says monogamy, like Adam and Eve, is better. Rabbi Gershom “the light of the diaspora” banned polygamy approximately one thousand years ago, a decision accepted by Jews of Eastern Europe but not those of Sephardic and Yemenite communities. The term for a co-wife is a Tsarah, from the same root as the word for trouble – tsores. This link is discussed in Tractate Yevamot. While more than one wife is allowed, it is not approved of or recommended. Co-wives will argue and despise each other (as Rachel and Leah did not get along well) and the result will be a lack of peace in the home. In addition, the ban was meant to prevent men from taking advantage of their wives, or situations where they might not be able to provide for two households, or where children of different marriages might not know they were related to one another and end up in incestuous relationships. Mystic works refer to husband and wife being two halves of one whole. Polygamy may have been considered as a last resort for men whose wives could not have children and did not want to divorce, but appears never to have been the norm due to a lack of references to polygamous relationships prior to Gershom’s opinion.