The Red Tent My Mother's Stories (Chapter 2)

Anita Diamant

My Mother's Stories (Chapter 2)

Rachel’s impatient waiting stirs the entire house. She sneaks out to meet Jacob in the fields for an innocent rendezvous, unaware that Jacob has taken a liking to seeing her sister, Leah, at least once a day to inquire about business. Zilpah senses the lust in the air; knowing that Laban’s days as the patriarch of the house will soon be over, she decides to turn the tide in her favor. Zilpah despises Rachel, and she makes her believe that her wedding night with her husband will be painful by telling her lies about the size of Jacob’s manhood. Out of fear, Rachel agrees to allow her sister, Leah, to take her place under the bridal robes and veil on the day of the wedding. As custom dictates, Leah and Jacob spend the first seven days and nights of their marriage in the bridal tent wrapped in the passion of lovemaking. But Rachel regrets her decision and insists that she be given her place as the proper wife of Jacob. So the ceremony is done again, and this time Rachel and Jacob spend their week in the tent. Jacob then demands a dowry for both Leah and Rachel, so Zilpah and Bilhah plus a large portion of Laban’s flocks now belong to Jacob.

Shortly after the weddings, Leah shows signs of pregnancy and Rachel, jealous, also begins to show the same signs. The two sisters carry together, but unfortunately Rachel miscarries. When Leah goes into labor, her mother, Adah, is too sick to be of real help and her three sisters struggle in their inexperience. After a night of hard labor, the women send for Inna the midwife, who arrives to help Leah through her delivery. Her son, Reuben, is born—to Jacob’s delight. Reuben is circumcised in the tradition of his father’s family, and mother and son remain in the red tent for one month. When the two emerge, Leah is glowing in her new motherhood and immediately resumes her role as the caretaker of the family. She births her second son, Simeon, two years later, and her line of sons continues in rapid succession.

Rachel continues to miscarry, and she seeks every possible method to try to become pregnant: lying in running water, sleeping with her belly against trees, taking potions of herbs. Rachel regularly visits Inna for help, and from the midwife she learns the art and science of midwifery. When one of the house laborer’s wives goes into labor, Rachel delivers the baby safely into the world and earns her new title as midwife.