Imahos: Yaakov Avinu's Wives

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    Yaakov Avinu has four wives: Leah Imeinu, Rochel Imeinu, Bilhah Imeinu, and Zilpah Imeinu. Yet his first two wives somehow had a different status than his last two wives. What exactly was the difference?

    Leah and Rochel were both full-fledged wives, while Bilhah and Zilpah were – in perhaps the best English translation – concubines, having each been handmaids to Rochel and Leah respectively. What is the significance of this, and what is its meaning in layman’s terms?

    On another note, we know that thee Avos maintained the Torah, even though they lived before it was given. Given that, how was it that Yaakov Avinu was able to marry two sisters, being that is against Halacha?

    YW Moderator-42

    Yaakov Avinu actually married 4 sisters


    What is a concubine?


    The Avos were not Mechuyav to keep any Mitzvos of the future. Although it was something they liked to do, they didn’t forgo the needs of the time for a Mitzva of the future.

    The Ramban says they only kept the Mitzvos while in Eretz Yisroel. The Maharal says they only kept Mitzvos Asei.

    They do seem to have a different status, since when we reference the four Imahos, we are talking about Sarah, Rivka, Rochel and Leah. They were Tzidkanios but obviously a different status.


    “we know that thee Avos maintained the Torah, even though they lived before it was given.”

    We actually don’t “know” that; there are many opinions as to what they kept, some of which were offered by HaLeivi above. The gemara in Sanhedrin uses the actions of the Avot to derive laws for Noachides, not Jews. For example, a Noachide may marry a paternal half-sister and Avraham Avinu’s marriage to Sarah Imeinu is used to prove that.

    ☕️coffee addict

    Yaakov Avinu actually married 4 sisters

    2 sets of sisters (Bilhah and Zilpah was actually half sisters with Rachel and Leah)

    am yisrael chai
    m in Israel

    A “pilegesh” or “concubine” was a “wife” who did not have a kesubah (and the rights associated with it.) However I do not remember any source saying that Bilhah and Zilpah were pilagshot — do you have a source for this? There obviously was a difference in their status, as HaLeivi pointed out, in terms of their roles as “imahos”.


    Bilhah is called Rochel’s shifchah in Bereishis 29:29, and Yaakov’s Pilegesh in Bereishis 35:22.

    Mesechtes Brochos 16b: “Only three people are referred to as Patriarchs; and only four people are referred to as Matriarchs.”

    In Kabbalah it says that the Imahos were from the Malchus of Atzilus, and Bilhah and Zilpah were from Malchus of BiY”A.

    ☕ DaasYochid ☕

    The gemara in Sanhedrin uses the actions of the Avot to derive laws for Noachides, not Jews.

    The gemara in Kiddushin uses the actions of Avraham Avinu to derive laws of nasi shemachal al k’vodo, which is for Jews.

    The sources in rishonim and acharonim for assuming that the avos kept the mitzvos are numerous.


    pac-man, are you sure that’s Malchus of BY”A or perhaps simply BY”A?


    The Rambam in ????? ? ? does not count marrying two sisters as one of the arayos that a ben noach is assur to marry.

    According to the tzad that the avos had the dinn of jews, it does seem that Yaacov’s marriage to Rochel was achos ishto, which I think would make Yosef a mamzer. (this may help to understand why his brothers didn’t respect him)


    An interesting question is that how can we claim that we are descendants of the 3 Avos and 4 Imahos when part of Klal Yisroel does not come from Rochel or Leah? Probably the obvious answer is that when Rochel gave Bilhah to Yaakov she said that this will produce descendants for herself, so we see that the children of the Shfachos are considered to be from the corresponding Em.

    🐵 ⌨ Gamanit

    LanderTalmid- a ger is also considered ben Avraham, even though he obviously isn’t genetically a descendant, but rather spiritually.


    The children born of Bilhah and Zilpah were considered as Rochel and Leah’s. And being they were all the biological sons of Yaakov, they were considered full siblings.


    They only kept the whole torah in Eretz Yisroel. That’s why Rochel was niftar as Yaacov returned to EY from Lovon’s house.

    Don’t remember where I saw that.


    1) I saw R’ Chaim Kanievsky (??? ????) brings a ???? that says that ??? and ??? were not sisters from the mother, they were only paternally related. He says that therefore ???? could marry two sisters, because before ??? ???? there was no such thing as ???? ?? ???.

    2) The ???”? in ???? ???? says that the ???? were not ????? to keep the ????, and if they wanted to keep it, they had to keep it as if they were ????, and ???? have a din of ?? ???????? ???? ????? ??? and therefore in-as-much as he was ?????, they were not related to each other.

    3) The famous ???”? – they only kept the ???? in ??? ?????. (which is a bit shver in ???”? ????? ?????)

    4) Before ??? ????, there was no such thing as ??????? (See ???”? ??? ? ????? ??’ ?), and therefore it wasn’t possible to become assur with ???? ???. (Even if they kept the ????, there was no ???????).

    See ????”? ????? ?”? who proves from ???? that there was no ????? which come through marriage before ??? ???? except for ????? ???.


    I also heard that Leah and Rochel were identical twins (yet Yaakov still could tell the difference). Nonetheless, all this occurred before Mattan Torah. I wonder if one of the reasons Hashem gave us this Halacha as arayos, was not because of the trouble that can ensue from marriage to two sisters, especially with the progeny.


    It seems to be a ?????? what the relationship was between Rochel and Leah – the Seder Oilam (I think) says they were paternally related but maternally not.

    I know, however, that the ????”? brings a ???? that they were twins – because ??? in ??????? learns from ??? that one must not marry a younger sister before an older sister. The ????”? asks – why do we learn from ???s trick – we should learn that it is allowed from the fact that ???? was willing to do it!?

    He answers that ???? agreed that one would not be allowed to marry a younger sister before the older sister. However, ???? was going ?????? that the younger twin is older than the older twin, because ??”? says in ???? ?????? that when you have a container, the first thing out is the last one in. Therefore, ???? married ??? because she was a younger twin.

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