WHAT IS “VALOR,” ANYWAY?
As a veteran complainer, I frequently (daily?) rail against what I see as the unfairness of my personal fate and overlook the treasures of my life. So I’m humbled at discovering what Leah managed to do.
She’s one of our historic Biblical heroines. In fact, she and her sister, Rachel, inspired me to write my newest book, Ten Women of Valor, because they had to contend with sharing the same husband. Since I’m big on sibling rivalry I thought these sisters would be the easiest stories to write. They turned out to be the most difficult for, as I discovered, “valor’ isn’t always easy to recognize.
I wanted each of the ten heroines to describe the personal act of courage that altered her life. Confronted with a patriarchal world where husbands and fathers ruled the roost as well as the realm, our spunky female ancestors found ways to triumph. Some acts were obvious and thrilling. What could be braver than single-handedly cutting off your enemy’s head, as Judith did? And what of Esther, risking her lovely neck by daring to intrude into her tyrannical husband’s royal court? I even discovered the ”Jewish Joan of Arc” in the form of Deborah, the first woman to help lead an army. (As a side note, the military leader she selected was named Barack, which means “lightning”!)
Yes, there were numerous acts of valor – but I ran into trouble finding it with Leah. Victimization, yes, for her father ordered her to replace her sister as the bride on the very wedding day! She then lived in docile obedience to a husband who preferred his other wife – who happened to be her sister – though he regularly impregnated Leah anyway.
Though Rachel was the beloved wife, Leah was the fertile one. She gave birth to her first child – a boy, success! (Women were rated by how many sons they produced.) Being human as well as feminine, Leah’s first thought was: Now my husband will love me more than my barren sister. Alas, it didn’t work. Two more babies – both boys – and again and again Leah beseeched God to miraculously make her Jacob’s favorite. Apparently God had more pressing things to take care of, which proves that whining doesn’t work.
Then Leah gave birth to a fourth boy. But this time she changed what in modern parlance is called a ”mind set.” She vowed to rid her heart of bitterness, envy and self-pity (a Herculean task!). Instead of her why-doesn’t-he-love-me lament, she became grateful for her four beautiful sons. Her prayer of gratitude was the first recorded words of thanks to God (who doesn’t get gratitude all that often).
Leah was centuries ahead of the current pop psychology to find three things each day to be grateful for. I was intrigued by reading about the routine that our First Lady has created with her young daughters. Each evening she asks them what was the rose that day and what was the thorn. The reality is that roses don’t come without thorns. Accepting that – as Leah did – is “valor”, too.
WIDOW’S WALK, TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR
New York Women in Communications