“When morning came, it was Leah!” (Genesis 29:25) Leah’s immediate response is not recorded, and we do not know if she had agreed to the switch in advance but through the explanations she gives for the names of her sons, we can see that Leah did love Jacob and desired his love in return. Four sons, in four verses (Genesis 29:32-35), bear names that testify to their mother’s emotions and internal development. Their father is conspicuous in his absence. After the birth of her eldest son, Rueben, Leah does not hide that she considers him a path to the heart of Jacob: “Now my husband will love me,” she declares with hope. Unfounded hope. When Shimon is born Leah is still waiting for attention from Jacob, “This is because the Eternal heard that I was unloved.” After Levi’s birth, Leah again feels a glimmer of hope “This time my husband will become attached to me, for I have borne him three sons.”
Only when Leah’s fourth son is born do we see a major change: “’This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she named him Yehuda-Judah” (derived from a root meaning “thank”). Although she is still unloved, Leah now expresses gratitude for what she does have. As Jews, descendants of Leah and Judah, we are called on to follow in her footsteps and be thankful for what we have without denying what we lack.