The Shepherd’s Kiss
“Be wary of Nerun,” Lavan called after Rachel “He may try to use his larger flock to crowd you away from the well.”
Rachel duly noted the warning as she herded her father’s small flock of sheep towards the local well.
Rachel hummed a merry tune to herself as she slowly moved the sheep along.
“Shaggy!” Rachel commanded with an authoritative voice while waving her staff, “Stay in line!”
A particularly hairy sheep immediately turned back into the formation of the flock.
From the distance Rachel could already spot three different flocks of sheep congregating around the stone-capped well.
That larger flock is obviously Nerun’s. Rachel thought to herself. I will be on guard. That speckled flock must be Shanar’s; and those beautifully combed animals can only be those of kindly Zoab.
Rachel was then surprised to see not three, but four men by the side of the well. Even from a distance Rachel recognized the outline and posture of Nerun and Zoab sitting and playing a game of shesh-besh. Shanar was sitting next to them conversing with a stranger. Shanar gestured towards Rachel and the stranger looked at her from the distance.
Who is that stranger? I do not recognize him at all. And that red hair!? I thought only our family had red hair? He must be a descendent of Terach as well. Only Terach’s descendents are noted for their red hair.
Shanar and the stranger then both started pointing at the massive stone covering the well.
Who can he be? Think girl, think! He must be of the descendents of either Lot or Abraham. The children of Lot are reputed as being fairly insular so I can not imagine they would venture north of their territories. And it cannot be from the children of Ishmael. They all have much darker complexions. It must be one of Isaac and Rebecca’s twins! It is clearly not the hairy brigand, Esau. It is Jacob!
Rachel started to flush with excitement. Jacob, my cousin, had been mentioned as a potential match for me. But the distances had made the thought impractical. And now he is here! Rachel looked herself over quickly, smoothed out her dress and combed back her hair with her hands. She knew that men were attracted to her, but she still wanted to look as best as she could. She continued towards the well, striding confidently with a bounce in her step, whistling a merry tune, radiating joy and beauty.
There was a small hill that obstructed her view of the well for a moment. And then, she was there facing him. Jacob looked into her eyes.
Their eyes connected like a shock of lightning that took Rachel’s breath away. She could not believe that a mere look could have such an effect on her. She wanted to lose herself in those eyes. But then something in those deep eyes changed. And to Rachel’s great surprise instead of stepping closer, Jacob moved towards the well.
What is he doing?
Jacob quickly inspected the massive well-stone. He found sturdy handholds and planted his feet firmly in the ground.
He means to move the well-stone himself. He must be mad! It would take at least six grown men to move it. This is why the shepherds need to wait for everyone to come.
At first the stone did not move. By now Nerun, Shanar and Zoab were on their feet laughing at the foolish stranger. But then it moved. It moved ever so slowly. Jacob, with muscles bulging, gathered momentum and pushed the stone off the well.
Then as if Jacob had annulled the laws of nature, the well water rose towards Jacob.
He is truly a grandson of Abraham. He is mighty and God is with him.
Jacob took a nearby bucket, scooped water from the well and started to give water to Rachel’s sheep.
Rachel had time to get over the initial excitement and look at Jacob more closely.
Why is he all alone? Why did he not come with gold laden camels as when his father sent for my aunt? Look at his clothing! He is in rags. He is impoverished. Is that why he is acting so strangely? Is he trying to show his worth as a shepherd?
Jacob went back and forth wordlessly from the well to the sheep, making sure to water every last one of them.
I do not care if he is a pauper. If he will have me, I will be his. I will not leave him for as long as I live. I shall do whatever I can to marry this man!
As if in response to her thoughts Jacob finished watering the sheep. He turned towards Rachel and without a single word gave Rachel a kiss. It was a kiss on the cheek the like that cousins often give to each other. But this kiss was filled with such tenderness, such love and such longing that Rachel thought her heart would burst.
Oh my God. Jacob! What are you thinking? What will the other shepherds think? I know I love him, but he has not even introduced himself to me!
And then Jacob began to weep. It was as if he had read her mind or seen some tragic future. He was embarrassed. He was destitute. He was confused. He was lonely.
Do not worry, my love. Rachel thought to him looking back in his eyes. You are safe now. We shall be together for as long as God allows.
And then Jacob introduced himself to her.
* * * * * *
“So Jacob lifted his feet, and went toward the land of the easterners. He looked, and behold – a well in the field. And behold, three flocks of sheep lay there beside it, for from that well they would water the flocks, and the stone over the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks would be assembled there they would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep; then they would put back the stone over the mouth of the well, in its place.
Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?”
And they said, “We are from Haran,”
He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?”
And they said, “We know.”
Then he said to them, “Is it well with him?”
They answered, “It is well’ and see – his daughter Rachel is coming with the flock.”
He said, “Look, the day is still long’ it is not yet time to bring the livestock in; water the flock and go on grazing.”
But they said, “We will be unable to, until all the flocks will have been gathered and they will roll the stone off the mouth of the well; we will then water the flock.”
While he was still speaking with them, Rachel had arrived with her father’s flock, for she was a shepherdess. And it was, when Jacob saw Rachel, daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the flock of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came forward and rolled the stone off the mouth of the well and watered the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother.
Then Jacob kissed Rachel; and he raised his voice and wept.
Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative, and that he was Rebecca’s son; the she ran and told her father.”
A plague of God struck Laban’s sheep, leaving only a few alive. He discharged his shepherd and entrusted the remnants of his flock to his daughter Rachel. Targum Yonatan, Bereshit Rabbah 29:9
Rachel was known for her beauty. Bereshit Rabbah 70:16
The two arms of the Patriarch Jacob were like two pillars of marble. Bereshit Rabbah 65:17
When he saw the water rise up before him, he knew that his spouse would come to him there. Zohar 1:152a
“He raised his voice and wept.” Genesis 29:11. Why did he weep? He said, “When Eliezer went to fetch Rebecca, it is written, The servant took ten camels (ibid 24:10). I, however, have not a single ring or bracelet.” … He wept because he foresaw that she would not be buried together with him in the Cave of Machpelah… He wept because he saw people whispering to one another after he had kissed her, for the people of the east were chaste [even though he had kissed her feeling that she was part of his family (Hirsch)]. Bereshit Rabbah 70:12