Torah vs TLC: Vayeitzei and "Sister Wives"

I’ve done just a little digging, and there’s not much out there comparing this week’s soap-opera of a Torah portion (where Jacob marries sisters Leah and Rachel, plus their handmaids) and father’s 13 children) to the TLC show “Sister Wives” (which profiles a modern “plural marriage” of one man and 4 women and (I’m sure the producers totally didn’t love this coincidence) 13 children.)

As far as I can tell – or at least as far as Google can help me discover – only two items are out there right now.

Leah Berkenwald gets the ball rolling over at Jewesses With Attitude, but she states from the beginning that “”. Her blog post is more about “what it means for the feminists” than any real Jewish theological or liturgical comparison.

Allison Kaplan Sommer continues the conversation (even quoting from .. article) over at The Sisterhood. However, her focus is also feminist in nature, this time on which “restrictive and patriarchal religion that believes in maximizing childbirth, and lays all responsibility of raising children and caring for the home on the woman” she would choose. IE: Would she be an orthodox Jewish wife or a woman in a plural (Mormon) marriage.

While both are valid perspectives, I think there is a ton of other Jewish ground to cover.

  • Can we understand anything about our patriarchs and matriarchs when we view them through the lens of modern plural families (either because they are alike or completely dissimilar)?
  • Can we understand anything about modern polygamists when viewed through the lens of our Torah narrative?
  • Is there anything the Jacob saga in Torah has to teach the family on TLC?
  • Does the Jewish stance on polygamy jibe with our modern sensibilities or is it in need of review?

The truth is, I’m not the guy to write such an essay (or series of essays, more likely). For starters, I don’t watch the show!

But if anyone out there has any ideas, or has seen anything else on the subject, please pass it along in the comments section below!