Girls in Trouble is an indie-folk song cycle about women in Torah by musician, writer and Torah teacher, Alicia Jo Rabins. The Girls in Trouble Curriculum links these musical midrashim with their source texts, Alicia's notes, and other artistic interpretations, inviting teachers, students, and individual learners on a journey through the world of women in Torah. We hope you enjoy this concise version of the Rachel and Leah unit. To download the full unit, including teacher's notes, please visit www.girlsintroublemusic.com.
Behind the Music: Notes from singer/songwriter Alicia Jo Rabins
Sisterhood is powerful; it’s also powerfully complicated. This song considers the stunningly complex relationship between two of the most famous sisters in Torah, Rachel and Leah, whose lives are enmeshed from girlhood until death. They grow up in the same household and even marry the same man, yet they move through the world differently and are treated differently by the people around them.
Their story includes the full range of sibling-hood: allegiance and struggle, love and resentment, loyalty and betrayal. This is evident in the Torah text itself, and the Rabbis take that even further; this song refers to a beautiful midrash (included in the full curriculum unit) in which they imagine Rachel choosing to betray Jacob and risk her own happiness, rather than publicly embarrass her sister.
What is your experience of the sibling relationship, or close friendships that resemble the sibling relationship? What challenges and joys do you find there? How can the story of Rachel and Leah inform our own relationships with those we love?
[Verse 1–8 describes Jacob journeying east to find a well covered by a large rock. He speaks with local shepherds, establishing that his uncle Laban lives here, and that Laban’s daughter Rachel is approaching with her sheep.]
[Verses 27–42 tell the story of Jacob using breeding techniques
to outsmart Laban and leave with a large herd of very healthy
Questions for Discussion:
1. What problems or questions do you find in this text?
2. What is your favorite moment in this story? Alternatively, which moment seems most interesting or dramatic?
3. How do you think Rachel feels about Leah in this story? Are her feelings towards her sister consistent, or do they change? And what about Leah's feelings towards Rachel? (Note: there’s no right answer!)
DNA O SISTER
a song in Rachel’s voice by Alicia Jo Rabins/Girls in Trouble
DNA O sister I am half you half me
in between the molecules I feel it when you breathe
late at night when all the house goes silent in their sleep
I will give you everything I promised him I’d keep
Older and younger and hunter and thief
which one is you, and which one is me
silver and water and petal and leaf
Some sisters stay home and some sisters leave
some sisters get what the other ones need
some sisters blossom and some sisters bleed
Both of us are braided through with candles blood and bread
both of us were born with all these visions in our head
you would always promise me that one day we’d be free
late at night I’m leaving and I’m taking you with me
1. This song imagines Rachel singing to Leah. How does it portray Rachel's feelings towards her sister? How might your own interpretation of Rachel be similar to or differend from the song's?
2. Treasure hunt: how many elements of the Biblical text can you find in this song?
3. What emotions does this song evoke for you? In the music? In the lyrics? Are they similar to or different from the emotion the Biblical text evokes?