What is the proper sequence of naming the Imahot when we pray?

There are certain occasions when we mention the names of our Imahot – Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah – as part of a prayer. Particularly, in the customary “Mi She’berach” tefilah recited on behalf of an ill female patient, we make reference to Hashem having blessed the Imahot, and we list all four by name.

The Ben Ish Chai (a”h) was asked which sequence should be used when mentioning the final two matriarchs – Rachel and Leah. Although it is common to mention Rachel before Leah, it might, at least at first glance, seem more proper to first mention Leah, as she was the older of the two sisters.

In his sefer, Torah Lishmah, the Ben Ish Chai states that in truth it is proper to mention Rachel before Leah. He cites several instances in Torah literature when Rachel is mentioned before Leah. In Masechet Horayot, for example, the Torah Hakedoshah lists several women in Tanach who excelled in the area of Tzniyut (modesty), and in this list Rachel appears before Leah. Similarly, toward the end of Megilat Rut, we read that Boaz is given a blessing upon marrying Rut that his new wife should be “like Rachel and like Leah.” And in Parshat Vayeitzeh, the Torah states that Yaakov Avinu (a”h) called his two wives for a meeting, and Rachel is mentioned before Leah (“Vayikra L’Rachel U’le’Leah” – Bereishit 31:4).

Therefore, whenever one recites a prayer that mentions the names of our righteous Imahot, he should ensure to mention Rachel before Leah.