Monday, October 26, 2009

Yarzeit of Rachel Imeinu

11 Cheshvan - Yarzeit of Rachel Imeinu
(falls on Thursday Oct. 29, 2009) 

Born: 2170 (1590 BCE)
Died: 2208 (1557  BCE)

On the eleventh of Cheshvan, while giving birth to her 2nd son,  Binyamin, Rachel, the beloved wife of Ya'akov, died, and was buried on the road to Beit Lechem (Bethlehem).

Our mother Rachel was not buried in the tile cave of Machpelah in Chevron (Hevron) together with the other Matriarchs and Patriarchs of our people. Instead, she was buried on the road toYerushalayim, exactly where she died, while coming back toYerushalayim from the House of Lavan with Yaakov.

Why was Rachel buried on the road in Beit Lechem?

According to our Sages, Ya'akov saw prophetically in the future, that Jewish exiles would pass by on that road and she might seek mercy for them.

When Nebuzaradan exiled the Jews from Yisrael, and they in fact passed her grave, Rachel emerged to weep and to ask for mercy in their behalf: "Thus says HaShem, 'A voice is heard in Ramah (or on high), lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted over her children, for they are gone.'" (Yirmeyahu 3l:14) And G-d in fact answers: "Thus says HaShem, 'Keep your voice from crying and your eyes from weeping: for your labors will be rewarded,' says HaShem, 'And [your children] shall return from the land of the enemy'" (Rashi Va'yechi, and Midrashim quoted by Radak, Yirmeyahu 31).

The Midrash states that Rachel weeps for the destruction of Yisrael more than any other of the Patriarchs or Matriarchs, because it was Rachel who strived the most to establish the House of Yisrael.  Had Rachel refused to accept the request of her father, Lavan, to have her sister, Leah, become Yaakov's wife instead of her, the House of Yisrael would have received an entirely different form.  Leah would never have married Yaakov, and the handmaids, Bilha and Zilpah, who married Yaakov as a result of Rachel's strong desire to enlarge Yaakov's family, would not have married him either.

Rachel is assured that Jews wil continue to visit her grave, where they will pour out their hearts in prayer and weeping (Yirmeyahu 31:16).  This verse alludes to the remarkable fact that Rachel's tomb has been preserved to this very day, nearly 4,000 years after its construction.

From the time when the People of Yisrael went into their first exile until Yirmeyahu's prophecy of redemption ("And [your children] shall return from the land of the enemy"), the grave of our mother Rachel has always been and will always remain a House of Prayer to Yisrael, for she is a mother to all Yisrael, and always awakens mercy in their behalf.

May the merit of the tzaddeket Rachel Imeinu  protect us all, Amein.

[MeAm Lo'ez, Rabbi Bachya, OU]