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Of places in the world, the Holy Land portrays G-d's glory to Man. And of all
the saintly people who walked the Holy Land, the Rachel Emeinu (Our Mother) portrays the
glory of man to G-d. What is so special about Rachel? If you are familiar
with the Bible, you already know most of the story.
The Bible declares that Jewish Patriarch Isaac was old and unable to see. In
order to bestow blessings upon his first-born son, Isaac orders Esau to hunt and
prepare venison. However, Rebecca realizes that Jacob truly deserves those
blessings, not Esau. She prepares food and dresses Jacob in the clothes of his
older brother Esau. After querying his son, Isaac eats the meal that Rebecca has
made and blesses Jacob.
Esau returns from hunting and learns that Jacob has taken "his" blessings.
Outraged, he vows to kill his younger brother in revenge. Rebecca learns of his
plans and commands Jacob to flee to her brother Laban in Haran, where he should
take a wife. Jacob does as he is told and escapes to Haran. There, he meets and
falls in love with Laban's daughter Rachel. Jacob serves Laban for seven years
to earn the right to marry Rachel. However at the last moment, Laban deceives
Jacob into marrying Leah. Jacob then must work another seven years for
On the surface, it sounds as if Laban has tricked Rachel and Jacob. However,
Jewish tradition teaches us differently. Preconditioned by years of Laban's
deceptions, Jacob and Rochel prepare signs to identify each other within the
silent darkness of the marriage tent. When the time comes, Rachel sees her
father escorting Leah to the wedding tent. Knowing that her sister's identity
would be quickly discovered, Rachel gives Leah the signs so that she wouldn't be
It was a supreme act of selflessness. And what was Rachel's "reward"?
Rachel sees her sister in the arms of the one that she loves. She watches
Leah give birth to one son after another, while she remains childless. She
pleads with her husband for children only to be told in his frustration that,
"G-d has withheld children from you, and not me." Eventually, her prayers are
answered and she gives birth to a son, Yosef. However, her joy is not complete
and she prayers for another son. G-d answers her prayers. However, the birth of
Binyomin is accompanied by her own death. Finally, she is buried "on the road to
Efrat -- now Bethlehem." (Genesis 35:16-21) Even in her death, Rachel must
remain apart from her husband, who will eventually rest in Hebron with Leah.
Rachel's life was tragic. Yet throughout her suffering, Rachel remained
absolutely faithful to G-d above and to her children here in this world below.
In fact, the sages state that Jacob buried Rachel on the roadside so that she
could pray for them as they were being led into Exile, as Jeremiah 31:14-16
states, "Rachel, weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her
children who are gone. Thus said G-d: 'Restrain your voice from weeping, your
eyes from shedding tears for there is reward for your labor' declares G-d. 'They
shall return from the enemy's land and there is hope for the future' declares
G-d: 'Your children shall return to their own country.'
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