Mother Rachel

July 16, 2012 - 5:00 am

This is what the Lord says:  ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’ This is what the Lord says:  ‘Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,’ declares the Lord. ‘They will return from the land of the enemy.  So there is hope for your descendants,’ declares the Lord. ‘Your children will return to their own land’.” — Jeremiah 31:15–17

According to Jewish tradition, all the patriarchs and matriarchs are buried in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron, except one: Mother Rachel. Her husband Jacob had a good reason for burying her on the road near Bethlehem instead. He foresaw that in the future, when the Jewish people would be exiled from their homeland, they would need her.

Here’s why.

Jewish tradition records a wild debate up in heaven. As the Jews are being exiled from their land, all of the holiest souls try to intercede before God on their behalf.

Abraham speaks first:  “I overcame my nature and was prepared to sacrifice my only son. Won’t you remember my devotion and have mercy on my children?”

Then Isaac tries:  “When I realized that my father had been commanded to slaughter me, I faithfully accepted my fate. Won’t you remember my strength and have mercy on my children?”

Next, Jacob:  “I suffered so much in my lifetime. I had to work for Laban, escape from Esau, and I suffered so much raising my children. Now they are being led like sheep to the slaughter. Won’t you remember my pain and redeem them?”

Then Moses:  “Wasn’t I a loyal shepherd for Israel all the years in the desert? I didn’t even get to enter the Holy Land, but brought them dutifully to its entrance. And now they go into exile – won’t you listen to my cries?”

Finally, Mother Rachel comes before God:  “Master of the Universe, you know that Jacob loved me most and worked for my father for seven years in order to marry me. When the time of my marriage came, my father switched my sister for me and I didn’t begrudge my sister and I didn’t let her be shamed. I had compassion for my sister; won’t you have mercy on my children?”

Immediately, God’s mercy was awakened and He said:  “For you, Rachel, I will bring Israel back, as it says:  “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded . . . Your children will return to their own land.”

From all of the holy souls that tried to save the Jewish people, Rachel’s merit was greater than everyone else’s. And why? Because she had compassion on another human being. The message is clear. When we treat others with tremendous compassion, God will treat us with nothing less.


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