Emeinu (Our Mother)

Emeinu (Our Mother)

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 Rachel.

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 humiliated.

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 3:15-17 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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