Monday, November 14

Jewish Survival - Part XII


In Memory of our mother Rachel

The date of her passing – י"א חשון  (the 11th of Cheshvan)

Rachel was endowed with the virtues of modesty and silence.[1]

Rachel and Leah grew up without their mother who had passed away.[2]

Jacob[3] arrives at Lavan’s house after staying 14 years in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever, where he learned Torah. When he met Rachel, a handsome and beautiful woman, he knew she was meant to be his wife, and the next seven years pass with anticipation to their marriage while Rachel embroidered and prepared her wedding gown.

Leah on the other hand, even before Jacob arrived at the Lavan’s house, knew that she was Esau’s intended as the oldest was matched to the oldest (Leah to Esau) and the youngest to the youngest (Rachel to Jacob) and on hearing of his acts and evil deeds she prayed and cried ‘til her eyelashes fell out (and Leah's eyes were soft). And she begged G-d that she be blessed with a righteous groom and that she not end up with Esau. And she suddenly heard that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob and her hope to marry Jacob was closer than ever.
Jacob taught Rachel the laws of family purity, candle lighting and challah; the three basic commandments unique to women in establishing a Jewish Home. Since he suspects Lavan’s deception he arranges with her that on their wedding night he would ask her the laws, and her answers would be the signs that in fact it is Rachel.
Lavan required partners to his deception, he gathers the locals and reminds them that the plenty and the blessings in the drinking water, food and sheep, began when Jacob arrived. With their help, Leah will arrive at the chuppah and in order to marry Rachel, as well, Jacob will have to remain an additional seven years and the blessings will continue.
They collaborate with him and sing “Ha Laya, Ha Laya” (meaning he deserves such a bride). If Jacob would protest against them, they could defend themselves by saying that they hinted to him all night, saying: “she is Leah, she is Leah” according to Medrash Raba Chapter 70, section 19.
The lofty highlight from that hour until the end of time, was that the minute Rachel saw her father preparing Leah for the chuppah, and she understood how embarrassed and humiliated she would feel, in her modesty and silence she magnanimously surpassed her virtues in a matter unlike any other.
“And she said to her (Rachel to Leah) Is it a small matter for you to take my husband? And would you take my son's mandrakes also?" (Genesis 30:15)
Leah’s grievance against Rachel, years after their marriage, sheds precious light and intensifies the luminous soul of Rachel, who gave her life for Leah, when she taught the laws that Jacob taught her, family purity, challah and candle lighting and did it in such a natural manner, without letting her know of the signs that she and Jacob had agreed upon. Leah never knew of Rachel’s sacrifice and devotion on her behalf.
Rachel, that night, surpassed her virtues nobly. Had she cried out against the wrong done to her, the evening would have become a fiery quarrel and disagreement with strife of shame and disgrace, which at once, Rachel prevented with her concession and silence. Rabbi Dessler explains in his book, “Michtav MeEliyahu”, when a person surpasses his virtues and prevents a rift and divisiveness and creates peace and unity, it is there that G-d’s presence is found.  Therefore, if a person overrides his virtues, it is atonement for his misdeeds. He becomes another person, and his lot is changed with a golden opportunity to ask G-d for a blessing. The extent of the difficulty of restraint and devotion to avoid hurting others also opens the door to the greatest reward.
And Jacob, despite his grief and disappointment that it was not Rachel still increased his love for her "and he loved ... Rachel from Leah" (Genesis29:30) meaning from the story of Rachel giving the signs and her dedication to Leah, his love and appreciation for her increased.
And G-d remembered Rachel and opened her womb” he remembered her for her transferring of the signs and blessed her with the creation of a womb and as such she is a partner to the blessings of the 12 tribes.
Her grave site has become one of the centers of prayer for generations, and even the other nations knew this and it says “by the rivers of Babylon there we sat down and wept” the crying began after the destruction of Jerusalem but captors received orders from above to run the Jewish captives who were bound, not allowing them to stop on the way at the tomb of Rachel; then their cries and prayers there, may change their destiny for the better. Therefore, the first time they were allowed to sit, to rest and cry of their bitter lot after the malicious run, when they arrived at the rivers of Babylon. Only then “we sat down and we wept”.

And it is told, the forefathers and mothers went to appease G-d’s anger over Menashe’s placement of an idol in the Temple. Our father, Abraham, who sacrificed his life when he entered the fiery furnace and publicized the name of G-d in the world, came. Our father, Isaac, came with a simple offering, prepared and ready to sacrifice on the altar, and Jacob who was the chosen among the forefathers, the only one whose name is engraved on the Seat of Glory. They all tried to appease unsuccessfully until Rachel arrived and said: Ruler of the Universe, I brought trouble into my house when all the work that Jacob did in my father’s house was for me, and when I was ready to come to the chuppah and they brought my sister instead, and it wasn’t enough that I was silent, but also gave her my signs. If they brought your trouble (idolatry) into your home, you should also be quiet for them. G-d immediately said to Rachel, you have learned defense well, and there is merit to your actions and your fairness. G-d was appeased and his anger at Israel subsided.
King Saul and Johnathon his son[4] were descendants of Rachel.  There was a wonderful friendship between David and Johnathan to the point where Johnathan was prepared to give up the crown for David. King Saul and his sons were killed at war, and in King David’s eulogy of Johnathan (descendant of Leah) he adds “your love for me was greater than a woman’s love”. He wants to say: The power of your waiver, Johnathan, “my brother” to give up the crown that you were supposed to inherit from your father, King Saul, stems from the power and merit of Rachel (your grandmother) who relinquished on behalf of Leah (my grandmother) on her wedding night.

When Jacob returned to the Land of Israel with his entire family, his flock and his possessions he meets Esau, who asks him who are they to you? Jacob answers him: ”the children who G-d endowed to your servant.”
He uses the Hebrew word חנן – each of those three Hebrew letters are an acronym for חלה (challah,) נר (ner) and נידה (nida,) referring once more to the three basic commandments unique to women of challah, lighting candles and family purity; the basis for family life among the Jewish people.
By observance of the mitzvah of immersion in the mikvah, which involves relinquishing the closest connection during the banned period, we merit the virtue of Rachel and are worthy of the blessing of G-d upon us and our descendants.

By Rabbi  I. Ravad, founder of the Mikvah- Tikvah organization ravad@mikvtikva.org
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[1] She imparted these virtues to her offspring: Benjamin, Saul and his son Jonathan and Queen Esther
[2] Lavan’s wife’s name: Adina
[3] His additional name: Yisrael, from which the nation of Israel begins based on the forefathers and mothers who are hinted at in the name. According to the Hebrew letters of Israel:ישראל
י – יצחק, יעקב (Isaac and Jacob,) ש –  שרה(Sarah,) ר- רבקה, רחל (Rivka and Rachel), א-אברהם  (Abraham,) ל - לאה (Leah.)
[4] By Rav Shlomo Levinstein


The Key To  Jewish Survival
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