The yartzeit of our Matriarch, Rachel, falls this year on Shabbat. Every year, more and more people gather at Rachel’s Tomb to pay respects to the Matriarch who is known as Rachel Emanu – Rachel Our Mother.
Thousands of pilgrims will travel there today and tomorrow from all over the country, and perhaps 200,000 more will make the annual pilgrimage the day after Shabbat, every type of Jew there is, religious and non-religious, Haredim, Hasidim, and Dati Leumi, men, women, and children, busload after busload after busload, from far and near, waiting long hours for their turn to enter the small but beautifully renovated tomb near Betlechem on the way to Efrata .
Rachel’s Tomb is also a very frequented site during the year. The new enclosure houses a Kollel, and while men fill their side of the Tomb around the clock, learning and praying throughout the night, they are outnumbered by the enormous number of women who visit the Tomb, to identify with the mother of the Jewish People and to cry out their prayers for themselves, their families, their children, and for all of the Nation, beseeching the Almighty to grant health and happiness, blessing and salvation, shiduchim-tovim and children, to everyone in distress and need, all in the merit of Rachel Emanu.
While Sarah, Rivka, and Leah are also Matriarchs of the Jewish People, why did Rachel merit the special calling of Rachel Emanu, our mother? On one hand, as the last Matriarch in the chain, we are most directly descended from her. But the reason goes deeper than that. In the Kabbalah, Rachel is identified with the Shechinah, and with the sefirah of Malchut. In her spiritual capacity as the Shechinah, Rachel is truly the mother and provider of the Jewish People, caring, like a mother, for all of her children.
The famous verse of the Prophet Yirmeyahu regarding Rachel declares:
“Thus says the Lord: A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and bitter weeping – Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted for her children because they are not” (Yirmeyahu, 31:14). What does it mean – “they are not”? It means that Rachel’s children are not in the Land of Israel. It means they have been exiled from the Land. Our Sages tell us that Rachel is not buried with the other Matriarchs in Hevron, but rather “on the way” so that when the Jewish People were exiled from Yerushalayim, as they passed by her Tomb on the way to foreign gentile lands, Rachel would cry over them and beg Hashem to have mercy on them and return them to the Land.
Make no mistake. Rachel’s bitter weeping, still heard today at her Tomb, is over her children in exile. She weeps over you – that’s right – you, the Jews in Brooklyn, and the Jews inLakewood, and her children in LA. You may think things are wonderful, but Rachel’s lamentation and bitter tears are shed over you, filling almost two-thousand years of exile and weeping.
Rachel Emanu weeps over the presidents of Jewish Federations who marry gentiles, and she weeps over the directors of the major Diaspora Jewish organizations who marry Jews. She weeps over the Diaspora rabbis and yeshivas and pop singers and Hollywood directors and stars. Rachel weeps over Sarah Silverman and the tzaddikim who condemn her. She weeps over The Jewish Press and The Jewish News. She weeps over you, you, and you, and yes, she weeps over me, and all of the Jews of Eretz Yisrael who can’t be complete until all of our brothers and sisters return home from their adulterous sojourning in alien gentile lands.
But all is not lost. The Prophet has words of comfort for us and for Rachel:
“Thus says the Lord: Keep thy voice from weeping, and thy eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, says the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy; and there is hope for thy future, says the Lord, and thy children shall come back again to their own border” (Yirmeyahu, 31:15-16).
There is hope for the future. You can end Rachel’s tears. You can put an end to your mother’s pain and sorrow. You may believe things are as “colossal” and “gevaltik” as can be in Boro Park, Monsey, the Five Towns, Boca, and Palm Beach, but the Shechinah is weeping over you, and the Holy One Blessed Be He roars out like a lion in the middle of the night over the exile of his children who prefer America to Eretz Yisrael!