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November 28, 2015 / 16 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Kever Rachel’

Rising Above Aggravation (Part Two)

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

In last week’s column I described some of the nerve-wracking aggravation inherent to travel. Going to Eretz Yisrael, however, is different. There, everything is different, because Eretz Yisrael is our land. Hashem gave it to us to be our eternal inheritance. So no matter how long we may have been away from her, the land remains as close to us as it was thousands of years ago. We have a teaching, “Whatever happened to our forefathers is a sign for us, their children. In other words, everything is replay.

When our father Jacob, after many years of exile, returned to Eretz Yisrael, he sent a message to Esau that he had been delayed, but was now coming – meaning he had never relinquished ownership of the land, but was merely delayed.

Similarly, for almost two thousand years, we too have been delayed, but throughout, the land was engraved on our hearts and souls. So yes, going to Eretz Yisrael is different, and that which we would find aggravating in other countries somehow does not affect us in the same way in the Holy Land. It’s not that I have some Pollyanna outlook. I am fully aware of the challenges that come with living there, and yet I still maintain that it is different.Allow me to share with you just one example:

Whenever I speak in Israel, I am careful to set time aside to visit the gravesites of our ancestors. So we engaged a taxi and asked the driver to take us to Kever Rachel and to wait for us. Now, taking taxi in Israel is, in and of itself, an experience. Nowhere else can you have a conversation with a driver as you can in Israel.

I am in the habit of asking the driver his name and this usually leads to a big discussion. When I asked this particular driver his name, he replied, “Benjy.”

“You mean Binyamin,” I said.

“What’s the difference, Binyamin or Benjy?” he asked.

“There’s a huge difference,” I responded. “Binyamin has a history; Binyamin has roots. Binyamin represents glory and splendor – the Holy Temple itself was in the territory of Binyamin. But what is Benjy? What history does a Benjy have?”

So we got into a whole discussion about Torah and Judaism, something that can only happen in Israel, and in the end he conceded that Binyamin does represent a legacy that Benjy does not have. Where else but in Israel can this happen?

Before we knew it, we had arrived at Kever Rachel and designated a spot where he should wait for us. There were about a dozen women at the Kever, each engrossed in her individual prayer, shedding tears and pleading for G-d’s mercy. What better place can there be to make such supplications? Regarding Rachel it is written, Kol b’Ramah nishma – a voice is heard above…Rachel is weeping for her children. She refuses to be consoled, and Hashem assures her, “Cease your weeping; wipe your tears. There is reward for your labor. Your children shall come home….”

When we pray at the grave of Mother Rachel, when we shed tears there, we know Rachel is praying with us. She feels our pain and weeps with us, and even as she does so, she gathers our tears and places them in front of G-d’s Throne. Mother Rachel refuses to be consoled until our salvation comes, and that knowledge fortifies us. So I found a place for myself right near her catafalque and started to pray.

I was pouring out my heart – I was in another world – when suddenly I was jarred. A busload of Sephardic women arrived. They made their way into the small room in which we were praying, and as more and more of them entered, I felt as if I were being crushed. I couldn’t move – neither to the right nor to the left.

Since I am slight of build, it doesn’t take much to knock me over, and here I was, being pushed and shoved until I felt I was on the brink of falling. If this had happened to me in any other country, in any other place, I would have been outraged…. At the very least, I would have said, “Ladies, watch where you are going. You are crushing me!” And I must admit that my natural reaction was to voice my protest here as well.

But then I started to think about where I was, and all the pushing and shoving took on a different dimension. I recalled the teaching of our sages that when the Jewish people gathered from throughout the land and ascended to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festivals, no one ever complained “Tzar lee hamakom – there is no room for me here.” This despite the fact that there were multitudes of people gathered there. So here we were, thousands of years later, at Kever Rachel, and we could not move – but even as our forefathers did, we all found room and prayed as one.

“Mama Rachel, ” I whispered, “behold your children. Millennia have passed since you ascended above and during those thousands of years we, your children, have been cast to the four corners of the world. We were tortured and oppressed. We experienced the barbaric savagery of the nations. Our children were torn from our arms, our blood flowed freely all over the world, and the skies became dark from the smoke of the fires that consumed our people, but despite it all, we, your children never forgot you. We kept your memory alive in our hearts and souls. We knew exactly where you were buried, and now, when Hashem in His infinite mercy allowed us to return to our land, we fought and gave our lives to be able to come to your resting place to pray, to thank you for your endless tears that testify that you never gave up on us.

So, Mother Rachel, just behold these women coming from different parts of the land, pushing and shoving – not for a bargain on a sales day, not to see a rock star, or any of the other attractions that have become synonymous with the 20th or 21st century. None of that would bring these women out. They all came to give you honor and to ask you to pray with them and intercede on their behalf in front of Hashem’s Throne.

It was those thoughts that ran through my mind as I was jostled to and fro in a sea of women. And as if by magic, annoyance turned into inspiration, aggravation into appreciation. And then I whispered yet another prayer: “Who is like Your people Israel, Oh G-d?”

“Hashem,” I prayed, “look down upon Your people and remember that, despite everything, we never forgot You! We never forgot that You commanded our father Jacob to bury our mother Rachel on the roadside so that she might always be accessible to us, her children. And now, thousands of years later, here we are, pouring out our hearts. Yes, “Who is like Your people Israel?”

I finished my davening and tried to make my way out, but no sooner had I emerged from the crowd than another lady approached me. “Come,” she said, “let’s say Nishmas together.”

We had already stayed an inordinate amount of time and were very much behind schedule. The taxi that had brought us and was supposed to be waiting had left long ago. Here we were in Bethlehem (not the friendliest of towns) and we wondered how we would get another taxi – but we could not resist such an amazing invitation, to say Nishmas on the way out of Kever Rachel – “Nishmas kol chai – The soul of every living being blesses and praises You.”

Can there be a more spectacular, meaningful prayer to recite on taking leave of Kever Rachel?

To be sure, if I had been delayed at any other place I would have politely declined. “I’m sorry,” I would have said, “but there is a meeting I have to make.” But here I had all the time in the world and instead of being annoyed my heart was filled with joy. What a zechus – merit – to say Nishmas at Kever Rachel with a group of women who had come from the four corners of the world, who spoke different languages, but who all united as one because they were all the children of Mama Rochel.

It was late when we finally got into another taxi, but I felt like singing with joy. What a magnificent day it had been – to pray as one with Am Yisrael and to be immersed in the fervor that has kept our people alive throughout the centuries.

Kever Rachel Fund Reception

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

A special gathering was held recently in Los Angeles celebrating the continued preservation of Kever Rachel. Miriam Adani, the founder and director of the Kever Rachel Fund, addressed the audience (with the assistance of the translator, Rabbi Korobkin) and showed a video on the present state of Kever Rachel and how it has been a source of comfort and joy for thousands of Jews who visit and pray at this makom kadosh. The evening’s MC, Sandy Kalinsky, introduced Rabbi Boruch Gradon, rosh kollel of the Los Angeles Merkaz Hatorah Community Kollel, who delivered words of chizuk.


Some of the projects supported by the Kever Rachel Fund include providing bulletproof buses traveling to the kever, coordinating simchas at the site (including simchas for victims of terror), arranging prayer gatherings, and outreach to Israeli soldiers.


The event’s hosts were Jacob and Esther Blaich. Gifts were presented to the Tribute Committee, Rabbi Gradon, the Blaichs, and all those who assisted in the evening’s event.




(L-R) Miriam Adani presenting gift to Esther and Jacob Blaich, hosts of L.A.’s

reception for the Kever Rachel Fund. (Photo credit: Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

Kever Rachel Fund Reception

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

A special gathering was held recently in Los Angeles celebrating the continued preservation of Kever Rachel. Miriam Adani, the founder and director of the Kever Rachel Fund, addressed the audience (with the assistance of the translator, Rabbi Korobkin) and showed a video on the present state of Kever Rachel and how it has been a source of comfort and joy for thousands of Jews who visit and pray at this makom kadosh. The evening’s MC, Sandy Kalinsky, introduced Rabbi Boruch Gradon, rosh kollel of the Los Angeles Merkaz Hatorah Community Kollel, who delivered words of chizuk.


Some of the projects supported by the Kever Rachel Fund include providing bulletproof buses traveling to the kever, coordinating simchas at the site (including simchas for victims of terror), arranging prayer gatherings, and outreach to Israeli soldiers.


The event’s hosts were Jacob and Esther Blaich. Gifts were presented to the Tribute Committee, Rabbi Gradon, the Blaichs, and all those who assisted in the evening’s event.




(L-R) Miriam Adani presenting gift to Esther and Jacob Blaich, hosts of L.A.’s

reception for the Kever Rachel Fund. (Photo credit: Rabbi Arye D. Gordon

‘Why Do We Have To Leave?’

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Anyone who has been to Israel is familiar with the countless religious, spiritual, and aesthetic attributes the land holds. The country is rich in Jewish tradition and historical significance abounds. There are awe-inspiring sights that leave indelible marks in our minds and souls. Israel is a land that has a special place in all of our hearts.

I have been extremely fortunate to travel to Israel on many occasions. While every trip is special in its own unique way, my most recent trip was the most meaningful one for me yet. I just returned home after traveling to Israel with my eleven-year-old daughter. This was my daughter’s first visit to Israel, and the effect the experience had on her was nothing short of spectacular.

She fell in love with the land the moment we stepped off the plane. Clearly exhausted after the long flight, during which time she was too excited about her journey to sleep, my daughter immediately perked up as her eyes took in the sights around her. Just walking through Ben Gurion Airport on the way to retrieve our luggage and viewing all of the Hebrew signage was exciting for her.

During our time in Israel, we stayed with close family friends who live in Efrat. To the international community, Efrat is simply another one of the “settlements” that many perceive to be an impediment to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. In reality, Efrat is a flourishing and vibrant city that serves as a home to 10,000 residents.

My daughter immediately fell in love with Efrat. It was not just the city’s beauty that captivated her attention; it was the sense of community and camaraderie that permeated the air. The warmth of the families who make Efrat their home and the sense that you are in the midst of a community where Torah and a love for Eretz Yisrael is a fundamental part of people’s lives was not lost on my daughter. Although the rest of the world may consider a community like Efrat to be a nuisance due to its characterization as a “settlement,” to the Jewish people it is one of the backbones of our homeland.

According to my daughter, one of the highlights of our trip was the time we spent in Jerusalem. Whether it was walking through the streets in the center of town, perusing the wares at the Machane Yehuda open-air market, or strolling down the streets of Mea Shearim and Geulah, she thoroughly enjoyed it.

And then there was the Old City. Walking through its streets with my daughter was an experience I will treasure the rest of my life. Visiting the Kotel with her was extraordinary. We stood together at the crossroads of the Jewish universe and watched as Jews from all walks of life, hailing from all over the globe, came together to pray. My daughter was acutely aware of the fact that though people may have been speaking in many different languages, when they stood at that Wall they were all speaking to the same God.

Another highlight of the trip was our journey to Kever Rachel and the city of Hebron. Now that control of Bethlehem has been relinquished to the Palestinians, it has become somewhat of an adventure to access the holy site where our matriarch Rachel is buried. After passing through a security checkpoint and traveling through a colossal corridor of concrete barriers that separate the Jews traveling to Kever Rachel from the Arab residents of Bethlehem, we were fortunate to be able to enter the site and pray that our Mama Rachel will continue safeguarding the Jewish people.

The memory of our time in Hebron is something that will stay with my daughter and me for a long time. Thanks to the Hebron Fund, we were able to visit with some of the residents of Hebron. These people are true Jewish heroes who are on the front line of our ongoing battle to maintain control of a holy site that rightfully belongs to the Jewish people.

Walking with our heads held high through the streets of a city where the small Jewish community is surrounded on all sides by a huge Arab community, and where the signs that adorn many of the storefronts are in Arabic, was a special experience for my daughter. When the voice of the local muezzin shattered the silence with the Islamic call to prayer just as we were ascending the steps leading up to Mearat Hamachpela where our forefathers are buried, it was a stark reminder that though Jews are a minority in Hebron today, they remain an integral part of this holy city that somehow, some way, must always remain in the hands of the Jewish nation.

Rachel Imeinu Cries For Her Children

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

A young man and 12 of his friends went to Kever Rachel to daven for his very sick mother. She had leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. The mother’s family was tested to see if someone was a match. One relative’s marrow matched with 9 out of 10 factors. This was good, but the optimum was 10 out of 10 factors.

After this young man poured his heart out to Mother Rachel, his mother received a call that a perfect match had been found. The donor lived in Eretz Yisrael. Needless to say, the mother was overwhelmed with joy, and felt fortunate that her personal redemption had been found in the Holy Land.

Before the transplant took place, the mother’s rabbi advised her to add a name, as people do when they are very ill.

The mother discussed this issue with her family and, after a few days, they decided on the name Leora, meaning, “To me, there will be light.” She hoped that the transplant would bring her from darkness to light, from illness to good health. When she called her daughter-in-law to let her know about her new name, the daughter-in-law exclaimed, “Ma, I just thought of the same name!”

The fact that both had independently thought of this name made them feel secure that Hashem was overseeing everything, and that He would bless Leora with a full recovery.

Today Leora is home, recuperating from her long illness and feeling very positive.

All mothers make extraordinary efforts for their children. And Mother Rachel did the same for Leora, her special great-great-granddaughter.

Rabbi Porush’s Noble Legacy

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

The passing of Rabbi Menachem Porush in Jerusalem on Sunday night brought to mind many memories of my childhood. He was a close friend and working colleague of my father, Simcha Unsdorfer, z”l, who served as secretary general of British Agudah.

Always impeccably dressed in kapota and cufflinks, Rabbi Porush had an almost regal bearing and was a frequent visitor to our London home.

I particularly remember him being with us in the week before the start of the Six-Day War in 1967. I recall him sitting with my father watching the somber news bulletins on our black and white TV. A map with three thick black arrows was on the screen, each arrow representing a massive Arab army pointed toward the tiny sliver of Eretz Yisrael.

I watched as my father, an Auschwitz survivor, became ever more stressed with each bulletin. In contrast, Rabbi Porush’s measured tones and kindly features exuded a reassuring calm that was rooted in a belief system greater and stronger than is the case for most people.

The sad news of his petirah also reminded me of a piece I had written for The Jewish Press some years ago. Titled “Joseph – The Second Betrayal,” it was about the preservation of Jewish rights of access to our patriarchal burial sites. The following extract is particularly apt to reprint as a tribute to the life and work of Reb Menachem of blessed memory:

It was during the summer of 1995 that a fateful encounter took place in the Knesset, outside the office of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Rabin’s government was putting the final touches on the second Oslo agreement that was to hand over a further tranche of West Bank towns to the new Palestinian Authority. This included Bethlehem, site of Rachel’s Tomb, at which Jews have prayed for thousands of years. National Religious Party member Hanan Porat realized that the tomb was slated to fall into “Area A,” that is, under full Arab civil and military control. He decided he must speak with Rabin and try to change his mind.

Another MK, Jewish Press columnist Rabbi Menachem Porush, happened to walk by and saw his friend standing outside the prime minister’s office carrying a large aerial photograph of the tomb compound and the Bethlehem-Gilo border.

“What are you doing here?” asked Porush.

“I have come to lobby for Rachel’s Tomb,” Porat responded.

Porush asked if he could join him at the meeting and Porat agreed.

For the greater part of the meeting, Porush sat in silence. He listened to Porat, who drew lines on the aerial photograph and illustrated how short was the distance and shooting range between Gilo and Bethlehem. Porat also asked Rabin if he would be willing to give the Palestinians the grave of Ben Gurion or that of his Palmach commander, Yigal Allon.

Rabin was preparing to respond when Porush stood up and embraced him. Addressing him as “Reb Yitzchak,” Porush tearfully beseeched him not to give up Rachel’s Tomb.

“It was beyond words,” Porat recalled in a later interview. “Reb Menachem sobbed, crying real tears onto the prime minister’s shirt. Rabin begged him, ‘Reb Menachem, please calm down.’ Reb Menachem retorted: ‘How can I calm down? You are planning to give away Mama Ruchi’s grave. The Jewish people will never forgive you if you abandon Mama’s tomb.’ ”

Rabin relented and promised the two Knesset members that he would re-examine the issue. Just a few days later, the 463 meters separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem were restored to their “Area C” status under complete Israel security and civil control. The Palestinians agreed to be compensated with other territories.

On the last morning of Reb Menachem’s life, the usual Sunday cabinet meeting took place in Jerusalem. On the agenda: a discussion and vote on a proposal to provide government funding to specially designated sites of Jewish heritage. Reb Menachem would have been delighted and touched to hear Prime Minister Netanyahu add Kever Rachel to the list.

Some would call it a happy coincidence; others an irony. But sooner or later most Jews come to realize there are no coincidences in the Land of Israel. This was a parting gift to a remarkable human being – a rabbi who devoted his life to the defense of Torah and the upholding of a plethora of educational institutions and charitable causes.

In The Embrace Of Mama Rachel

Friday, November 7th, 2008

“Mama Rachel, I missed you!” I half-sob. “Mama Rachel . . . how could I have waited so long to visit you?!”  Tenderly, I stroke the navy-velvet covered Tomb of Rachel – the Mother of Jews through history.

Women, from all walks of life, fill the anteroom. They converge around Rachel’s resting place, to weep . . . to plead . . . to unburden their hearts . . . on Mama.

The low wailing and whimpering of the worshippers punctuates the feeling of comfort and awe, which hovers over the room.

In the men’s section, a group of boys loudly chant Psalms in sweet, youthful voices while the members of Kollel Kever Rachel sway over their Gemaras.

For years, my friend had been trying to persuade me to visit Rachel’s Tomb. “There’s an ar-mored bus,” she cajoled. “It takes you right to the site.” Fifteen years I put off visiting the holy tomb. Armored buses made me nervous. I was fearful about the intifada. Hundreds of people flocked to the tomb daily. I couldn’t push myself.

But I was ecstatic when I heard that security permitted private vehicles access to Rachel Imeinu’s Tomb during the auspicious period be-fore Rosh Hashanah and until Yom Kippur, when Jews flock to graves of tzaddikim, entreating for a blessed, sweet year.Now was my opportunity.

Our car wound its way towards Beit Lechem through Jerusalem’s glorious view, where grassy hillocks meet the skyline, roads awash with the history of our people. We saluted the soldiers at the checkpoint and in a matter of minutes pulled up in the designated parking lot.

Even though I was aware that the tomb’s original fa?ade had been changed due to security reasons, I couldn’t help but search for that familiar oblong-shaped building with the domed roof that Sir Moses Montefiore had built in 1841.

That building is now encased in another modern brick building. A long hallway brings us right up to the rooms preceding the tomb. The original main entrance is now the entrance to the men’s section where the domed roof begins and stretches over the women’s side.


Rachel’s Sacrifice

Of all our righteous Patriarchs and Matriarchs, why did Rachel merit G d’s acceptance of her plea that the Jews be returned to Israel after the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed?

It was sisterly love. Rachel refused to shame her sister Leah, at great personal sacri-fice. She revealed the signs that Yaakov had pre-arranged with her to Leah. Yaakov, who was to marry Rachel, suspected that Lavan would switch his daughters and have Yaakov marry Leah, so he gave Rachel signs. To not let Leah get embarrassed, Rachel gave her the signs.Hashem listened to Rachel’s prayers. And they continue to be heard until this day.

Yaakov buried Rachel in a roadside grave between Efrat and Beit Lechem and not in the family burial plot – the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. He foresaw that his descendants would pass Rachel’s Tomb while being driven in captivity to Babylon and the tomb would be a place of comfort for them.


The Return

The rise of the intifada decreased the flow of visitors to the tomb. The only Jews there were our soldiers who devotedly guarded the site. For years Mama Rachel lay desolate, aching for the return of her children. Until a young Torah scholar, Rabbi Moshe Menachem Kluger, couldn’t bear Rachel’s solitude. He initiated the Kever Rachel Institution and inspired friends and rela-tives to join him at the site.

He arranged for scholars to learn and pray at Kever Rachel, and paid for armored buses to bring worshippers back and forth.

“Doesn’t it get overwhelming?” I asked Mrs. Kluger, who mans the Kever Rachel yeshuos hotline.

“Of course,” Mrs. Kluger chuckles. “My fam-ily is roped into answering the phone. My chil-dren are updated on all information concerning Kever Rachel.

I feel Mama Rachel’s strength behind me, helping me.”

 The Kever Rachel Institution ensures 24-hour Torah study at the tomb, daily minyanim, and that Sefer Tehillim is completed each day. It also maintains the on-site mikveh, and ensures that armored buses bring hundreds of people each day, and many thousands on the 11th of Cheshvan, Rachel Imeinu’s Yahrzeit.

At her last Yahrzeit, an estimated 50,000 Jews visited the kever, and a live web cam was set up.


The Miracles

According to the story, once the phone rang at Kever Rachel hotline. “How much is a chicken?” a voice inquired.

“Ehh, you have the wrong number, this is not a butcher shop,” answered a puzzled Mrs. Kluger.

“I know; it’s Kever Rachel,” insisted the woman. “How much is a chicken? I want to pay for a Yahrzeit meal.”

This woman’s son had a physical disability and thus was having difficulty in finding his shidduch. A friend suggested praying at Kever Rachel. At the site, this woman met an acquaint-ance who related that she was helped after she prayed at Rachel’s Tomb and promised to sponsor a meal for the Yahrzeit.

“If my son is helped,” prayed this woman, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I will also donate money to Kever Rachel.” Two weeks later, her son met his bashert.

Now that woman was calling to fulfill her promise.

*   *   *

 “I desperately need a salvation,” Zahava said in a choked voice. “My mother is sick with cancer. As for me, I’m in my 40’s and childless. My husband and I are only children of Holocaust survivors. If not for us, there’ll be no continuation.”

She requested that people learn Torah for her and her mother’s sake, at Rachel’s Tomb at chatzos – midnight.

Two months later, Zahava called again. “There’s news!” she whispered excitedly. I just received the test results. I’m pregnant!” Within the year, Zahava called to relate the joyous news of the birth of her healthy baby boy, and that her mother was in remission.

*   *   *

 Rachel’s Tomb is desolate no longer. Mama Rachel has been reunited with her children.The website is keverrachel.com. The num-ber for the hotline is 02-580-0863 in Israel, and 888-2-ROCHEL in the U.S.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/in-the-embrace-of-mama-rachel-2/2008/11/07/

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