The 11th of Cheshvan is the yartzeit of Rachel Immeinu. It is the same day that Binyamin was born, the only son of Yaakov to have been born in Eretz Yisrael. Rachel passed away as she planted a new life into the family as they reached their goal, setting up a home in the Promised Land. Rachel also had another son, Yosef. We read in the torah that in the very passuk that Yosef was born, Yaakov called to his family and said it was time to return home now. Without blinking, Rachel packed up the family and left her father’s house. Earlier, it was Rachel who gave over the signs to Leah and forfeited what was rightfully hers (Yaakov), demonstrating complete bitachon. She would undoubtedly become the mother of us all. Hashem praises her, “Yesh sachar lepeoolatech!”- A Divine promise raises no doubts.
In a deeper look into Rachel, who Yaakov loved at first sight, we know a beautiful woman who had beautiful sons; the power of her patience and virtues passed down to them. We read about Yosef and his beauty, about his will to make his dreams come true. Yosef indeed sustained his brothers (and the world) with bread – after they had shoved him aside, practically burying him alive in a pit at the side of the road. Later, all the brothers were unified when Yehudah redeemed Binyamin and Yosef gave over his signs and revealed that his dreams had come true.
Rachel is buried in the tribal portion of Yehudah. Chazal say that 12 stones were placed on Rachel’s tomb, symbolizing each tribe. She is buried “on the way” to Beit Lechem and there she sits and cries over the exile of her people. “Kol barama nishma, Rachel mivakah al baneha” – a cry is heard- Rachel is crying for her children. In the book of Yirmiyahu, Hashem answers her and consoles her “Yesh sachar lepeoolatech, veshavu banim legvoolam”- in your actions, Rachel, you will merit the return of your children to Eretz Yisrael. The candle we light for Rachel flickers in anticipation. Sometimes it wanes and fades in times of holocaust and inquisition. Rachels prayer transmits to her children the light that rekindles our hopes and dreams for achdut (unity) and return as stated in the prophets that the day will come that all the exiles will be returned to and united inIsrael. Rachel will bring her children home.
In our efforts to reach the end of the way, we are commanded to fulfill these prophesies with action, in redeeming the Land physically. Rachel is buried in Bet Lechem- meaning literally “House of Bread”. Those who sow in tears, reap joyfully. Rachel, wipe away your tears, there is new life born here. Here on Itamar, the very backyard of the nachala of Yosef HaTzaddik we have had the amazing zechut (merit) of seeing the land come alive. What a generation to have been born into as Israel as a nation stands strong and proud! But we still have so much to do, so many stones to turn over, so many thorns to clear away, so many uncertainties to absolve and ascertain the miracles happening every day to us here. Rachel, your children are coming home!
With blessings for besorot tovot- Leah Goldsmith