<I>Vayishlach:</I> "I Buried Her on the Way"

The death of Rachel is not a simple and routine matter, but a complicated issue which Yaakov Avinu (our father) carried with him every single day of his life.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
The 11th of Cheshvan is the day of the death of Rachel Imeinu (our mother), and on this day, Binyamin was born. The death of Rachel is not a simple and routine matter, but a complicated issue which Yaakov Avinu (our father) carried with him every single day of his life.

On the day of his death, Yaakov requested of Yosef, "Please do not bury me in Egypt. For I will lie down with my fathers... and bury me in their tomb." (Bereshit 47:29-30) Yaakov knows that his request will arouse surprise in Yosef, for Yaakov buried Rachel "on the way", and did not bring her to the Cave of Machpelah, not even to Beit Lechem (Bethlehem). Rashi says: "And I buried her there - and I did not even carry her to Beit Lechem to bring her into the Land (of Israel) and I know that you have (a complaint) in your heart against me... And do not say that the rain prevented me." (Rashi to Bereshit 48:7) Yaakov did not look for excuses or justifications for his action, this is not the reason that he left her there.

He knows that Yosef Hatzaddik (the Righteous One) is one of the greatest finders of merit in others, just as he acted with his brothers when he comforted them: "Although you intended me harm, God intended it for good." (Bereshit 50:20) Thus the Master of the Universe desired, everything is a Divine account. Behold, now I have it in my power to save everyone. Yosef never told his father when he arrived in Egypt, and our Sages stated that Yosef avoided being alone with his father so that he would not ask him, and he would be forced to tell him what his brothers did to him (Pesikta 3; B'yom Hashemini). Yosef was among the greatest guardians of the tongue, and he would not have any revengeful pleasure in relating to Yaakov his brothers' actions.

Yaakov Avinu, who recognized this quality in his son, says to him: You certainly think that I buried her on the way because of the frequent rains in the month of Cheshvan, but this is not the case. Rather, this was a Divine account. "By Divine command I buried her there." (Rashi on Bereshit 48:7)

Why "on the way" in particular? In order that when Nebuzaradan (the Chief General of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia) would exile the Nation of Israel -- when caravan after caravan of thousands of Jews, including the women, the children and their belongings, would leave -- and they would be broken, downtrodden and suffering from the enemy's maltreatment, Rachel would depart from her grave and weep and beseech God's mercy upon them. As it says: "A voice is heard on high... Rachel weeping for her children." (Yirmiya 31:14) And the Holy One, blessed be He, will respond: "Your work will be rewarded... and your children will return to their border." (ibid. 15-16)

This burial was not accidental. Rachel is the active power in the Nation of Israel that in its merit the Nation remains steadfast even in the most awful of situations, and her children even return to their place - "And your children will return to their border." This return is not a natural process. Another nation, after it had suffered calamity and persecution, murder of the body and burning of the soul, would certainly have disappeared and been destroyed from the world. But the Nation of Israel has a special power, which is called "the power of Rachel", by which it is sustained.

Behold, not all of us are the children of Rachel, only Yosef and Binyamin. Most of us are the children of the tribe of Yehudah, but all of us say "Rachel Imeinu" - "Rachel, our mother." Sarah and Rivka are definitely our mothers; but while from the precise perspective of biology Rachel may not be our mother, from the perspective of her spiritual power, she is our mother. The reality of the practical geography of her burial on the way is connected to the issue of Rachel helping the children to remain steadfast along the way and to arrive at the destination.

Not everything in life is simple; we are not always found at home, a place that protects from the material and spiritual point of view. Sometimes, we are located "on the way", and the way is presumed to be fraught with danger (Yerushalmi, Berachot 4:4 and Rosh, Berachot 9:3). The Nation of Israel is located "on the way", the entire world is still "on the way". Before departing to travel "on the way", everything is pleasant and good. The destination is also wonderful, but the way itself is very difficult. What is to be done so that we do not stumble, to survive so that we can return home? For this purpose, we need a special Divine power, with which the Nation of Israel is equipped, and this is the power of Rachel. All of the personal history of Rachel, her life and her death, were "on the way."

[Excerpted from Eishet Chayil: Nashim BaTanach, pp. 73-74. Translated by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig.]