Friday was the 11th of Cheshvan, the date of Mother Rachel, Rachel Imeinu's death. What is the secret of her strength? Rabbanit Yemima Mizrahi relates the following:
"This week I filmed a class at Rachel's Tomb. I met there a sweet Bat Mitzvah girl. I said to her: Do you know where you are? You are next to the one whose wedding celebration was canceled. This is not what Rachel imagined her wedding day would be like. She looked forward to it, waited, only to be disappointed when it was canceled. At the last minute, her sister Leah got married in her place.
"Yet Rachel did not react by disrespecting Leah, but by helping her. You, too, did not want your Bat Mitzvah day to look like this. You wanted a large celebration. But it was precisely from within her pain of missing out that Rachel told herself: It's true, they took away my celebration, but I will not allow them to take away my desire to do good. I do not want to cause embarrassment for my sister Leah. At the height of her own embarrassment and disappointment, Rachel thought about her sister. This is the power of Rachel, a power that can light up the world.
Since the start of the corona, celebrations and dreams have been canceled for all of us. Our situation is not simple. But when it is dark for ourselves, we must try and not make it dark for others, to try instead to bring them light. This is the greatness of Rachel, and this is what I wish for all of us. It is precisely when our celebrations have been canceled and we are missing out that the time is right for accessing the powerful light giving capacity of Rachel."
Avraham and us: Bringing blessing to the whole world
In this week's Torah portion, Avraham Avinu receives a promise: *"And all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you."* (Genesis 12:3). Daily hardships cause us to forget this mission of ours, to be a blessing to the whole world. But here are two examples that demonstrate how those on earth have been blessed on our account:
The first example is found in Jewish Nobel prize recipients. In recent days, the winners of this year's Nobel prizes were announced. At least three Jews appear on the brief list: Louise Gluck won the Nobel Prize in Literature, Roger Penrose the prize in physics, and Paul Milgrom the prize in economics. Up until today, 900 Noble prizes have been awarded and more than 200 of them have been received by Jews. Jews comprise one fifth of one percent of the world's population but more than 22% of those who have won Nobel prizes. It's not a racist claim that we are smarter than other people, but a fact that our thousands of years of investment in mind and spirit, in intense study and scholarship, have simply borne fruit.
The grandfather of the grandfather of each of our Nobel prize winners sat down every day with a gemara and cracked open the problems presented there with persistence and devotion derived from curiosity and a love for Torah. The result of this effort was descendants who lead the world in bringing it blessings in every area of creative endeavor and research.
The second example of the blessings or benefits Jews bring may be found in the recent peace agreements referred to as the Abraham Accords. In this week's parasha, Avraham Avinu is commanded to go to the Land of Israel. A small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind. Thousands of years later, the Arab people recognize what we can give to the them and want to be part of our story and what we are building here. Three agreements in one month with three Arab nations: the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan. If it were not for the corona, we would be speaking about nothing except peace with these countries, day and night. Sudan, in particular, stands out since it was a declared enemy of ours for years, but has now chosen to abandon Al-Qaeda, Iran, and the rest of the world's terrorists and to attach itself instead to the tiny Jewish state.
There is more we have to do to before completing our mission of bringing blessing to the whole world, but we are on the way.
• Translation by Yehoshua Siskin