the Steps of Rachel
“Thus says the Lord, a voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and bitter
weeping, Rachel weeping for her children . . .”
WHAT WAS RACHEL, our mother, weeping about?
The commentaries quote the Medrash that it was a terrible time
for the people of Israel. Menashe, the wicked king, had just
put an idol in the holy Temple in Jerusalem. G-d was very angry
with His people. Everyone in heaven came to our defense: our
forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, our foremothers Sarah,
Rivka, Rachel and Leah. Even Moshe Rabbeinu. All pleaded for
G-d to have mercy on His people.
We can just imagine what those greatest
of tzaddikim had to say. Perhaps Avraham Avinu said to G-d, “I
was willing to walk into a fiery furnace for Your sake. I was
willing to sacrifice
my beloved son for You. Please don’t give up on my children.”
Along came Yitzchak. “I was willing to die
for You. How can You now abandon my children?”
And what about Moshe Rabbeinu? We know that he
had a long list of merits to collect on. Who led the Jewish people
out of Egypt?
Who bravely stood up to Pharaoh and the mighty Egyptian army
just as G-d commanded? Who split the sea? Who spent forty days
and nights without food or water on Mount Sinai and brought the
Torah down from the mountain and taught it to Israel?
Did G-d accept the pleading of Moshe? Did G-d accept the prayers
of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov?
No. Whose words appeased G-d and allowed Him to
have mercy on His people at such a critical moment in history?
It was none
other than our mother, Rachel.
What did Rachel say to G-d? When the time came
to marry Yaakov, and Rachel saw her father bringing her sister
Leah to the canopy
instead of her, not only did she keep quiet so as not to embarrass
her sister, she even gave Leah the secret signs that Yaakov had
prearranged with Rachel. He had anticipated his father-in-law’s
crafty reputation, and did not want to be deceived into marrying
I brought a competitive wife into my house,” cried Rachel
to G--d. “So too, G-d,” cried Rachel, “even
though Your children brought a stranger—an idol into Your
house, the Temple, if I, a mere human, did not speak up, You,
the immortal and Divine G-d, should also be silent.”
That did it! G-d accepted Rachel’s prayer
and had mercy on His people.
What was so special about Rachel’s behavior?
Was it greater than the splitting of the sea? Can it compare
to the famous Akeidat
Yitzchak? Those were acts of historical proportions. How is
it possible that the private action of one sister for another
have more weight in G-d’s eyes than the well-known heroic
deeds of our forefathers?
That’s exactly the point, explained Rav Yosef
Dov Soloveitchik zt”l (Yemei Zikaron, pg. 190). Avraham
and Moshe performed tremendous deeds. But they were in the public
eye. The world
saw the exodus unfold. The world saw and heard of Avraham’s
sacrifice of himself and of his child. But no one saw Rachel
give her sister the sign. No one was there to publicize the
selfless act of Rachel. Rachel acted with absolute self-sacrifice.