Mama Rachel

Question

Dear Rabbi, I heard that it’s a tradition to visit, pray and say Psalms at the Tomb of Rachel, our Matriarch. Why would doing this be especially significant? Thanks!

3 weeks

Answers

  1. What a timely question! Her yahrzeit (annual date of passing) is on the 11th day of the month of Cheshvan. This year, it corresponds to the 9th of November, which is on Shabbat. The custom in this case is for the public to visit her gravesite on Saturday night or on Sunday.

    In Judaism, burial is a very important mitzvah. It is a Torah requirement to bury a person who has passed. Since burial is so important to God, it follows that the burial site is also very important. In fact, the Torah makes reference to a number of burial sites of righteous individuals. One example is the burial site of Rachel, which is identified by the Torah as being on the way to Bethlehem. This mention of this location shows that her exact burial place is very important.

    In the case of Rachel, the Torah explains the special significance of her specific place of burial. A basic reason is stated in the verse: “Rachel died and was buried on the way to Efrat, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob placed a monument on her grave which is the monument of Rachel’s grave unto this day.” (Genesis 35:19) Rachel died in childbirth when Benjamin was born, and her husband Jacob honored her by burial at that location.

    However, there is a deeper reason for the burial site at Bethlehem, a reason that should serve for us as a message of great hope and inspiration.

    Our Sages tell us that Jacob buried her there by Divine order. Why? So that when Nevuzradan, the Babylonian conqueror of the Land of Israel, would lead her children into exile past her tomb, Mother Rachel would pray to Heaven for their return.

    For this reason she is lovingly referred to as Mama Rachel.

    Bethlehem nowadays is populated exclusively by Arabs, but the Tomb of Rachel continues to attract people from all over the world, who revere it as a prayer site second only to the Cave of the Machpela in Hebron.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team