Rachel's Burial "On The Way"

  • Rabbanit Sharon Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Parashat Hashavua
Yeshivat Har Etzion


This parasha series is dedicated
Le-zekher Nishmat HaRabanit Chana bat HaRav Yehuda Zelig zt"l.

 

PARASHAT VAYISHLACH

 

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This shiur is dedicated in memory of Israel Koschitzky zt"l, whose yahrzeit falls on the 19th of Kislev.  May the world-wide dissemination of Torah through the VBM be a fitting tribute to a man whose lifetime achievements exemplified the love of Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.

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Rachel's Burial "On The Way"

Rabbanit Sharon Rimon

 

 

On the Way to Chevron

 

In our parasha we read about Yaakov's return from Padan Aram to Canaan.  He crosses over the Yabbok Pass, and then journeys on to Sukkot, Shekhem, Beit-El, and then southwards, back to his father, Yitzchak:

 

"Yaakov came to Yitzchak, his father, at Mamrei, by Kiryat Arba – which is Chevron, where Avraham and Yitzchak lived" (35:27).

 

Yaakov's journey ends in Chevron, and it is there that he settles: "Yaakov dwelled in the land of his fathers' sojournings, in the land of Canaan."

 

On the way, during the journey from the Yabbok Pass to Chevron, several incidents take place:

 

1.         In Shekhem – the episode concerning Dina, and the removal of idolatry.

 

2.         In Beit-El – the establishment of the altar and giving thanks to God, as well as receiving a blessing from God.

3.         And on the way from Beit-El to Chevron – the death of Rachel.

 

The final destination is Chevron, but the Torah chooses to list the stations on the way and the events that happen; clearly, then, there is some meaning and significance to the "way" – the journey itself – and to the incidents that occur along it.

 

The events along the way have significance insofar as they precede Yaakov's settling in the land, preparing him for that goal.[1] Rachel's death represents the last incident on that journey, and that will be the subject of this shiur.

 

The story of Rachel's death is a melancholy one.  Rachel, who so longed for children, dies in childbirth.  What is the significance of this? And why is she buried "on the way"? Is it simply the result of circumstance, since she dies on the way?

 

Burial on the Way for Lack of Choice

 

The verses in our parasha do not explain why Yaakov buried Rachel on the way.  The simplest explanation would seem to focus on technical necessity: since they were on a journey and had not yet reached their permanent destination, they could not carry her corpse with them to Chevron; nor were they able to provide a more dignified burial.

 

The story of Rachel's death and her burial are mentioned again in Bereishit 48:7, in Yaakov's parting speech to Yosef:

 

"And I, when I came from Padan Aram – Rachel died in the land of Canaan, on the road, with just a short way left before coming to Efrata, and I buried her there on the way of Efrat, which is Beit Lechem."

 

Yosef surely knew that his mother had died on the way, and that she had been buried there.  For what reason does Yaakov mention this now? What is the point of his speech?

 

It is possible that this matter weighs on him.  He is uncomfortable with the knowledge that he buried Rachel on the way, and apologizes for it to Yosef.  The Radak[2] (ad loc.) comments as follows:

 

"This speech is meant as an apology to Yosef for not burying his mother in the Cave (of Makhpela), where he buried Leah.  This was in order that Yosef would not accuse him, since he was asking Yosef to carry him and bury him in the Cave.  He told Yosef that he had not acted wrongly in this matter, for she had died on the way, and he was traveling slowly in view of all of his entourage.  He could not have left the entourage and carried her to Beit Lechem, and certainly not to the Cave… If he were to have taken her [corpse] along with them, the entire caravan would have suffered from the decomposition… He also had no way of embalming her, for there were no doctors with him and she died on the way.  Therefore he buried her on the way with honor, and placed a monument upon her grave…."

 

According to the Radak's explanation, Rachel's burial along the way was out of necessity, and Yaakov felt badly about it and apologized to Yosef – especially in light of his own request that Yosef not bury him in Egypt (the place where he was about to die) but rather to take him and bury him in the cave of his fathers: "… Do not bury me, I pray you, in Egypt.  When I lie with my fathers, take me up from Egypt and bury me in their burial place" (47:29-30).

 

Yaakov himself attaches great importance to the place of burial; he asks to be buried at the gravesite of his fathers.  But he himself buried Rachel by the roadside.  According to the Radak, he apologizes for this to Yosef, explaining that it was done for lack of choice.  But is this really the only reason for burying her there? It is possible that Yaakov, who attaches great importance to the place of burial, could possibly have been negligent with regard to the burial place of his beloved wife?[3] And if the burial on the way was really out of necessity, surely Rachel's bones could have been brought to Chevron for reburial after Yaakov had settled there!

 

Does it make sense that Rachel should forever remain buried in the wrong place, simply because of a technicality?

 

Significance of Burial on the Way

 

Some commentators try to propose an explanation for and significance to Rachel's burial on the way.

 

The Ramban (at the end of his commentary on verse 7) writes:

 

"I believe that this was an apology.  Yosef also knew that she had died on the way and was buried in the land, and that she was given honor in death.  But it is intended for Yaakov, who did not take her to the Cave in order that he would not bury two sisters there, for he was ashamed in front of his ancestors; Leah was marrried to him first, with license, and Rachel – with his love for her – in the vow that he vowed to her, to marry her."

 

According to the Ramban, Rachel's burial along the way was not coincidental, just because she died on the way.  Rachel was not buried in the Cave of Makhpela because Yaakov felt that it was not proper to be buried there together with two sisters.  To the Ramban's view[4], Rachel died upon entering the land because in Eretz Yisrael it is improper for a person to be married to two sisters.

 

Why, then, did Rachel die, and not Leah? Because Leah was Yaakov's first wife, and therefore his marriage to her rested on a greater measure of legitimacy, whereas his marriage with Rachel was more problematic in Eretz Yisrael.

 

To the Ramban's view, then, Rachel's death on the way and her burial there represent a preparation for dwelling in the land, where it is not proper to be married to two sisters.

 

The Chizkuni adopts a different approach:

 

"[Yaakov is saying:] I was not yet in possession of the Cave, since Esav made a claim to it; therefore I buried her along the way.  But when I buried Leah, Esav went off and left me everything.

And I buried her there for I knew that the border there was destined to belong to her children… had I buried [Rachel] in the Cave, it would not have been dignified for her, since it is the portion of Yehuda, the son of Leah."

 

According to this explanation, Rachel's burial on the way was, on one hand, a necessity – because Yaakov did not yet have possession of the Cave of Makhpela; on the other hand, her burial place was appropriate since it is on the border of Binyamin.[5] In other words, Rachel was buried in the place most appropriate to her: in a place close to her children, on the border of their inheritance.

 

The above explanation emphasizes the powerful bond between Rachel and her children.  However, we are still left with a difficulty: what would have happened if Rachel had died in Chevron, when Yaakov already had possession of the Cave of Makhpela? Would she still have been taken to be buried in a place that was destined to become the inheritance of her children? Is she not considered the matriarch of all of Israel, worthy of burial together with all of the patriarchs and matriarchs? Is she connected only to her own children?

 

Prayer for the Exiles

 

The best-known commentary on the burial of Rachel is the one offered by Rashi:

 

"'And I buried her there' – and did not take her even to Beit-Lechem, to bring her into the land[6].  And I know that you hold this against me, but know that I buried her there according to God's command, so that she could be of assistance to her children, when Nevuzaradan would exile them and they would pass by there; Rachel would emerge from her grave and weep and plead for mercy on their behalf.  As it is written: A voice is heard in Rama… Rachel weeping over her children (Yirmiyahu 31:14)."

 

According to this explanation, the burial of Rachel on the way was indeed very strange, and Yosef, secretly, was angry because of it.  Therefore Yaakov takes the trouble to explain to Yosef why he buried Rachel on the way.

 

Yaakov's explanation, according to Rashi, imbues Rachel's burial on the way with very significant meaning.  He explains that he buried Rachel there not out of necessity, and not because of her inferiority in relation to Leah, but rather for a very important reason: she was buried there in order to pray for her children as they were led into exile.

 

This explanation is based on a Midrash, and it seems that we need to examine it in depth and understand its meaning.  Why is it specifically Rachel who pleads on behalf of her children? And why is the place of burial on the way of importance here? After all, we are speaking of a soul praying before God – the physical place of burial would seem altogether irrelevant.

 

Let us examine the Midrash (Pesikta Rabbati piska 2 – "On the eighth day"):

 

… He said to him: Why was she not buried together with you? For Yosef was deeply troubled over this matter. 

His father began to explain: … By your life, just as you would have wished your mother to have been buried (in a more dignified manner), so I too would have wished it…

He said to him: Perhaps the reason that you did not bring her to burial (in the Cave of Makhpela) was because it was the rainy season?

He said to him: No… it was between Pesach and Shavuot….

Yosef said to him: Command me now, and I shall bring her up and bury her.

Yaakov replied: You cannot, my son, for I buried her there only because God so commanded; I, too, wished to bring her up and bury her, but the Holy One, blessed be He, would not let me… And why not? For it is clear and known before Him that the Temple is destined to be destroyed, and His children are destined to be led into exile, and they will walk by the forefathers and ask them to pray on their behalf, but it will not help them.  Then when they are walking on the way they will come and embrace the grave of Rachel, and she will stand and plead for mercy from the Holy One, blessed be He.  She shall say to Him: Master of the universe, hear the sound of my weeping and have mercy upon my children – or give me my bill of acquisition.  And immediately the Holy One, blessed be He, will hear her voice in prayer.

From where do we know this? For it is written: "A bitter weeping; Rachel weeps over her children" (Yirmiyahu 31:14).  And it is written, "There is hope for your destiny, promises God: the children shall return to their borders."

 

The Midrash describes a conversation between Yosef and Yaakov.  It conveys Yosef's pain over his mother having been buried on the way.

 

The Midrash emphasizes that Yaakov, too, regrets that Rachel was buried on the way, and not in the Cave of Makhpela, where he will be buried.  This is not only an apology to Yosef; it is shared sorrow over the situation.

 

Yosef raises the possibility of moving Rachel's remains to the Cave of Makhpela, since if the burial on the way was done merely out of necessity, it can easily be corrected.  Yaakov's answer to the question must clarify whether the burial as it happened was really by force of circumstance, as most of the commentators maintain, or whether it has some intrinsic significance.

 

According to the Midrash, Yaakov explains to Yosef that Rachel's burial on the way is not inferior and undignified, and was certainly not coincidental, as a result of circumstances.  On the contrary – it is of great significance.  The Holy One, blessed be He, Himself wanted Rachel to be buried there.  She was buried there in order to pray for her children as they were led into exile.

 

The source for this idea – of Rachel praying for her children being led into exile – is not in the Midrash, but rather in Tanakh.  It appears in the following verses from Sefer Yirmiyahu (31:14-16):

 

"So says the Lord: A voice is heard in Rama, the sound of bitter weeping – Rachel weeps over heir children, refusing to be comforted over her children for they are gone.  So says the Lord: Withhold your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your endeavor, promises the Lord, and they shall return from the enemy land.  And there is hope for your destiny, promises the Lord: the children shall return to their borders."

 

Yirmiyahu describes Rachel's prayer over her exiled children, and God promises her that they will return.

 

Why is it specifically Rachel who weeps over her children?

 

The Midrash in Pesikta Rabbati provides a slightly different description: Bnei Yisrael ask all of the forefathers to pray on their behalf, and indeed all of the forefathers do so, but none of their prayers is answered.  On their way into exile, they pass by the grave of Rachel, they embrace her grave, she prays for them – and is answered.

 

According to Yirmiyahu, only Rachel prays for her children.

 

According to the Midrash, all of the forefathers pray – but only Rachel is answered.

 

What is so special about Rachel? Why is it specifically she who is answered?

This Midrash does not answer the question explicitly[7], but we may deduce from it a difference between the other forefathers and Rachel.  Concerning all the others, the Midrash says: "They went to the forefathers and asked them to pray on their behalf, but it did not help them." Bnei Yisrael ask all of the forefathers for help, but when they come to the place where Rachel is buried, we find a unique description: "They embraced her grave." They do not ask Rachel for prayer; they simply come to embrace her grave.  The Midrash expresses the warm bond of love between Rachel and her children – emphasized even more clearly against the background of the appeal to the other forefathers, where we have no sense of a special relationship of closeness and love.

 

Rachel – who is not actually asked to pray for them – does so of her own accord,[8] "She stands and pleads for mercy from the Holy One, blessed be He, and says to Him: Master of the universe, hear the sound of my weeping and have mercy upon my children – or give me my bill of acquisition." Rachel begs for mercy for her beloved children, and weeps over them.  The result is that "Immediately the Holy One, blessed be He, heard her voice in prayer."

 

According to the above, it seems that there is a special love between Rachel and her children, and this love leads God to answer her prayer and to have mercy on her children.

 

Why is a special love for Bnei Yisrael attributed specifically to Rachel?

 

Rachel and "the Way"

 

In order to understand what was unique about Rachel's prayer, we must (briefly) review her story as a whole.

 

The first encounter between Yaakov and Rachel creates a powerful bond of love, but in order to realize this love Yaakov must work hard for seven years.  At the end of seven years of longing and anticipation, Yaakov and Rachel are about to be married, to realize their love, to attain their objective – the conclusion of the process.  But Lavan interferes and violates the agreement, giving Leah to Yaakov as a bride instead of Rachel.

 

The process has not reached its conclusion.  Rachel remains outside, "on the way." The disappointment is bitter – particularly in light of the lengthy anticipation.  After a further agreement is made with Lavan, Rachel, too, is married to Yaakov – but this is not the perfect marriage that she had dreamed of all these years.  "He came also to Rachel, and he loved Rachel too, more than Leah" (Bereishit 29:30).  The word "also" (gam), appearing twice in the verse, says it all.  She is the second wife; even if she is beloved, her life is not easy.  This is not simple, relaxed married life; rather, it is a life of constant friction and challenge.[9]

 

The friction between Rachel and Leah finds powerful expression in the context of childbirth:

 

"The Lord saw that Leah was less loved, and he opened her womb, while Rachel was barren" (29:31).

 

For Leah, childbirth represents the key to attracting Yaakov's love: "Leah conceived and she bore a son, and she called him Reuven, for she said: 'For the Lord has seen (ra'a) my distress; for now my husband will love me.' And she conceived again and bore a son, and she said: 'For the Lord has heard (sham'a) that I am less loved, and He has given me this one, too.' And she called him Shimon.  And she conceived again, and bore a son, and she said: 'Now this time my husband will be drawn to me (yilaveh), for I have borne him three sons.' Therefore she called him Levi." (29:32-34)

 

Rachel does not need children in order to earn Yaakov's love, but the fact of her infertility is, in and of itself, a difficult challenge for her:

 

"Rachel saw that she had not borne children to Yaakov, and Rachel was jealous of her sister." (30:1)

 

Infertility is painful enough, but for Rachel there was the added element of competition with Leah, which only made it more difficult.[10]

 

Out of the midst of her bitter distress, Rachel turns on Yaakov: "She said to Yaakov: Give me children; if not, I shall die!"

 

What does Rachel want from Yaakov? Seemingly, she is asking him to do something: "Give me children." But what is Yaakov supposed to do? Perhaps to turn to doctors?

 

Perhaps Rachel's appeal is not a defined demand for something that Yaakov is actually able to do, but rather a cry of pain.

 

Yaakov's reaction is:

 

"Yaakov's anger burned against Rachel and he said: Am I instead of God, Who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?"

 

Why is Yaakov angry with Rachel?

 

Rachel addresses Yaakov in a very hostile way, placing the full responsibility for her barrenness on his shoulders – as though he were able to do something.  Yaakov rebukes her for appealing to him; he tells her – "Am I instead of God?" I can do nothing.  God is the only One Who can give you a child.  Yaakov is rebuking Rachel for not appealing directly to God.

 

Following this rebuke we would expect Rachel to turn to God – as did Sara, Rivka, and Chana.  But she does something else instead:

 

"She said: Behold, my maidservant, Bilha; come to her and she shall give birth upon my knees, that I too may be built up, from her."

 

Rachel gives her maidservant to Yaakov, with the hope of being "built up from her." What is the "building up" that she will have?

 

The situation is reminiscent of the story of Sara: "Sarai, the wife of Avram, had not borne him children; she had an Egyptian handmaid whose name was Hagar.  And Sarai said to Avram: Behold, now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; come, then, to my handmaid, perhaps I shall be built up from her.  And Avram did as Sarai had said" (Bereishit 16).

 

The Ramban explains: "That she might be built up from her – [meaning] that she would have pleasure from the children of her handmaid, or the merit of bearing children herself as a result."

In other words, the child of the handmaid would be considered like her own, or – alternatively – that in the merit of giving her handmaid, she herself would be blessed with a child.  The words "I shall be built up from her" create a parallel between Sara and Rachel.  Sara, too, was barren.  She, too, gave her handmaid to her husband, in order to be built up from her.  But it is specifically against the backdrop of this substantial similarity between them that the differences come to the fore:

 

Sara declares at the outset: "Behold, now, God has prevented me from giving birth." To Sara it is clear that her barrenness is God's doing.  And when she tries to solve the problem by giving her handmaid to Avraham, she hopes, "Perhaps I shall be built up from her." Perhaps it will help – if God so wills it; perhaps not.  For everything comes from God; it is He Who will decide whether I may be built up from her.

 

Rachel does not mention God in connection with her barrenness, and she declares with certainty: "… that I, too, may be built up, from her." When Bilha bears children for Yaakov, Rachel feels that she has succeeded, and expresses this sense of accomplishment in the names that she gives to the handmaid's two sons.[11]

 

But this success is not complete, and Rachel continues in her efforts:

 

"Reuven went, during the time of the wheat harvest, and he found mandrakes in the field, and brought them to Leah, his mother.  Rachel said to Leah: Give me, I pray you, some of your son's mandrakes.  Then she said to her: Is it then a small thing that you have taken my husband? Do you mean to take my son's mandrakes, too? So Rachel said: Therefore he shall lie with you this night, in return for your son's mandrakes." (30:14-15)

 

Mandrakes were considered to increase fertility, and Rachel intended to use the mandrakes with a view to achieving pregnancy.  But the result was bitterly disappointing: Leah fell pregnant, while Rachel remained barren.

 

Rachel undergoes a lengthy series of attempts at pregnancy, while at the same time her sister is bearing children.  The experience is painful and difficult.

 

Did Rachel not pray? Did she not understand Yaakov's reproach? From the verses we have discussed it would seem that instead of praying, she tried only practical solutions.  But there is another verse that leads us to a different solution.  When Rachel finally gives birth, we read: "God remembered Rachel and God heard her, and opened her womb" (30:22).

 

Finally, God hears Rachel and opens her womb.  While the text does not record her actual prayer, the expression "God heard her" indicates that she addressed herself to Him.

 

It is possible that all along, Rachel's attempts at pregnancy were accompanied by prayer; it is also possible that the prayer came only at the end, out of complete despair, when she understood that nothing else could help her.  Either way, the fact that her prayer is mentioned only at the end comes to emphasize that all of her other efforts were fruitless; it was only God's intervention in the wake of her prayer that finally opened her womb.

 

Rachel experiences a long, difficult process in her efforts to bear a son.  Parenthood does not come to her easily and naturally.  She must exert herself, battle against her situation, and pray in order to become a mother.

 

During the course of the process ultimately leading to childbirth, Rachel also undergoes another process – that of recognition of the importance of prayer.  Rachel corrects her mistake.  She understands that her salvation will not come from Yaakov – or from the mandrakes.  She understands that prayer is the key to childbirth.

 

We see this process taking place in Rachel's consciousness and finding expression in the name that she gives to her son – a name which itself is also a prayer:

 

"She conceived and bore a son, and she said: God has gathered up (asaf) my reproach.  And she called him Yosef, saying: May the Lord add (yosef) to me another son." (30:23-24)

 

When Rachel finally receives a son from God, she prays that God will give her another one.  The other son whom she receives from God is Binyamin.  He is the son who is born in our parasha, Vayishlach, and it is in childbirth with him that Rachel dies.

 

Rachel's death in childbirth is profoundly tragic.  She, who waited for children for so long, does not live to be a mother.

 

Rachel's Death in Childbirth, on the Way

 

What is the significance of Rachel dying in childbirth?

 

Rachel never reaches the conclusion, the rest after the journey; rather, she remains suspended in the process, the journey.  She does give birth – she is not barren until the end of her life – but she does not have the opportunity to realize her motherhood.

 

It seems that Rachel's entire existence symbolizes "the way," the process.  Her life is a story of constant grappling with processes, and it is from Rachel we learn the significance of process.

 

Something that is attained easily is of lesser value in a person's eyes.  When a person lacks something, he has a better understanding of its value.  When he must work hard in order to attain something, he appreciates it more, and is more attached to it.  In addition, the very process that he undergoes – even if he never achieves his final objective – causes his personality to grow and develop.

 

Motherhood

 

Rachel is the matriarch who weeps for her children going into exile because she, after being barren for so long, understands well the value of children, and therefore her love for them is very great.  When they are exiled and lost she weeps, she cries out to the heavens, refusing to be comforted.  She is the matriarch who prays on behalf of her children until her prayer is answered.

 

Prayer

 

Rachel is also the matriarch who learned through experience the importance of prayer.  She undergoes a significant process that brings her to a profound awareness that only an appeal to God, only prayer, can save.  Therefore her prayer is so powerful that God hears and answers it.

 

"On the Way"

 

Rachel, the matriarch who symbolizes the process, it the one best suited to pray for her exiled children.  Being led into exile may be interpreted as the end of a process: there was a bond between Israel and God; the covenant was violated, and the result is a severance of relations with God.  Bnei Yisrael are led into exile, where they will disappear among the nations.

 

Rachel, symbolizing the process, represents the hope that this exile is only part of the process, not its conclusion.  Rachel pleads to God that the exile should be a station on the way, not an end.

 

Her death "on the way" and her burial "on the way" symbolize an entire life that is "on the way" – i.e., in the midst of a process, aspiring to achieve.

 

Rachel, symbolizing the importance of the process, is worthy of being the matriarch who pleads before God on behalf of her exiled children, asking that their exile should be just part of the process, not its ending.  That the exile should lead to redemption and return.

 

Rachel's death on the way is not incidental, but rather symbolic of the essence of her life.  Her burial on the way serves as a reminder to her children, too.  They set out on their mournful journey with the hope that this, too, is only a stage in the process, the way, and understand – in light of the lesson of their matriarch, Rachel – the power of prayer, which can guide them even on a path that is winding and difficult.

 

Indeed, the prayer of our matriarch Rachel is effective:

"So says the Lord: Withhold your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your endeavors, promises the Lord, and they shall return from the enemy's land.  And there is hope for your destiny, promises the Lord – the children will return to their borders."

 

Translated by Kaeren Fish 



[1]  Each incident should be examined in depth; we present here just a few points to think about:

      The episode of Dina – upon arriving in the land, Yaakov is forced to deal with the local inhabitants and the culture of sexual impropriaty which characterized them; this was one of the reasons that the land expelled them.

      Removal of idolatry – a necessary step in preparation for dwelling in the land in the proper manner.

      Establishment of the altar at Beit-El – this was the fulfillment of the oath that Yaakov made when he fled from Esav.  At the same time, Yaakov receives God's blessing of progeny and of the land, bestowing on him the right to live in the land.

      Route of the journey – from Aram to Shekhem, from there to Beit-El, and then on to Chevron.  It is interesting to note that it is exactly the same route as the one followed by Avram, when he came to Canaan.  Apparently, there is some significance to a journey covering these exact stations on the path to permanent settlement in the land.

 

[2]  And similarly the Rashbam and the Ibn Ezra; the Ramban, too, proposes this possibility "on the literal level."  Rabbeinu Chananel and the Chizkuni (in his second explanation for this verse) likewise explain that Yaakov was forced to bury Rachel on the way – but not because of the difficulties related to the journey; rather, because she was covered with blood after giving birth, and therefore could not be carried a distance.

[3]  Admittedly, there is a great difference between the burial of Rachel on the way and the idea of Yaakov being buried in Egypt.  Rachel's burial place is still in Eretz Yisrael.  Yaakov does not wish to be buried outside of the land, and therefore he asks not to be buried in Egypt.

[4]  See his commentary on Bereishit 26:5 – "…Avraham learned the entire Torah through Divine inspiration… and observed it in its entirety… and his observance of it was only within the land.  Yaakov – only when he was outside of the land did he marry two sisters..."

[5]  There is considerable debate as to the site of Rachel's grave, and the Ramban already addresses this issue.  According to tradition, Rachel's grave is close to Beit-Lechem in Yehuda, and the verse in our parasha – "She was buried on the way of Efrat, which is Beit-Lechem," is understood as referring to this site.  However, from Shemuel's words to Shaul in I Shemuel 10:2 – "When you go from me this day, you shall find two men at Rachel's grave, on the border of Binyamin, at Tziltzach," we may conclude that Rachel's grave was on the border of Binyamin.  This explains the verse in Yirmiyahu: "A voice is heard in Rama… Rachel weeps over her children."  The site of Rachel's grave is in the region of Rama, which is a town on the border of Binyamin.  Concerning this debate see at length in the following articles: "Matzevet Kevurat Rachel" by Noga Hareuveni, in "Or Hadash Al Yirmiyahu"; "Pesher Atonot Shaul u-Be'ayat Kevurat Rachel" by Yoel Elitzur, Sinai 92, 5743; "Im Kevurat Rachel bi-Gevul Binyamin be-Tziltzach" by Naava Guttman, Megadim 14.

[6]  As Rav Chevel points out, Rashi does not mean to imply that Rachel was buried outside of the land of Israel, since it is clear that she died in the land.  Rather, he means that Yaakov did not bring her into "inhabited land" – i.e., he buried her on the way and not in an inhabited city.

[7]  The midrash in Eikha Rabba, Petichta 24, elaborates at length as to the details of the prayers offered by each one of the forefathers.  There, Rachel's prayer is formulated as follows: "Master of the universe – it is known to you that Yaakov, your servant, loved me with an exceedingly great love, and served my father for seven years in order to attain me.  When those seven years were over and the time came for me to be married to my husband, my father decided to replace me with my sister as his bride.  This was exceedingly difficult for me, for his intention became known to me, so I made my husband aware of it and gave him a sign by means of which he could tell the difference between my sister and me, in order that my father would not be able to exchange me.  But afterwards I felt remorse and contained my desire, and had pity on my sister, so that she would not be humiliated; when, in the evening, my sister replaced me as my husband's bride, I passed on to my sister all the signs that I had given to my husband, in order that he would believe that she was Rachel… I performed kindness towards her, and was not jealous of her, and did not allow her to be disgraced.  If I, who am but flesh and blood, dust and ashes, was not jealous of my competitor, and did not cause her shame and disgrace, then You – the living, eternal, merciful King – for what reason are You jealous of idolatry, which has no substance, and You have exiled my children, who have been slaughtered with the sword, and their enemies do with them as they please?!

Immediately God's mercy was unleashed, and He said: For your sake, Rachel, I shall return Israel to their place."

This Midrash explains that the reason why it was specifically Rachel's prayer that was accepted is because Rachel herself also prevailed over her jealousy and performed an act of mercy; she asks God to do as she did.

[8]  It is interesting to note the fact that the Midrash makes no mention of the other forefathers praying; only that they were asked to pray and that it was of no help.

[9]  Especially in light of the fact that, as the Ramban comments, in Eretz Yisrael it is not proper for a man to be married to two sisters; therefore, Rachel cannot be a full partner in the building of Yaakov's home in Eretz Yisrael, and she dies along the way.

[10]  Rachel experiences difficulty on two levels. First, on the simple, human level – for every woman wants to bear children, and not to be barren.  Second, the matriarchs were aware of the fact that they were creating the foundations of the future House of Israel, the chosen nation, and Rachel was fighting for her share in this important task.

[11]  It should be noted that in giving the names Rachel acknowledges that their birth is an act of God – God has given her these sons – but she does not yet appeal to God directly.