The Temple Institute: We, the Children of our Matriarch Rachel



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We, the Children of our Matriarch Rachel

"Thus says the L-rd: Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears: for your work shall be rewarded, says the L-rd; and they shall come back again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for your future, says the L-rd, and your children shall come back again to their own borders." (Jeremiah 31:14-16)

The newspaper headlines read "historic decision." The evening newscasters are all calling it a "fateful day." They are of course referring to yesterday's shameful vote in the Israeli Knesset, approving in principle, the forced expulsion of some 8000 Jews - families - grandparents, youngsters, and newborns, from their homes and communities in Gaza, the southwestern flank of the land of Israel.

Today's media, by its very nature, rarely gets beneath the surface, and this morning's headlines are no exception. The "history" made by the Knesset yesterday is detached from the past, and shares no portion in the future. For the history of the Israelite nation is nurtured by the deeds of our forefathers, and marches relentlessly onward with an absolute faith in the One G-d, and a desire to serve Him on His holy mountain, a desire that cannot be discouraged nor denied.

Behind the media noise, events of real importance did occur yesterday. Yesterday marked the anniversary of the death of our matriarch Rachel, wife of Jacob. Thousands of her children honored her by their presence in body and in prayer, at her tomb in Bethlehem. For though Rachel was the biological mother of only three of the twelve tribes of Israel, she, as expressed in the above verse, is the spiritual mother of us all.

Concurrently, another event took place in Bethlehem yesterday: two Jewish families, young parents and their toddlers, move into a recently purchased apartment adjacent to Rachel's tomb. Of course, the army moved them out last night, because that's what the army is told to do, but they will be back. And they will be followed by two more families, and two more, and two more.

For Jewish history isn't made in the Knesset, and is rarely recognized for what it is, by the media. But the children are returning to dwell within their borders. The children are returning to their mother's embrace. No decision by 67 Dotans and Avirams in the sullied halls of the Israeli parliament can change this.

Israel's first king, Saul, was invested with the holy task of vanquishing the Israelites' arch foe, Amalek. But in his misplaced decency, he took pity on Amalek, and was incapable of carrying out his responsibility to G-d and His people. Referring to Saul, our sages say that "he who is merciful to the cruel, will, in time, become cruel to the merciful." The state of Israel has witnessed one prime minister after another, incapable of vanquishing Amalek. And each, in his own turn, has turned on his own people, imposing upon them cruel edicts. Human nature hasn't changed in 3000 years. And like Saul, who in his despair, and lack of vision, threw himself upon his own sword on Mount Gilboa, our leaders today have turned their mandate - the settlement of the land of Israel by the people of Israel - against themselves, and have impaled themselves, one right after the other, on their own twisted claims of "zionism."

One can only imagine the despair that gripped the people of Israel that day. King Saul was dead. The Philistines were growing more and more powerful. No one was in command, and there was no one in sight.

But, of course, we who read history, and do learn from it, know that, in fact, there was someone in the shadows, strong in his faith, ready to lead. David had been pursued by a jealous King Saul, enraged that David was doing the task that Saul himself had been charged with: fighting the enemy, leading the people, trusting in G-d and performing His word. David's prior resume included one thing only: he was a shepherd, and as such, he knew that every sheep in the fold relied on him for their safety. He feared not the lion, nor the bear. The life of every sheep was precious in his eyes, and "though (he) walked through the valley of the shadow of death," he never wavered in his faith, or abandoned his responsibility.

David was born and raised, and led his flock in the town of Bethlehem, the same town where our mother Rachel waits and weeps for her children to return. The same town where her children have purchased homes, and are moving in, to raise their families. This may not be the stuff of today's headlines, but it is the stuff for tomorrow's.

(To see an artisitc depiction of Rachel weeping for her children, click here.)

Yitzchak Reuven
Assistant Director, International Department of The Temple Institute



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