The Navi says that רחל מבכה על בניה, that Rochel Imeinu cries for her children who go out into Golus (Yirmiyahu 31:15). Why of all the mothers is it Rochel who is weeping for her children?
And the answer is that it’s a matter of geography. Because Rochel’s grave was situated outside of Yerushalayim near Beis Lechem and as the Bnei Yisroel were leaving the churvos Yerushalayim they passed by Rochel’s grave and so the Navi said ‘Rochel is weeping for her children.’ You can be sure that all the fathers and the mothers of our great nation were weeping for their children. But Rochel, as the Jewish nation passed by, her heart smote her. That’s the pashtus hadevarim.
But I’ll explain a little more. You know Rochel, she lived and died for her children. Not just like a mother who is interested in her children, who sacrifices for her children. You know, some mothers sacrifice themselves for their children. But it’s the same as an Italian mother, lehavdil, or an Irish mother. Like beheimos. You find cows that would give their lives for their children. But that’s not what Rochel was. Rochel had an ideal; she wanted to have a share in the Jewish nation. And when she saw her sister having children and she didn’t, so ותקנא רחל באחותה – she was so envious and she said, הבה לי בנים – “I want children, ואם אין מתה אנכי – and if not I want to die.” (Bereishis 30:1). There’s no purpose in living otherwise. She wanted a share in the future. That’s what the great Jewish mothers always desired. They want to have a share in the history of the Jewish people.
Now we know how much Rochel suffered until finally she had Yosef. And when the time came to have her second son, it was a tragedy because she was dying. Rochel was dying as she was giving birth to her second son. Now, she knew she would never hug this son. She would never nurse this son. She wouldn’t see him grow up.
But listen to what the women said to her. They said, אל תיראי – “Don’t be afraid.” ויהי במותה – when she was dying so the woman standing there said, “Don’t be afraid.” What do you mean don’t be afraid?! She’s dying! כי גם זה לך בן – because this is also a son for you (Bereishis 35:17).
But she’ll never see this son! She’s passing out of this world!
The answer is that’s all she wants. Let her die. As long as she’ll have a son. That was her whole desire in life. So they said אל תיראי – “Don’t be afraid.” They knew she wasn’t afraid of death. They knew she didn’t care that she wouldn’t be able to go together with her son and to hug him and to take him on walks and to see him become somebody. Because these are only precious in this world. אל תיראי – Don’t be afraid, כי גם זה לך בן – here you have a son. He’s being born, a child, and he’s alive. And that’s all she wanted to hear.
So Rochel lived and died for her children. So she is the symbol of the mother who suffers for the ideal of having a share in the Jewish people. The fact is so did Leah too. But when we’re passing by Rochel’s grave, so it was רחל מבכה על בניה – Rochel was weeping for her children. That’s a poetic expression and it’s actually true.
TAPE # 178 (July 14, 1977)