Rachel Imeinu

Rachel, Our Mother

There is a famous Midrash (story from the Talmud):

When the Bais Hamikdosh (the Holy Temple) was destroyed, Moses, the Matriarchs and Patriarchs stormed the heavens, and pleaded with G-d to bring the Jews back to the Land of Israel. But, the Jews had sinned - and G-d sealed the judgment against them. And though Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, and Moses tried, though they spoke of the great things they had done in their lives, and pleaded that their merits be used to help their children, the gates of mercy were sealed tight.

But then Rachel spoke. She asked that in her merit, her children (the Jewish people) should be spared. In the merit of her love to her sister Leah, and in the merit of her refusal to shame her at great personal sacrifice, the Almighty annulled His decree. To her G-d said, "Stop crying, because your prayers have been heard." And they continue to be heard, to this day.

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We all know the story of how, on her wedding day, Rachel's father switched her with her older sister Leah, deceiving Yaakov (Jacob) into marrying ‘the wrong girl'. The sages ask, how is it possible that Yaakov could be tricked? The answer given is that Rachel and Yaakov had developed signs to use so that they would be able to communicate with one another. They knew that they were soul mates, but Rachel's father was known to be less than honest, and they wanted to be sure their betrothal would be followed through. But when the time came and Leah was ‘switched' so that she would marry Yaakov instead, Rachel did not want her sister to be embarrassed. She taught her the signs, and gave up her honor and happiness for her sister. It was this act of pure love and giving that gave the Jewish people the merit to continue to this day.

This powerful prayer that Rachel used to defend her people is one of many reasons Jews refer to her as Rachel Imeinu (Our Mother Rachel), and others call her Momma Rochel. Just as we hear about mothers lifting cars off of their children, or doing other superhuman feats, Rachel Imeinu is the one who loves us unconditionally, cares for us, cries for us, and brings our supplications straight to G-d's ear.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Jews and non-Jews go and visit her grave. People pray to find a spouse, to be granted children, as well as supplicated for any other need or desire. It is a very special place for a person, man or woman, to feel heard, to feel loved, and accepted unconditionally.

It is because of Rachel Imenu and the power of her prayers, and her status as the mother of all Jews, that we pray for people in the merit of their mother. It is a mother's cry for her child that arouses rachamim (mercy) from the Almighty.

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Rachel Imeinu