According to tradition, Rachel, our mother, passed away on the 11th of Cheshvan, which begins this Wednesday evening. In this letter, we will discuss a comforting Divine promise to Rachel which offers a message of hope for our people and our mission:
Those of us who care about our people and our universal mission recognize that we need the unique contributions of each member of our people. We therefore feel pain that many of our brothers and sisters are lost and have not yet found their place within Klal Yisrael - the Community of Israel. There is a prophecy of Jeremiah that addresses this pain, and it is based on a story about our mother, Rachel. The Torah tells us that Rachel died during childbirth, and that she was buried outside of Bethlehem:
"Thus Rachel died and was buried on the road to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. Jacob set up a monument over her grave; it is the monument of Rachel's grave until today." (Genesis 35:19:20).
Why was she not buried in the Machpelah Cave in Hebron where the other patriarchs and matriarchs of our people are buried? The Midrash cites a tradition that Jacob chose to bury her near Bethlehem, because he foresaw that his descendants would pass her burial site as they journeyed into exile, and that Rachel's soul would pray for them (Genesis Rabbah 82:10). This tradition is based on the following prophecy of Jeremiah:
"A voice is heard on high, wailing, bitter weeping, Rachel weeps for her children; she refuses to be consoled for her children, for they are gone. Thus said the Compassionate One: Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears; for there is reward for your accomplishment, says the Compassionate One, and they will return from the enemy's land. There is hope for your future, spoke the Compassionate One, and your children will return to their border." (Jeremiah 31:14-16)
This prophecy is read on the second day of Rosh Hashana. When the survivors of some concentration camps gathered after World War II to have their first Rosh Hashana service in many years, the Klausenberger Rebbe, himself a survivor of the camps, addressed the group. He discussed the above prophecy of Jeremiah with his brethren, and he cited the tradition that the promise "they will return from their enemy's land" is referring to liberation from "physical" exile, while the promise that "your children will return to their border" is referring to liberation from "spiritual" exile. (The Klausenberger Rebbe - The War Years, by Aharon Surasky)
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a noted biblical commentator, also interprets the promise that "your children will return to their border" as referring to a return from spiritual exile. Rabbi Hirsch explains that the exile resulted from the people's abandonment of the Divine Covenant; thus, Rachel is weeping for her children who have become estranged from the Compassionate One. Even if her children are prosperous in the lands of their dispersion, Rachel still weeps for them, as long as they are alienated from their Source. The Compassionate One therefore comforts Rachel by promising her, "there is hope for your future," as her lost children will eventually return to their "border" - their spiritual home. The ingathering of our dispersed people will therefore be a spiritual, as well as a physical ingathering. (Commentary on the Haftorah for the Second Day of Rosh Hashana)
"Bring us back to you, O Compassionate One, and we shall return, renew our days as of old." (Lamentations 5:21)
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
There are young children of Rachel who would like to rediscover their heritage by going to a Torah day school, but their parents cannot afford the tuition. I myself was one of those children; however, the day school I wanted to attend was able to get funds from contributors to help pay for my tuition. As a result, my parents only had to pay a small monthly fee, and I began to study at HILI - the Hebrew Institute of Long Island - at age 10.
I therefore want to share with you information about a phone company in the United States which was started in order to raise funds which would enable Jewish children from low-income families to attend Torah day schools. All the profits from this company go towards this great mitzvah! For information about the company, call 1.800 CUCUMBER, or visit: www.cucumber.com