My Visit Yesterday to Rachel’s Tomb

My Visit Yesterday to Rachel’s Tomb

Yesterday my daughter, Moriah, and I traveled with her 6th-grade class to Rachel’s Tomb in honor of Rachel Imenu’s Yahrzeit this Shabbat. It’s a little scary going to Kever Rachel. You have to drive, albeit very briefly, through Palestinian Bethlehem and then, to get to the tomb, you drive down a road protected by 3-story-high concrete security walls and lots of IDF soldiers. Which makes you feel safe and threatened at the same time.

The Rabbanit who spoke with us at the tomb, HaRabbanit Sara Elyasaf, asked why Jacob had left Rachel Imenu alongside the road in this distant, scary place? Why didn’t he take her to the Cave of Machpela to rest in peace among all the other Matriarchs and Patriarchs?

“It is because,” she explained, “Rachel is the matriarch of all the people who are b’derech, on the way. Jews throughout history who have lived in distant countries, suffering the pain of exile. Rachel is their Matriarch, she is crying for Hashem to bring them home.”

When I heard her words, I thought of myself 25 years ago, a college student in the deep exile of snowy Maine. And my husband, at that same time, very far from Judaism in his small hometown in frozen Ontario. And Rachel Imenu, crying, weeping, praying for us to come home.

And I also thought of all the mothers who are b’derech. And aren’t we mothers, as Rabbanit Yemima once pointed out, always b’derech?

Waiting to get pregnant…
Waiting to give birth…
Waiting for a child to start sleeping through the night…
To be potty trained…
To start school…
To graduate from school…
To get married…

And Rachel Imenu is with us. The mother of all mothers, b’derech.

I posted this song about Rachel Imenu performed by Franciska Kay last winter, I think this is the most beautiful and moving version of this song I’ve ever heard. I was humming it yesterday at Kever Rachel. (lyrics below)

Lyrics (from Jeremiah 31)
כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, קוֹל בְּרָמָה נִשְׁמָע נְהִי בְּכִי תַמְרוּרִים–רָחֵל, מְבַכָּה עַל-בָּנֶיהָ; מֵאֲנָה לְהִנָּחֵם עַל-בָּנֶיהָ, כִּי אֵינֶנּוּ.
Thus says the LORD: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not.
כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, מִנְעִי קוֹלֵךְ מִבֶּכִי, וְעֵינַיִךְ, מִדִּמְעָה: כִּי יֵשׁ שָׂכָר לִפְעֻלָּתֵךְ נְאֻם-יְהוָה, וְשָׁבוּ מֵאֶרֶץ אוֹיֵב
Thus says the LORD: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD; and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
וְיֵשׁ-תִּקְוָה לְאַחֲרִיתֵךְ, נְאֻם-יְהוָה; וְשָׁבוּ בָנִים, לִגְבוּלָם.
And there is hope for your future, says the LORD; and your children will return to their own border.


  1. i remember the first time i visited Kever Rachel in 1976
    we drove up, parked in front, and the driver took out his cigarette and told us to go inside.
    we found a few old women, sitting and saying tehillim.

    that was it. no barriers, no guards, no IDF. just a dusty road…..

    • OH, Tamar, I remember that, too, i was there the same year! I think there was one chayal positioned on a small rooftop. an arab souvenir shop across the street. No fortresses.
      May Hashem answer her prayers for us all; v’shavu banim l’gvulam

  2. thank you for sharing. very lovely song.

  3. i’m enjoying the music, Chana Jenny, thank you

    and may her prayers for all of us be heard on High

  4. Rabbi Eliakim Schwarz

    Thank you got the article.I am going to post it.

  5. I love the music and the concept of Rachel Imeinu praying for us when we are on our way.
    Just last week, however, I wrote a blog about trying to appreciate the moment I’m in rather than constantly waiting for that next milestone and always looking toward something more.

  6. Beautiful song! Thank you for sharing.
    This is my first comment here, but I have been a “silent reader” for a while now. I am really enjoying your content.

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