Mom and Mama Rachel

Mom and Mama Rachel

Until a year ago, in my mind, the weeks between Simchat Torah and Chanukah were a wasteland consisting of a few blah weeks to get out the winter clothing and find the umbrellas and raincoats (still haven’t found them yet, wish me luck!). The lone spike of life on Cheshvan’s flat EKG had always been the Yahrzeit of Rachel Imenu. But it was never a big jump. More like a blip when I considered going to Kever Rachel and then decided not to cause it’d be way too crowded
This year though feels different. Mom’s 1st yahrzeit falls on the 18th of Cheshvan, exactly a week after Mama Rachel on the 11th of Cheshvan, today. Which is causing me to feel a deep connection with Rachel’s yahrzeit that I never have before. As though this is the beginning of Mom’s yahrzeit, the intervening days between Mom A”H and Rachel A”H’s yahrzeits a sort of Chol Hamoed Mom.
Yesterday, my daughter and I attended the neighborhood Shabbat learning for mothers and daughters-Mifgashabbat. The teacher was speaking about Mama Rachel. How she was buried all on her own in Bethlehem. When Yaakov told Yosef that he wanted to be buried in Maarat HaMachpelah with Leah and the rest of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, we learned how the midrash says that Yosef was deeply distraught.
“Abba, why did you bury Mom on her own? Was it raining the day she died, so you couldn’t bring her to Chevron?”
Yaakov responded simply, “No, it was a sunny day.”
“I would be happy to move Mom’s body to Chevron so she could be buried next to you.”
“No. You can’t do that. You don’t understand! You don’t think I wanted to be buried with your mother? I wanted it as much as you do! But Hashem said to bury my beloved wife, Rachel, on her own in Bethlehem, and that’s what I did.”
Rachel Imenu was buried alone by the road so that she could cry and pray for the Jews heading off to exile. She is by the side of the road waiting all these millenia for every Jew who feels lost, hopeless, at the end of their rope. At the end of the road.
I left yesterday’s learning crying inconsolably. I cried and slept for much of the rest of Shabbat. Feeling the sharp grief of an orphan. A motherless child.
Because that was what my Mom did too, for so many people. My mom was a psychiatrist who took the cases other psychiatrists wouldn’t. Patients who were struggling with mental illness but didn’t have the money to pay privately. Mom was willing to jump through the hoops of the various insurance companies, including the infamous byzantine Medicaid bureaucracy, so that every person who needed help could get it. She also saw many patients who didn’t have any insurance whom she would charge a symbolic fee.
Mom, too, was standing by the side of the road, like Mama Rachel, helping the lost and hopeless. She often treated entire families, the grandparents, the parents, the children. Enabling them to heal generations of dysfunction and abuse, to turn their lives around.
Mom loved her patients dearly. She was loyal to them until the end, seeing her last patient on the day she suffered the major stroke that claimed her life a few hours later.
After Mom died, my dad assigned me the unenviable task of calling my mom’s patients to tell them she had died, When I called that final patient to tell him the sad news, he said, “I know, I read that your mom had passed in the Baltimore Sun. I want to tell you that your mother was a fantastic doctor and a fantastic person. And I have decided that I am sitting shiva for her too.”
I’m pretty sure this patient didn’t mean he would be sitting shiva in the halachic sense. I doubt he knows what that means.
What he meant was that he was sitting in his home and mourning for the woman who had sat in her office for so many decades, receiving hour after hour all those suffering souls to whom she provided assistance and comfort and hope. Much like another woman crying and praying to this very day in Bethlehem.

[Painting of Rachel and Leah by Miriam Mehadipur]


  1. This is such a powerful post, thank you so much for sharing this, from one daughter missing her mom to another….your mother was truly a version of Rachel Imeinu. May her memory be for a blessing, may she watch over you and your family like she shepherded her patients so powerfully and lovingly.

  2. Touching and inspirational!
    How lucky you are to be the daughter of such a wonderful woman.
    She did a great job raising a talented daughter like you, who sees life lessons in everything in life and in your own unique way you are here to inspire Jewish moms around the world.

  3. I love what you wrote, and I love the beautiful comments too!

  4. This was so interesting and the comparison is beautiful. Thank you!

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