Had there been a local Bais Lechem Journal, it might have included this small obituary: “Young mother dies in childbirth; family mourns at graveside burial.” On 11 Cheshvan, almost four thousand years later, 70,000 mourners flocked to Bais Lechem to commemorate the yahrtzeit of Rochel Imeinu. The mystical aura of Kever Rochel has magnetically attracted myriads to pray, plead and cry out to Hashem for help in healing in her zechus.
Yosef Hatzaddik was the first to prostrate himself at his mother’s grave, beseeching her for protection from his pursuers. This was the original consecration of the kever as the keili for collecting the tears and tefillos of Klal Yisrael for the future millennia of galus until the final Geulah. Our final redemption will be realized in Rochel Imeinu’s zechus, as a reward for her selfless sacrifice to spare her sister embarrassment.
What midah catapulted her to so lofty a level? Rashi designated tznius as the underlying reason for Rochel Imeinu’s decision to relinquish her dream. She could have warned Lavan not to even attempt deceit, since simanim had been arranged to prevent any possible trickery.
Had Lavan publicized this private agreement between husband and wife, the resulting breach of tznius by publicizing a private matter would have been totally unacceptable. Therefore, Rochel chose to keep their arrangement secret, regardless of the price she would have had to pay. Rochel was rewarded with two descendants whose modesty is legendary, Shaul Hemelech and Esther Hamalkah.
Rochel’s modesty made an indelible impression on Yosef. It was not only Yaakov’s image that deterred Yosef Hatzaddik from sin, Medrash Rabbah tells us. It was his mother’s image that empowered him to triumph over temptation. A mother’s tznius can make as powerful an impact on her sons as on her daughters. Every midah we teach our children, whether in the classroom or in the kitchen, will never be lost; they are long-term investments that will eventually pay incalculable dividends.
Is there a common denominator between these two outstanding middos, selflessness and modesty, that enables Rochel Imeinu to reach such heights? Mussar sefarim call it gadlus ha’adam, perceiving the greatness of human potential; psychologists call it self-worth.
Hashem has infused each of us with a neshamah capable of reaching out to grasp the sublime and sacred world of the Divine. Since, we all have that potential, my desires and dreams are no more important than yours. If someone has the zechus to marry Yaakov, why, Rochel reasoned, am I more deserving than Leah? If I have gadlus ha’adam, you have it, too! Paradoxically, self-worth is really the root of selflessness.
Self-worth is also the main ingredient in the recipe for tznius. Unlike the secular perception of modesty as hiding that which is shameful or degrading, the Torah’s perspective is that tznius is directly proportional to value; the more valuable an item, the more it must be hidden to guarantee its security. Dazzling diamonds and precious pearls are not sold publicly in the flea market, but are kept in a private place under top security. Just as the kedushah of a sefer Torah is preserved as it is enveloped within an aron kodesh, the more self-worth I have, the more must by spirituality be concealed from public view.
“Rochel cries for her children; she refused to be comforted because he is not there.” Why does the passuk begin with Rochel Imeinu crying over many children, but end with her crying over one child? Rochel Imeinu recognizes that every neshamah has a specific mission which it alone can perform. Every one of her children has a special tafkid to contribute to the totality of the klal. The welfare of every child, therefore, means as much to her as that of all of her children.
Mama Rochel, we won’t let you down. We will try to reach and teach all of your children: krovim, rechokim and also, “he” who “is not there.” You paid a very high price for tznius, so we will also try to pay a little more-even when it’s not “on sale.” You selflessly let your life’s dreams be shattered because you realized that the happiness of others was as important as your own. Such a hard lesson for us to learn, but you are a master teacher. You see the potential greatness within us; we, therefore, must not underestimate it ourselves.
If you keep crying, we’ll keep trying. Although we can’t fill your shoes, we can try to follow in your footsteps. Mama Rochel, cry once again for all of your children…May your cries blend with the shofar blasts and Kaddish that echo at your kever, and become harbingers of the final Geulah that heralds the coming of Moshiach.