17 Dec The Greatness of Rachel Imenu
In the medrash on Eicha (24) it says that when the time came for the churban, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov came before the Ribbono Shel Olam to daven on behalf of the Yidden. Hashem responded that it is a decree and I can’t change it. The same response was given to Moshe Rabbeinu as well. When Rachel approached Hashem on behalf of her children, she asked that in the zchus that she gave the simanim to her sister the decree should be annulled. Hashem then responded I will return the Yidden to Eretz Yisroel. It would seem from this medrash that what Rachel did sounds greater than all of what the Avos did and what Moshe accomplished. How could this be? The question goes even further; why is it that when we daven during the Yomim Noraim we only mention the Akeida and not the mesiras nefesh of Rachel?
We can analyze this great mesiras nefesh even further. Rachel’s she’ifa to marry Yaakov was not a selfish act; she wanted to be the one to marry this great tzaddik to grow in ruchniyus. When she gave up the simanim to her sister Leah she was giving up her whole life’s goal of marrying a tzaddik since she had no idea that she would be getting a second chance. She thought she would end up marrying the rasha, Eisav. This vatrunis was so incredible given that this was going to affect her entire life. It goes even further when we learn about the story of Leah and the dudaim. Leah gave mussar to Rachel and said it is bad enough that you are taking away my husband; you also want these dudaim! Rachel could have easily responded to Leah that she was the one who gave the simanim in the first place. This koach of being quiet and holding back is extraordinary. The Sfas Emes says that only after she was quiet at the time of the dudaim does the posuk say that Hashem remembered Rachel and gave her a child. It is hard to understand why the giving of the simanim was not enough for her to be zocheh to have children. We see that the fact that she was able to be quiet when she was justified in answering was the height of a zchus for her to be answered, despite the great mesiras nefesh when she was ready to give up her ruchniyus.
The story of Yehudah and Tamar teaches us that it is better for a person to be thrown into a flame rather than embarrass somebody. The reason for this is that embarrassing somebody is like killing the person since the color of the face changes. Based on this premise, Rachel gave the simanim to her sister. However, there was a distinct difference between Rachel and Tamar. Tamar was going to have to do something and point out that Yehuda was the person, thereby embarrassing him. Rachel, on the other hand, did not need to do anything since she was not the one doing the switching; nevertheless, she felt that she must do something above and beyond the call of halacha to save her sister from embarrassment. The zchus of the Akeida was the actually the greatest since it required mesiras nefesh of killing an only child; yet the Halacha required that to happen since Hashem asked Avraham to do it. This is a great zchus under normal circumstances; but during the churban even more was needed. During the churban, the Jews put a tzielem in the Heichal, which normally would indicate that they gave up on Hashem and took in Avoda Zora. Reb Nosson Tzvi Finkel Z”l explains such an act required the zchus of a woman who was ready to give up everything and live with a rasha for the rest of her life. She was able to be quiet despite the fact that Leah owed her everything. For that, Hashem says, I must be quiet and forgive my people despite the fact that they brought in Avoda Zora into the Bais Hamikdosh. This is why Rachel’s zchus was the best zchus to be used during the Churban.