11 Mar Cheshvan: Rachel Imenu's Yahrtzeit

From Rav Shlomo Aviner Shlit"a Book: "On the Air with Rav Aviner":

Rachel Imenu (Our foremother Rachel) in the Gaza War Against Hamas
Q: Rumors have spread about a woman presenting herself as our foremother Rachel appearing to Tzahal soldiers and warning them of explosives, booby-trapped houses and terrorist ambushes within the Gaza Strip during the war. Is this true?
A: In truth, Rachel Imenu was certainly with us during our long Exile as the Maharal explained in his book "Netzach Yisrael" (end of chap. 1 and beginning of chap. 34). He wrote that Rachel is the power that sustained the Nation of Israel during the course of the Exile and returned us to our Land as it says: "Withhold your voice from crying…and your children will return to their border" (Yirmiyahu 31:15-16). And Rashi explained at the beginning of Parashat Va-Yechi (Bereshit 48:7): Why wasn't Rachel buried in the Cave of Machpelah or even in Beit Lechem, but by the side of the road? In order for her to protect the Nation of Israel while we were on the way. This is the inner power which binds the Nation together. After all, it is a miracle and wonder that we were able to remain steadfast for two thousand years in the Exile. We were a lamb among seventy wolves and we are now returning to our Land. But regarding the idea that Rachel personally revealed herself to this person or that person, on such matters it is said: "A fool will believe anything." There are two types of extremism: one type of extremism is to deny miracles, and another type of extremism is to believe that when someone tells you about a miracle that there really was one. We need to check. It is possible that they may have been imagining. Sometimes a person imagines things, even a sane person. Sometimes one is under pressure, tired, hungry, and thinks he sees something that isn't there, and later fosters it in his memory. This is called FMS – false memory syndrome. It may have been a non-Jewish woman. There are also good Arab women – not all of them are, but there are some. And maybe someone dreamed up this idea to strengthen faith, and to say: "You see? There are people that go to war and there are people that don't go to war but they pray, and Rachel came to save us on account of their merit." Therefore, we need proof for such matters. There were soldiers who fell in battle and Rachel was not there. There were also soldiers who won battles due to their great dedication and wisdom and courageousness to fight, and Rachel was not there. This means that Rachel was not there in the image of a woman guiding them and telling them go this way or that way, shoot here or shoot there. But Rachel was certainly there in the sense in which we explained: the inner power which sustains the Nation of Israel and returns us to our Land. [There was a news story that Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu prayed for Rachel Imenu to help. Rav Aviner gave this answer before this story has spread about Rav Eliyahu.]

More on Rachel Imenu
Q: Did Rachel Imenu really reveal herself in the war or not? In other words, who is obligated to prove it – the one who claims that she did appear or the one who claims that she did not appear?
A: The simple answer is based upon the halachic principle: "Ha-motzi me-chavero alav ha-ra'ayah - The burden of proof rests upon the one who demands the money," i.e. the burden of proof rests upon one who makes a claim which veers from the usual. The usual is that Rachel Imenu does not appear in war. Rachel Imenu was not in our first war when Yehoshua bin Nun waged war against Amalek. She was not in the war of Moshe Rabbenu against Sichon and Og. She was not in the war of Yehoshua bin Nun to conquer the Land of Israel. She was not in any of the wars of the Judges. She was not in the wars of King Shaul and of King David. She was not in the wars of any of the Kings of Israel. She was not in the war of the Hasmoneans. She was not in the war of Bar Kochba. She was not in the War of Independence, the Six-Day War or the Yom Kippur War. She was not in any war. The presumption is that she does not go out to war. Now, there are those claiming that she was there. It is possible, but it must be proven. How? We need to hear from the soldier who claimed that it happened. We need to question him before a Beit Din according to the halachah: Do you really see her? Maybe it was an Arab woman? Maybe it was a Jewish woman captured by the Arabs and she was reminded that she was a Jew? Maybe you imagined it? As long as it has not been investigated, it has not been proven. Up until now, I have not heard anything.

I was therefore happy when a friend told me what he saw with his own eyes. During the war, a bunch of reservists were sitting around a fire on a freezing-cold night with warm jackets which they brought from home. A few regular soldiers arrived and they were frozen to the bone. The reservists did not hesitate to take off their jackets which were almost more precious to them than their weapons and gave them to the other soldiers. This is Rachel Imenu! Rachel Imenu gave up Yaakov - who was the most precious thing to her – for her sister. I am not saying that a jacket and a spouse are comparable, but this act at its source comes from Rachel Imenu.

In David's lament for Yonatan, he says: "Your love was more wonderful to me than the love of women" (Shmuel 2 1:26). The Targum (the Aramaic translation) says: "the love of two women." A Chasidic Rebbe once asked: Who are these two women? His answer: Rachel and Leah. David was saying: "Yonatan, your love for me in which you were willing to forego the kingship flows from the love of two women - when Rachel was willing to forego for Leah." Giving up a jacket is obviously not like giving up the kingship, but it is still flows from Rachel Imenu.

And Rashi explains at the beginning of Parashat Va-Yechi (Bereshit 48:7): Why wasn't Rachel buried in the Cave of Machpelah or even in Beit Lechem, but by the side of the road? So that when we were on our way to Exile she would be an aid for her children, as it says: "A voice is heard in Ramah. Rachel cries for her children…there is a reward for your actions and your children will return to their border" (Yirmiyahu 31:14-16). But couldn't she be an aid from Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah – it is only a little farther away?! I heard one Rav explain that for the sake of her children Rachel gave up being buried in Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah. We see that Rachel Imenu was willing to forego and we must do the same. The Exile was on account of "Sinat Chinam – Baseless Hatred" and the Redemption will be on account of "Ahavat Chinam – Baseless Love." In this way, Rachel is an aid for her children. She teaches us "Ahavat Chinam – Baseless Love." Every soldier who entered the Gaza Strip did so with self-sacrifice to save other Jews. This is not a jacket, a spouse, the kingship or a spot in Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah, it is risking one's life. Therefore, Rachel was there. She was with every soldier who entered with self-sacrifice for the sake of his brothers. It truly was Rachel!