The prophet Jeremiah encapsulates the greatness of Rachel. While our patriarchs and matriarchs beseeched God for mercy as the Jews were led into exile, only Rachel received a positive response: "Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears. For there is reward for your work..." What was the essence of Rachel's deed that left such a powerful impact?
Leah could not have married Yaakov without both Rachel's consent and complicity. The Medrash tells how Rachel, sensing her sister's impending humiliation, revealed to her the secret signs and codes that Yaakov had taught her. This was truly a selfless act of
, love based on the concern for one's fellow. She may have thought that now her destiny and that of Leah would be reversed, and she would marry Esau, as some commentators suggest. Even if she knew through prophecy that she would still marry Yaakov, she now would become the second wife, a role she would have to live with for the rest of her life. As the first wife, she would have remained the soul mate to the spiritual essence of Yaakov, the future Yisroel. This role she relinquished to Leah, who became the mother of priests and teachers. Her role now became to be the wife of Yaakov as he had absorbed the character of Esau. As such, she gave birth to Yosef, the one destined to be the provider and sustainer of the family through their sojourn in Egypt.
But Rachel had another son, Benjamin. By exploring his character and the essence of his descendants, Saul and Esther, much can be revealed about the enormity of Rachel's benevolence. Benjamin knew that Yosef had been sold and not killed. Yet for twenty one long years, he did not reveal this secret. When the prophet Samuel came to anoint Saul as king, he hid in the equipment room eschewing public fanfare. Finally, Esther, the paradigm of discretion and silence, never told Achashverosh who she was and what nation she came from until Mordechai gave her permission to do so to save the nation. This characteristic of discretion and silence came to Saul and Esther almost genetically. They learned it in their families not just by observing the actions, but by also observing the demeanor and continuing behavior after an act of kindness, was performed.
When Reuven presented Leah with mandrakes, childless Rachel, sitting alongside her sister asked Leah for some of the flowers. Leah's answer appears to be insensitive, given the great
that Rachel had done for her. "Was your taking my husband insignificant? - And now to take even my son's
Rachel remained silent seemingly agreeing to the idea that Leah should always have been Yaakov's wife. Only after this incident did Hashem remember her and allow her to conceive. Here was proof positive that Rachel's selfless act was truly selfless. The
concludes that although Rachel gave Leah the signs, she never told her that this was a code between herself and Yaakov. In essence, the signs were the manual for being a good Jewish wife, the laws of ritual impurity, separating challah, and lighting Sabbath candles. As far as Leah knew, Rachel was teaching her how to be a Jewish wife, not giving away the secrets that could now seal her own fate.
Rachel could easily have said, "You ingrate! Do you know what I did for you?" Instead, it is obvious that Leah did
know what Rachel did for her. In all this time, Rachel never made Leah feel inferior. Instead, she treated her sister as the mainstay of the house. Rachel did not do
, she was
The beauty of Rachel was that her
was done privately; no one except she and Hashem knew what she had done. Therefore, when Rachel validates Leah's position and effaces her own role, Hashem remembers her and gives her a son. Now more than ever, she merited this loving kindness from Hashem.
This indeed is the lesson for us all. The Second Holy Temple was destroyed for unfounded hatred among the Jews. Hashem listens to the voices of those who cry out to Him. He will especially listen to the voices of those who cry out to Him for others, and in the merit of this undeserved love we display for each other, may He bring the full redemption soon, in our day, and may Rachel's children return to their border.