The story of Jacob and Rachel should have been one of love at first sight with a lifetime of bliss together. And yet, the Torah does not permit us the joy of watching the desired tale unfold. Instead, Jacob falls in love with Rachel and is tricked into marrying her older sister Leah who, while seemingly nice, is not the love of his life. Rachel becomes the second wife. Then, as if to pour salt in the matrimonial wound, the Torah further tortures Rachel by making her incapable of bearing children.
Indeed, Rachel is forced to suffer as Leah, and the handmaids, Zilpah, and Bilchah, have a total of 12 children while Rachel is reduced to being the perennial Aunt. The Torah does not provide us with a precise timeline; however, the birth of 11 children probably correlates to nearly 11 years. It is a long time to wait.
Having, together with Sheri, experienced infertility, I have some understanding of the, likely, great range of Rachel's emotions. Her existence was full of sadness, anger, feeling useless, feeling incomplete, feeling cheated. To end the darkness, she pleaded with Jacob, bargained with Leah, and loaned her handmaid.
Ultimately, after an interminably long time, Rachel was blessed with Joseph. Joseph would not be her gift alone. He would be the gift to his entire family and, in saving Egypt from famine, he would ultimately be a gift to the rest of the world.
I think that it is very easy to overlook and an important message in this story. Rachel's life was incomplete, damaged, and uncertain. Despite all of this, she kept moving forward; she kept sight of the day when the world would be better; when she would be a mother. It would be the day her world was repaired. She could have thrown her hands up and given up or she could have curled up into the fetal position and disappeared. But she didn't.
We live in a world of uncertainty. It is a world or raging fires, and horrible shootings, and persistent rocket attacks. There is anti-Semitism and racism. It is a world where a disagreement becomes a reason to hate someone and where an election literally divides families.
It is exhausting and it would be so easy to give up.
Please don't. Be Rachel.
Just as Rachel never gave up on here dream of having a child, of making her world better, don't give up on the hope of making this world a better place.
Shabbat Shalom - Rabbi Michael S. Jay