By Yonatan Gordon
Rachel is the spiritual matriarch of the Jewish people who personifies the cry for the spiritual and physical return of all Jews. It is Rachel who refuses to be comforted until the ingathering of her children is realized. As in the words from Jeremiah: “…says God; and they shall return from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for your future, says God, and the children shall return to their border.”
These three completing words of Jeremiah, “and the boys shall return to their border,” has been cited often during these past few days. This is the conceptual source (although not a direct translation) for the “Bring Back our Boys” campaign.
When thinking over these words, veshavu banim le’gvulam — וְשָׁבוּ בָנִים לִגְבוּלָם, there are two short but important thoughts to keep in mind:
The first is that for the Jewish People, our matriarch Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife, personifies the innate power of the soul and its conscious devotion to arouse God’s mercy to redeem His children from exile. This she does with tears and heartfelt prayer.
The second is a lesson in identification. Seemingly, Rachel is the mother of only two of the 12 Tribes—Yosef and Benjamin—and Yosef himself became two tribes. But here in these verses, we see that she is considered the mother of the entire Jewish people. Rachel represents the entire Jewish people; we go to her tomb—Rachelʹs tomb—whenever we have something we need, we beseech God there, and are answered. Today, in the vernacular, when we want to identify with someone, we say, “We are all someone…”
What should we think when we say these are all “our boys”? That we are all Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali. This is what it means to identify with the entire Jewish people, and this is the lesson that we learn from the figure of Rachel, who is identified by the sages with Knesset Yisrael, ʺthe congregation of Israel.ʺ
Inspired by teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh.