This Shabbat, the 11th of Cheshvan, the anniversary of the death of our Matriarch, Rachel is the Jewish Mother’s Day. The 11th of Cheshvan is the 41st day of the year. In Hebrew, the numerical value of אם/em/mother, equals 41. The 11th of Cheshvan is the day of the em, the mother.
In the Book of Genesis we read of the first meeting between Jacob and Rachel. It can only be described as ‘love at first sight’. Jacob immediately recognized that Rachel was his true soulmate. At the wedding, however, Rachel’s deceptive father Lavan replaced her with her sister Leah, and Jacob and Rachel married only later. Although Jacob did not naturally love Leah, most of his sons were born to her. Today, most of the Jews are descendants of Leah and not of Rachel. Nonetheless, Rachel was and has remained the primary mother of the entire Jewish People and it is to her that God promises to return her children “to their borders”. (The word for border, gvul, also equals 41/em/mother).
Natural Love? Or Love Born of Effort?
The difference in Jacob’s natural love for Rachel and his more perfunctory connection with Leah teaches us something about our relationship with God.
Is our connection to God something that flows naturally from our hearts and souls, like the love between Jacob and Rachel? Or is it something that we must work for, something that we achieve in a somewhat artificial manner, similar to the connection between Jacob and Leah?
Actually, both. On one hand, if we do only what we ‘feel’ like doing, we can enter some very dangerous territory. All our lusts and less-than-holy inclinations are liable to surface and flood our personality and the world around us, creating chaos. Thus, one of the fundamentals of Judaism is ‘the acceptance of the yoke of Heaven’. We need that yoke to keep us on the straight path.
Deeper in our souls, however, our authentic Jewish nature is hiding. This nature desires to be connected to God, to pray to Him, to learn His Torah and to perform His mitzvot – thus being truly together with Him. This is the secret of Rachel. She is “beautiful of form and of appearance” and Jacob immediately feels that she is his twin-soul, connecting to her naturally. Additionally, the Holy Ari teaches that the highest spiritual union is called the union of Israel Rachel (Jacob is Israel). This union is most relevant to this current year, 5779. 779 is the numerical value of Israel Rachel.
From Exile to Redemption
As long as we have not reached the complete redemption, our true nature is not revealed. Lavan is still at work, attempting to stifle our authentic nature – the natural flowing love between Jacob and Rachel. Currently, it seems most natural to eat, drink and live mindlessly – while living a life of holiness, purity, Torah and prayer seems most unnatural.
Rachel was buried on the road. She does not find comfort until every last one of her children will return to his border. Returning to the border means return to the Land of Israel, our natural Homeland. It also means return to that deep place in the soul where the correct and mindful Jewish nature dwells. We yearn to uncover our true Jewish nature, which feels that the most “beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance”, the most enjoyable, flowing and natural thing we can do is to be a Jew who loves God, the Nation of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the Land of Israel.
On this 11th of Cheshvan, may we all return to our true borders and be natural Jews in the merit of our Matriarch, Rachel.