In 2018, remember Rachel’s tears remain with us

One of my cousins in Pittsburgh is our family historian. But sometimes, he is more than that; maybe because of that, he is our family conscience as well.
So he sends all of us this reminder of our heritage, both family, and religious, as 2017 comes to an end. And it bears repeating…
“Coincidentally (or not),” he begins — and by now you know how I feel about that! — “I found myself around the corner from the cemetery where my great-grandmother Rachel was buried in 1936. More than 80 years since she died. So I went to her grave and said a few appropriate prayers on behalf of the family…” And then he began to think, in writing:
“Most of you know about our Biblical Matriarch Rachel, and how she cries for the Jewish people. This quintessential mother of Israel resides ‘on the road,’ always with us through our wandering. We all hope and pray for biological mothers who will protect and nurture us. But even when we’re so blessed, we must remember that all of us live in a form of spiritual exile, and even when we are deprived of such a mother, we are never deprived of Rachel. She always stands vigil, adoring us unconditionally…
“To this very day, Rachel weeps for her children. She watches over us, shedding a tear for every suffering youngster or adult. And hers are not mere tears. They are tears that water the seeds of our parched souls, allowing them to be, as Jeremiah said, ‘…like a watered garden, and they will sorrow no more…’
“All of us must know that regardless of our biological mothers’ efforts on our behalf, Rachel always remains on watch and does not rest. When trouble brews, she intercedes on our behalf. We can only wonder whether it was her tears that have kept our people alive for all these years, allowing us to survive against all odds…”
And then, Cousin Michael quotes some lyrics from a Yiddish song by Abie Rotenberg, an Orthodox Jewish musician from Canada:
“Mama Rochel, cry for us again. Won’t you shed a tear for your dear children? Won’t you raise your sweet voice now, as then? In a roadside grave she was laid to rest, in solitude forever. But her voice gave hope to the broken hearts of her daughters and sons bound for exile…Yet a frightened child, numb from pain and grief, remains forlorn and uncertain, clinging to the faith as it cries out to its mother…Mama Rochel, won’t you shed a tear for your dear children? Mama, Mama, cry, cry for us again…”
I’m afraid I never really understood that ancient, persistent image of Rachel crying for her children. Probably, I still don’t fully “get it.” But Cousin Michael encourages me to try. Encouraging all of us to reach out, to reach back, to draw hope in the motherly love of our fourth matriarch, who cried for our people once, so long ago, and may yet be weeping for us as we go through time after time of trials that bring forth our own weeping and cries for help, but from which we somehow always manage to emerge in Jewish unity.
Maybe Rachel is crying for us now, helping us get through the current divisiveness about relocating our United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. So it certainly can’t hurt for all of us to remember her tears as we pray for peace — not just in our own country, not just in Jerusalem, not just in Israel, not even just in the Middle East, but in an entire world very much in need of peace. In need of healing. In need of Mama Rochel’s tears…
As we enter 2018 together, we make promises that always accompany our entrance into something new. But inevitably, we’ll break them. I thank Cousin Michael for reminding me that Rachel’s powerful tears of renewed hope are always with us. Happy New Year!

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