Rachel (Hebrew Name|רחל|Raḥel|Rāḫēl, Rāḥēl ; meaning "ewe" [Campbell, Mike [http://www.behindthename.com/name/rachel Behind the Name] ] ) is the second and favorite wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, first mentioned in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible. She was the daughter of Laban and the younger sister of Leah, Jacob's first wife. Jacob was her first cousin, as Jacob's mother Rebecca was Laban's sister.

Marriage to Jacob

The Torah introduces Rachel and her older sister Leah with these words::Laban had two daughters. The name of the older one was Leah and the name of the younger one was Rachel.:Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was beautiful of form and beautiful of appearance.:(Genesis 29:16-17)It was this external beauty that initially attracted Jacob when he met her by the well, tending her father's sheep. Rebekah had sent Jacob back to her hometown to avoid being killed by his brother Esau, and possibly to find a wife. When Jacob saw Rachel for the first time, she rolled the heavy stone off the well (something that normally took many men to accomplish) and watered her flock.

After living and working for a month in Laban's house, Jacob asked for Rachel's hand in marriage. Laban agreed, on condition that Jacob work as a shepherd for him for the next seven years. The Torah says those years "seemed to him a few days, because of his love for her" (Genesis 29:20).

On the wedding night, however, Laban dressed Leah in the wedding dress and veil and brought her to Jacob instead of Rachel. To reinforce the ruse, Laban gave Zilpah as a handmaid to Leah. Zilpah was the younger of the two handmaids in the house, and it was assumed that she would become the servant of Rachel, while Bilhah, the older handmaid, would become the servant of Leah. (Some say that Bilhah and Zilpah were younger sisters of Rachel and Leah). [Ginzberg, Louis (1909) [http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/loj/loj108.htm "The Legends of the Jews"] , Volume I, Chapter VI: Jacob, at sacred-texts.com ]

According to the Talmud ("Megillah" 13b), Jacob and Rachel suspected that Laban would pull a trick like this. They made up a series of secret signs with which the veiled bride would identify herself to her bridegroom. But when Rachel saw her father bringing Leah out to the wedding canopy, she could not bear to see her sister shamed in public, and revealed the signs to Leah. [Wagensberg, Abba (2006), [http://www.aishdas.org/ta/5767/vayeitzei.pdf "Between The Lines,"] in Toras Aish, Volume XIV, No. 11, © 2006 Rabbi A. Wagensberg & aish.com ]

When Jacob discovered the deception in the light of day, the marriage had already been consummated. Jacob agreed to work another seven years in order to marry Rachel as well (see Genesis 29). Following the week-long celebration of his marriage to Leah, Jacob also married Rachel.


with a prayer that her husband draw closer to her.

When Rachel saw that she was unable to conceive, she offered her handmaid Bilhah to her husband in marriage, and named the two sons that Bilhah bore, Dan and Naphtali, indicating that they were to be considered her family. [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=57&letter=R&search=rachel Rachel] at [http://jewishencyclopedia.com http://jewishencyclopedia.com] ] Leah, who also desired more children, then offered her handmaid Zilpah to Jacob, and Zilpah bore two more sons, Gad and Asher. Finally, after Leah produced another two sons, Issachar and Zebulun, and a daughter, Dinah, Rachel finally bore a son, Joseph.

Rivalry with Leah

On a homiletical level, the classic Chassidic texts explain the sisters' rivalry as more than marital jealousy. Each woman desired to grow spiritually in her "avodat Hashem" (service of God), and therefore sought closeness to the tzadik (Jacob) who is God's personal emissary in this world. By marrying Jacob and bearing his sons, who would be raised in the tzadik's home and continue his mission into the next generation (indeed, all 12 sons became "tzadikim" in their own right and formed the foundation of the Nation of Israel), they would develop an even closer relationship to God. Therefore Leah and Rachel each wanted to have as many of those sons as possible, going so far as to offer their handmaids as wives to Jacob so they could have a share in the upbringing of their handmaids' sons, too. [http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/feinhandler/archives/vayetze3.htm]

Death and burial

After Joseph's birth, Jacob decided to return to the land of Canaan with his family. Fearing that Laban would deter him, he fled with his four wives and eleven children without informing his father-in-law. Laban chased him and accused him of stealing his idols. Indeed, Rachel had taken her father's idols, hidden them inside her camel's seat cushion, and sat upon them. Not knowing that the idols were in his wife's possession, Jacob pronounced a curse on whoever had them: "With whoever you will find your gods, he will not live" (Genesis 31:32). Laban proceeded to search the tents of Jacob and his wives, but when he came to Rachel's tent, she told her father, "Let not my lord be angered that I cannot rise up before you, for the way of women is upon me" (Genesis 31:35). Laban left her alone, but the curse Jacob had pronounced came true shortly thereafter.

At the outskirts of the land of Canaan, approaching Efrat, Rachel went into a difficult labor with her second son, Benjamin. The midwife tells her in the middle of the birth that her child is a boy. [Reisenberger, Azila, [http://www.uct.ac.za/newsroom/mondaypaper/?id=4123 "Medical history: Biblical texts reveal compelling mysteries,"] Newsroom and Publications at the [http://www.uct.ac.za/ University of Capetown] website] Before she died, Rachel named her son Ben Oni (literally, "son of my mourning"), but Jacob called him Ben Yamin (Benjamin). Rashi explains that Ben Yamin either means "son of the right" (i.e., "south"), since Benjamin was the only one of Jacob's sons born in Rachel died on the eleventh day of the Hebrew month of Heshvan, [Melamed, Zalman Baruch, [http://www.yeshiva.org.il/midrash/shiur.asp?id=4115 "The Anniversary of Rachel's Death,"] at [http://www.yeshiva.org.il yeshiva.org.il] ] and was buried by Jacob on the road to Efrat, just outside Bethlehem. [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=57&letter=R&search=rachel Rachel] at [http://jewishencyclopedia.com http://jewishencyclopedia.com] ] Today Rachel's Tomb, located between Bethlehem and the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, is visited by tens of thousands of visitors each year. [ [http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=92913 "Kever Rachel Trip Breaks Barriers"] by Israel National News Staff at [http://www.israelnationalnews.com israelnationalnews.com] , Published: 11/14/05]

Rachel's offspring

Rachel's son, Joseph, is destined to be the leader of Israel's tribes between exile and nationhood. This role is exemplified in the Biblical story of Joseph, who prepared the way in Egypt for his family's exile there, [ [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=441&letter=J&search=Joseph Joseph] at [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com jewishencyclopedia.com] ] and in the future figure of "Mashiach ben Yosef" (Messiah, son of Joseph), who will fight the apocalyptic Wars of Gog and Magog, preparing the way for the kingship of "Mashiach ben David" (Messiah, son of David) and the messianic age. [Davidiy, Yair, [http://www.britam.org/messiah.html "Moshiach Ben Yoseph,"] at [http://www.britam.org/ britam.org] ] [ [http://www.truthnet.org/TheMessiah/4_Messiah_of_Judaism/ "The Messiah of Judaism,"] at [http://www.truthnet.org/ truthnet.org] ]

Additional references in the Bible

*In Jeremiah 31:15, the prophet speaks of 'Rachel weeping for her children' (KJV). This is interpreted in Judaism as Rachel crying for an end to her descendants' sufferings and exiles following the destruction of the First Temple in ancient Jerusalem. According to the Midrash, Rachel spoke before God: "If I, a mere mortal, was prepared not to humiliate my sister and was willing to take a rival into my home, how could You, the eternal, compassionate God, be jealous of idols, which have no true existence, that were brought into Your home (the Temple in Jerusalem)? Will You cause my children to be exiled on this account?" God accepted her plea and promised that, eventually, the exile would end and the Jews would return to their land. [Weisberg, Chana, [http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article.asp?AID=439609 "Rachel - Biblical Women"] at [http://www.chabad.org chabad.org] ]

*In the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew (part of the New Testament), this reference from Jeremiah is interpreted as a prediction of the Massacre of the Innocents by Herod the Great in his attempt to kill the young Jesus.

*Mordechai, the hero of the Book of Esther, and Queen Esther herself, were descendants of Rachel through her son Benjamin. The Book of Esther details Mordechai's lineage as "Mordechai the son of Yair, the son of Shimi, the son of Kish, a man of the right ("ish yemini")" (Esther 2:5). The designation of "ish yemini" refers to his membership in the Tribe of Benjamin ("ben yamin", son of the right). The rabbis comment that Esther's ability to remain silent in the palace of Ahasuerus, resisting the king's pressure to reveal her ancestry, was inherited from her ancestor Rachel, who remained silent even when Laban brought out Leah to marry Jacob. [http://www.beingjewish.com/yomtov/purim/esther_hamalkah.html]

Rachel as a modern name

The name Rachel is popular in Britain and the United States. According to United States Social Security card applications in 2006, the name Rachel ranked 38th out of the top 100 names chosen by parents for their baby girls [http://www.chathamjournal.com/weekly/living/health/top-100-popular-baby-names-60710.shtml] .

In the modern interpretation of the name, Rachel is also meant as "one who is best". In Hungarian and several other Eastern European languages, Rachel (Рэйчел) has the connotation of a goddess in vampiric mythology.



External links

* [http://www.keverrachel.com Rachel's Tomb Website] General Info., History, Pictures, Video, Visitor Info., Transportation
* [http://www.rachelstomb.org/ The Committee for Rachel's Tomb]

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