Vayishlach: A Mother's Mad Insistence

 In last week''s reading we witnessed the Biblical love-at-first-sight story of Jacob meeting Rachel. Heroically, Jacob rolls the massive stone from atop the well to water her flock. Romantically, he precedes to kiss her and then lifts up his voice in weeping. 

  Though this is love at first sight, its consummation is vastly delayed. Jacob has to work 7 years for his deceptive Uncle Lavan before he is able to finally marry Rachel. A strenuous exercise in delayed gratification. And yet, their love is so great that the text tells us that the 7 years were but a few days for Jacob. Because of this morphing of time he was able to withstand the waiting period. And his commitment becomes a model for a love that transcends time and space. 
  Indeed, this sense of time transcendence takes us back to the moment of Jacob''s weeping at the well. For the Midrash shares that Jacob wept because he saw with prophetic foreknowledge that he and Rachel would not be buried together.1 In this week''s parsha we see his premonition fulfilled. Rachel tragically dies in childbirth and is buried “along the road to Efrat” as opposed to in the family burial site. At that moment of the kiss, the bonds of time were transcended and he was able to have a prophetic vision of the future. 
  Granted, it is a painful vision. But its not unlike the story of Rabbi Akiva who laughed when he beheld the tragic destruction of the Second Temple.2 He laughed because he realized that if the negative prophecy of destruction came true, then that would necessarily mean that all the positive prophecies of return and rebuilding would also come true for the Jewish people. 
  Indeed, we in our own days have had the enormous gift of witnessing the fulfillment, partial thought it may be, of the myriad prophecies of return to the Land of Israel. We are the living recipients of that prophetic fruit.
  In the poem below Rachel weeps for the fulfillment of the prophecy of her children''s return to this land. She reminds us that just as Jacob love for her transcended time and allowed him to make it through those 7 years of work, so too if we beleaguered builders of Jerusalem can but access the vastness of our love for this land, then we can also weather through whatever waiting periods time may hold. 
May we merit to witness the fulfillment of a true and enduring peace in this holy land.
  The Wait 
 You wept
  As wet as wells
  Having spilled
  The crowning ton of stone
  Onto the sand
With withered hands
  but high romance
 Made the skinny shepherds 
  call the place
  - the wailing well -
  for generations to come
And seven years 
  grown old 
  between your gaze and mine 
  - was like a day -
  held between the gates 
  of withered hands 
  and weathered 
  And know that 
  I weep as well 
  when memories of 
  the future spill 
  into our tent
  and premonitions
  limp into our 
  lamp-lit den
 For if this ominous
  must be then promise me 
  to plant your stones 
  on that baneful road
  where house my bones
And let memorial stand, 
  a somber marker
  in a severed land
  To mark the promise
  of prophecy
  of transcendence
  of time and of distance 
  with a mother''s mad insistence
  that the exile of her children
  must end
  And when finally march 
  our children by
  from their battered walk 
  through genocide
I will be weeping3 
  loud with pleading
  at that corner-side
- where Jerusalem 
  meets Gush Etzion
  with her border guards
  and building zones
And I will lament with rage
  the historic parade
  through Europe, Arabia
  Aushchwitz, Asyria
  and back to my grave
  at Bethlehem''s
  And with the force of my weeping
  and the form of your rocks4
  will our children return
  to the road to Efrat
And nineteen hundred years
  - will be like a day -
  held between the gates
  of withered hands
  and our children''s 
  will to weather 
  the wait.
1Bereshit Rabbah 70:11
2 Talmud Makkot 24B
3 Foreseeing that the Jews on the way to exile would pass by the site, the Patriarch Yaacov buried her on the road on the way to Ephrath and not within the city so that she would sense their anguish and pray for them (Bereishit Rabbah 82:10). Add to this the quote from Jeremiah, “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are not.” (Jeremiah 31:15) Thus, Rachel stands as the archetype for the mother weeping for her children.
4It is interesting to note that Jacob in both of these stories is engaged in the moving of rocks. First he makes a stone altar (a matzava) at the site of his famous dream of the ladder. Then he moves the massive stone from atop the well for Rachel. And finally, in the story of her death, he again creates a matzeva, a stone memorial, upon Rachel''s roadside grave.