Yirmiya Perek 31

ידכֹּה | אָמַר ה קוֹל בְּרָמָה נִשְׁמָע נְהִי בְּכִי תַמְרוּרִים רָחֵל מְבַכָּה עַל בָּנֶיהָ מֵאֲנָה לְהִנָּחֵם עַל בָּנֶיהָ כִּי אֵינֶנּוּ:

“So said Hashem: A voice is heard on high, extremely bitter weeping; Rachel cries over her children, she refuses to be comforted over her children, for they are not there.” (Yirmiya 31:14)

There are two celebrated Midrashim concerning this passuk.

1) When Menasheh, king of Yehuda, placed an idol in the Beis Hamikdash, Hashem decided that He would exile the Bnei Yisrael. Thousands of pleas were ignored, apart for one, Rachel Imeinu’s, as she described her selflessness in letting Leah marry Yaakov. Hashem’s mercy was aroused and He promised that for Rachel, He would return Bnei Yisrael to their place.

2) Yaakov explains to Yosef that he buried her on the edge of the road by Hashem’s command. “In the future, when the people of Bnei Yisrael, my children, go into exile, they will pass by Rachel’s grave and cry at it. She will go and pray for mercy on their behalf, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu will accept her prayer.”

Each of these Midrashim has a message for us.  The first Midrash illustrates the benefits of staying silent in the face of insult. There is a Talmudic teaching in Shabbos 88b that “Those who suffer insult but do not insult, … regarding them the verse states ‘But they who love Him shall be as the sun going forth in its might’ (Shoftim 5:31)”. The second Midrash impresses upon us the knowledge that there is a Master plan behind all events, and that even seemingly unfavorable events are ultimately for our benefit.

The word ‘Einenu’ either refers to the Ten Tribes who were not exiled with Yehuda and Binyamin, and Rachel was mourning their loss, or, it could denote the entire Bnei Yisrael who were exiled. Alternatively, this word acts as a message of hope that Rachel’s children are not eternally gone – they will come back.

R’ Shimshon Raphael Hirsch offers an entirely different explanation. He says that ‘כִּי אֵינֶנּו’ refers to Hashem – Rachel refuses to be comforted regarding her children because He, Hashem, is not there. A few Pesukim earlier, the concept of ‘כִּי הָיִיתִי לְיִשְׂרָאֵל לְאָב’- ‘For I will be a father to Bnei Yisrael’ was expressed as an ideal for the future. This is why Rachel cries – because her children have no Father. Only once Hashem promises that וְשָׁבוּ בָנִים לִגְבוּלָם:– ‘Sons will return to their borders’, is Rachel comforted.

According to R’ Hirsch, ‘borders’ are not only the actual physical borders of Eretz Yisrael but also the conceptual borders of Torah and mitzvos. When we return to Hashem and He returns to us, the goal of this Passuk will have been fulfillled and Rachel Imeinu will finally be comforted.