The Gemara states that subsequent to the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, all the gates of prayer are closed, with the exception of the gates of tears.
It would seem that the word bechi (crying) comes from the root word becha (bet, chof), meaning in you.
Crying emanates from the inner soul and reflects the true essence of the person. This sincerity, communicated in genuine prayer and tears, is always accepted by Hashem as its pathway never closes.
Moreover, the word bechi (bet, chof, yud) has numerical gematria 32 (lamed, bet), which spells lev, heart, and reflects the crying that emanates from the depths of the heart.
Rabbis explain that Leah Imeinu “cried until her eyelashes fell out” because she was worried that she would be forced to marry Esav.
Hashem responded to her tears and she married Yaakov. This transpired because her sister, Rachel, disclosed to Leah the simanim(signs) that Yaakov had arranged with Rachel.
As a result of Rachel’s colossal self-sacrifice, Rachel was merited to hereafter use the gates of tears that Leah had used until then. Rachel cried because she was childless, cried with worry that Yaakov would divorce her because she was barren and that she would marry Esav, and cried as she died in childbirth, naming Binyamin “the child of my pain.”
It is interesting to note that Rachel’s son, Yosef, also cried many times. The Torah references Yosef crying eight times: when the brothers acknowledge regret that they sold him, when he meets Binyamin, when Yosef reveals to his brothers that he is Yosef, on Binyamin’s shoulders, when he kisses his brothers, on Yaakov’s shoulders when they meet, when Yaakov dies, and when the brothers suspect that Yosef may take revenge.
In addition, Rabbis relate that Yosef cried when he was sold, and cried again when he passed his mother’s grave as he was brought to Mitzrayim.
Rabbis elaborate that Rachel was buried on the road of Bet Lechem and not in the Me’arat Hamachpelah so that Yosef would cry there. Likewise, generations later,the Yidden would evoke tears at Kever Rachel as they were lead into galut.
Rachel Imainu continues to cry for her children – “Rachel mevakah al baneha.”
Rabbis explain that when the wicked Menashe placed an idol in the Bait Hamikdash, the Avot and Ima’hot were unsuccessful in appeasing Hashem. Only Rachel’s crying and entreaties prevailed. She tearfully advocated: I permitted my sister and rival to take my place in marriage, facilitated it by disclosing the simanim, and shared my home with her; so too, You, Hashem, should look away when Your children bring avodah zarah, foreign gods, into Your house.
Hashem accepts her pleas, responding, “Cease your voice from sobbing and your eyes from tearing; you have accomplished, your children will return.”
This may explain why the pasuk states, “The eyes of Leah were tender, while Rachel had been (past tense) beautiful in form and appearance.”
Two questions arise:
1. Why, asks the Sfat Emet, is Rachel’s beauty expressed in past tense, implying that Rachel was beautiful until then, but not prospectively?
2. Why is Rachel’s beauty contrasted to Leah’s appearance?
Answers the Sfat Emet: The pasuk is foretelling Rachel’s future destiny, and comparing it to Leah’s past history and lot. Until her marriage, Leah constantly cried, and her eyes and eyelashes were adversely affected by her tears. Henceforth, Rachel, who had been exceptionally beautiful until now, would merit to pray and cry, and – similar to her sister – her mission and many of tears would impact her eyes.
Today, as well, Rachel continues to use The Gates of Tears and cries for her children.
May Hashem accept Rachel’s tears, and bring the geulah speedily in our days.
THE JEWISH HOME
Yaakov Avinu was the first to express the idea that one can create a Bait Elokim in the place where man blossoms and thrives. In the place he brings everything he acquires, where he builds his life—there, he can reveal G-d.
Ever since the chet (sin) of Adam, the establishment of a home involves so much complexity that a person needs help from G-d to avoid compromising himself in pursuit of a piece of bread. So many people were morally pure before they set out on the path to lechem le’echol u’beged lilbosh(,Yaakov prayed for bread and clothing) but for the sake of making a living, they denied G-d, spurned morality, and were inconsiderate of their friends.
Therefore, Yaakov’s prayer is,
“Im Hashem Elokim imadi, v’shamreinu b’derech hazeh v’natan li lechem le’echol u’beged lilbosh, v’shavti b’shalom el Bait avi.”
And Yaakov uttered a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and He will guard me on this way, upon which I am going, and He will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear; And if I return in peace to my father’s house,
Until now, he has been a sheltered yoshev ohalim,( dwelling in tents of torah studying )but now he sets out to seek a wife, and sustenance for his wife and children. The danger seems so serious to him that he prays not to forfeit his spiritual and moral integrity.
We learn from Yaakov’s tefillah that the first thing a Jew wishes for as he sets out to establish a home is integrity. Only afterward does he request an independent livelihood, food and clothing to live respectably. Third is a wish for shalom, peace, and finally Bait avi, family ties.
Then Yaakov says, “If G-d grants me these, vehaya Hashem li l’Elokim.” When G-d saves a person, He reveals Himself with the middat harachamim. But only the Jew says Vehaya Hashem li l’Elokim, meaning: G-d who showered me with His goodness does not only give, but also demands that what He has given be used appropriately. Don’t just thank Him for His blessings, use every penny in accordance with His Will.
And finally, Yaakov promises, veha’even hazot yihyeh Bait Elokim. If Hashem is G-d to man, man’s house can become a house of G-d. Some who pride themselves in their temples twist this. They build their houses next to His, but as a separate domain. “G-d has His own House,” they say. “We will visit G-d in His House, but He must not enter ours; His Presence and demands would inconvenience us!”
Yaakov disagrees. The holiness of the home is necessary for the holiness of G-d’s House. It is called mikdash not because kedusha is confined within it, but because from it kedusha flows out to the world. Every house that is home to G-d is a shaar hashamayim.
Yaakov teaches how one can build a family life upheld by the dignity of work, with all its troubles and griefs. And mankind will learn from his descendants how to lead a family and national life in accordance with the grace and Will of G-d.By
Rabbi Moshe Pogrow- Based on excerpts from the commentary of Rabbi Shamshon Hirsch zt”l on Chumash
A rabbi took a job at a Duracell factory. His job is to stand on the production line and as the batteries go by, say, “I wish you long life”.
One time, a chasid who was a simple merchant came to the Maggid of Mezritch, the successor of the Baal Shem Tov. “I am not able to concentrate during prayer and study,” he complained to the Maggid. “Often, my mind begins to wander and I start to think about work, or my family, or even the latest news in town. And, what is even worse,” he continued, “I sometimes have improper thoughts at these times.”
“I am unable to help you,” the Maggid told the visitor sadly. “But, go to my disciple, Rabbi Zev of Zhitomir. He will be able to advise you what to do.”
The visitor took the Maggid’s suggestion to heart. He immediately set out for the village in which Rabbi Zev lived. He arrived at the village later that evening. Without much difficulty, he was able to locate the inn that Rabbi Zev managed. The hour was late, though, and the inn closed.
Because he had come at the Maggid’s suggestion, the merchant was certain it was permitted for him to knock on Rabbi Zev’s private door and gain entrance in this manner. He knocked on the door, but there was no reply.
The visitor knocked again on the door, this time a little louder. Again, no one seemed to hear – no one answered the door. Again and again the visitor knocked, pounded, banged, and even kicked the door, all to no avail. Despite the commotion, the door was not opened.
The winter night was cold and the merchant was uncomfortable. He had traveled a long distance to arrive at Rabbi Zev’s inn. He was tired and hungry. But, the Maggid had sent him to Rabbi Zev, and so he persisted in trying to gain entrance to Rabbi Zev’s private dwelling or at least the inn rather than staying some place else for the evening. He kept knocking and finally began shouting in anger and frustration. “How can you be so merciless to leave me standing out here in the cold?” he cried loudly. Still, through everything, the door remained closed.
As daylight broke, the door was opened. The visitor entered and made arrangements to stay at the inn for a few days. Throughout the entire time, Rabbi Zev practically ignored his guest.
The man began to wonder why the Maggid had sent him here. How was he to learn from Rabbi Zev, who would not even give him the time of day? He resigned himself to the futility of his trip and began preparing to leave. Up until now, Rabbi Zev had rebuffed the merchant’s attempts at communicating.
He decided to try once more before he left. “I cannot understand why the Maggid sent me to you!” he told the innkeeper. “I told the Maggid that I could not concentrate during prayer and study because my mind wandered off in all directions. He told me that he could not help me but that you could. I think my trip was in vain,” he exclaimed sullenly.
To this Rabbi Zev replied, “I will tell you why the Maggid sent you to me. You have seen that I have acted like a true ‘master of the house.’ When I did not want you to enter my house, you were compelled to remain outside. So too, with your complaint. If you do not wish to have extraneous thoughts or, worse yet, improper thoughts, enter your mind during prayer, Torah study or at any other time, do not let them in! Fill your mind with words of Torah. You, as the ‘master of the house’ of your mind, can let in whatever you wish and refuse entrance to those thoughts that you chose not to let enter.”
Rabbi Zev’s words made a strong impression on the chasid. He returned home knowing full well that he could be in control of his thoughts if he so desired. True, it would require effort and work, but ultimately he would be the one to determine which thoughts were “welcome” and which were not.
Helping Others, Saving Oneself
In this week’s parsha, , we meet Yaakov Avinu as he is fleeing the wrath of his brother, Esav, who has vowed to kill him over their father’s blessings. After an exalted dream, wherein Hashem assures Yaakov that his children will inherit the Holy Land, they will burst forth like the dust of the earth, and Hashem will be with him, Yaakov, encouraged by G-d’s promises, lifts his feet and travels to the east, to the home of his uncle, Lavan – where he will spend the next twenty years of his life. During this time, he will work fourteen years for his wives, and six years for his flocks.
The famous story of the “switched wives” is well-known. Yaakov has worked for seven years for the hand of his beloved, Rachel, in marriage. To celebrate the Marriage, Lavan throws a party – And it was in the evening, under the cover of darkness, and Lavan took Leah – his eldest daughter! – and brought her to Yaakov – unbeknownst to him – and he came to her… And it was in the morning, and behold, it was Leah! And Yaakov said to Lavan, what is this that you have done to me!? Is it not for Rachel that I worked for you? And why have you deceived me?
Yaakov first met Rachel, the shepherdess, at the well of water as he entered the town. Yaakov loved Rachel, his cousin, so much that his years of work for her hand in marriage were but a few days in his eyes. Yaakov foresaw, at the moment that he met her, that he was destined to marry her, and cried that he did not have jewelry to bestow upon her.
And yet, after the wedding he wakes up, and finds he has married… Leah!
How is it possible that this has happened?
Rashi comments: , In the morning – Yaakov realized it was Leah, but not at night. For Yaakov had given signs to Rachel, by which she would identify herself to him. However, when Rachel saw that they were taking Leah to him, she said to herself, ‘Now my sister will be humiliated.’ She therefore arose and gave her sister those secret signs.
Yaakov was tricked into marrying Leah, but Rachel, his beloved, enabled this to occur, by saving her sister from terrible shame, and passing on the secret signs.
And in this selfless act of chesed, loving-kindness, wherein she negated her will for the honor of her sister, Rachel becomes the embodiment of vatranut (giving up something of oneself for someone else) and a ba’alat chessed par excellence.
Clearly, Rachel did Leah a great favor! Rachel provided Leah with the signs to save herself, her dignity, her self-hood, her honor. Rachel did something for Leah…
However, R’ Pam zt’l teaches that the opposite is true. In Rachel’s act of selflessness and chessed for her sister, Rachel actually saved – not Leah – but her very own self. For by nature, Rachel was not able to bear children. It was only her act of kindness for Leah that gave her the merits which made her worthy of becoming a mother of the Shivtei Kah (Twelve Tribes).
As the verse tells us : And Hashem remembered Rachel, and He listened to her tefillot, and He opened her womb (Bereishit 30:22 w/ Onekelos). What did Hashem remember, so to speak, that gave her the merits which enabled her to have children? Rashi comments? He remembered that she gave her signs over to her sister.
All too often, when we do a kind act for someone else, and we think, “Wow, look how great this is! I have helped that person in their time of need.” It can be a small act of chessed, such as putting a quarter for someone else meter in order not get a citation , or a great big act of chessed – such as giving of my time, money, or other resources to help a fellow in need. And yet, in reality, while we may have given them resources in olam ha’zeh – this world – they have given us boundless credit, merit and resources in the next world, the Eternal World of Truth.
Rebbetzin Henny Machlis a’h, the legendary ba’alat chessed par excellence of our day and time, taught as follows: “Let’s say you have $100 and suddenly there’s a knock on your door and it’s a poor person. You take $10 out of your wallet and you give it to this poor person. How much money do you have left?
“It sounds like a joke, right? What’s your answer? Probably you’ll say, ‘$90.’ No, you have $10 left. Why? Because the other $90 you’re going to spend on your groceries, you’re going to pay your bills, you’re going to waste it on whatever. But those $10 that you gave to the poor person, they stay with you forever and ever and ever.”
So the next time an opportunity for chessed comes our way, the next time our fellow needs a helping hand – whether the favor is big or small – we would do well to remember the selflessness of Rachel Imainu, who “gave her signs to her sister.” For in helping her sister, Leah, Rachel changed her very own destiny. In helping others, we are saving not only our fellow, but even more so, ourselves.
1st Aliya: Yaakov experiences the famed prophecy of “Yaakov’s Ladder”.
2nd Aliya: Yaakov arrives in Charan, encounters Rachel, and contracts with Lavan for her hand in marriage.
3rd Aliya: Lavan switches Leah for Rachel forcing Yaakov to negotiate another 7 years of service for Rachel. Leah gives birth to Reuven, Shimon, Levi, and Yehuda. Rachel marries off Bilhah to Yaakov who gives birth to Dan and Naftoli. Leah marries off Zilpah to Yaakov, and she gives birth to Gad and Asher.
4th Aliya: Rachel contracts with Leah for Reuven’s mandrakes, after which Leah gives birth to Yisachar and Zevulen. Rachel finally gives birth to Yosef, and Yaakov approaches Lavan to negotiate a proper salary for continued service.
5th Aliya: Yaakov’s uses his vast knowledge of nature and husbandry to amass a fortune in sheep and cattle. After 6 years he decides with Rachel and Leah to flee from Lavan.
6th Aliya: They flee and Lavan catches them. Hashem intervenes and Yaakov, while confronting Lavan for his years of duplicity, unwittingly curses Rachel.
7th Aliya: Yaakov and Lavan separate and Yaakov arrives at the border of Canaan.