By Rav Shmuel Brazil
I just returned from Kever Rachel for my first time on her Yarzheit. I would like to share the following thoughts that accompanied me during that short visit. In this week’s parsha we have the story of Avraham and his 318 men defeating the four mighty kings. Rashi brings the Chazal that really there was only Eliezer the servant of Avraham who is gematria 318 and who was granted the strength of 318 men. Rebbi Tadok from Lublin comments that 318 in the number one above the gematria of the word yeeush which means giving up or throwing in the towel as said in the vernacular. Eliezer who Chazal say was a descendent of Cannan, the grandson of Noach who was cursed by his grandfather, had plenty baggage to justify a state of despair and total hopelessness. Yet he rose above the yeeush and remained a faithful servant of Avraham standing by his side in every endeavor culminating in acquiring Rivka as the shidduch to Yitzchak. It was then that he broke out of the impossible and he changed from being destined to remain in the shackles of curse to being blessed [Boh baruch Hashem]. Eliezer taught not give up but to hold on no matter how heavy the load is that you are carrying or experiencing.
Rav Tzadok continues with this theme and brings a gemarrah in Succah 31 of an old lady who came before Rav Nachman and claimed that the servants of the Reish Galusa stole her sechach and the Rabbanan are therefore sitting in a stolen succah. Rav Nachman paid little attention to her claim until she exclaimed “Is this how you treat a lady whose father owned 318 servants?” One for sure will immediately ask what message was she sending with her statement of yichus to her father’s wealth, and why did Rav’s Nachman ignore her vehement claims against the Raish Galusa? Rav Tzaddok answers the first question as follows. Rashi comments that the 318 men of her father was an inference to Avraham Avinu and his slave Eliezer. Eliezer did not give up hope even against tremendous odds. So too, said the woman I will not give up hope and surrender my claim to return my sechach even though you choose to ignore me.
With this explanation we can answer Rav Nachman’s seemingly peculiar behavior of ignoring her plea. The halacha was that the Reish Galusa was not required to return the actual sechach for he actually acquired it by changing and making it a part of his building. For the Chachamim instituted that if one steals and has remorse and wants to do teshuva but finds it almost impossible due to the difficulty of returning the stolen object for instance when he stole a beam and he already built it in as part of his house, then all he owes is the value of the stolen object but not the object itself. They wanted a person never to give up in doing teshuva so they made it as easy as possible for the ganev to accomplish this. It might be for this reason that Rav Nachman did not respond to the woman for he thought that by his silence she would herself understand the invalidity of her claim from her own very words. Here you claim that from Eliezer you learn not to give up hope? For the exact same reason the Chachamim paskined that your sechach does not have to be returned but. just its value must be paid so that the individual who stole would not give up hope to do teshuva.
Mama Rachel is another individual who portrays this power of rising above any yeeush. She constantly cries for her children in galus veshavu banim leegevulam. But how many tears can she shed. It is already over two thousand years and yet the reservoir of her tears have not yet dried up. Her hope and tefillos for the children’s geulah are steadfast and forever flowing and have not yet lost their vitality. I think the secret lies in her mesiras nefesh in giving over the simanim to her sister Leah during her wedding night. To accomplish such an incredible act selfless kindness, to surrender your destiny with Yaakov Avinu and the future of Klal Yisrael, one must be totally focused outside herself and not exist for oneself. When one lives for someone else’s behalf, then there is not such thing as yeeush which describes the hopelessness of one’s effort. It is not about me but about you. Giving up is a product of ego as the word yeeush suggests by containing the word eesh which means owner and controller as found in the passuk Hashem eesh milchamah.. If one does not feel he must own and control, entitled and worthy, but instead one feels the need to give and sacrifice, then such an individual just does not tend to give up. Rachel alone was and is capable to cry and cry and continue crying until Hashem redeems her children from galus.
The one tangible object that gives us constant hope is the kosel maaravi. It has lasted and lasted over the centuries nurturing us with tikva and yearning for the rebuilding of the third Beis Hamikdash and the return of Hashem’s Shechina to His people. It is at this wall that Yidden have shed torrents of tears that the crying and beckoning to Hashem have become part and parcel of this holy place. By putting one’s ear to the wall one can almost hear the kosel itself crying for the redemption of those who pour out their hearts in its presence. But why one may ask the western wall alone has become the beacon of hope for Klall Yisrael in the fulfillment of their destiny? The answer lies in the acronym of the word maarav [west]. It stands for the roshei taivos of the passuk Rachel mevaka al banehaw Emainu Rachel cries for her children. We are taught by the sefarim that there are three elements of time soul and space. What Rachel represents in soul, the kosel maaravi parallels in space. Just as Rachel’s constant crying for our geulah does not cease and gives us hope not to fall in surrender and acceptance in our galus state, so too the kosel maaravi gives light and hope to Am Yisrael.
Even though at the present time we have problems from the Aravim [Arabs] concerning both of these properties Kever Rachel and the Kosel Marravi, we should know that very soon both places will be totally ours without the Aravim to contend with. For the letters marravi share the same letters as Aravim which indicate that the cries of Rachel Emainu of veshavu vanim leegevualam will be happening any day at which time her and our cries together will free them both from our enemies hands in order to serve Hashem unobstructed with our fullest and deepest desires.