: To commemorate the anniversary of Mother Rachel’s death, join us on a journey to Rachel’s Tomb, one of our holiest sites, which stands on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
Just outside of Bethlehem lies the Tomb of the Matriarch Rachel. For centuries Jews would visit the tomb, beseeching God to answer the prayers in the merit of the Rachel. It was only between 1948-1967 when Jordan ruled the West Bank that Jews were prevented from visiting the site. Indeed, it has only been under Israeli sovereignty that freedom of religion and freedom of access to holy sites has been guaranteed and maintained.
Rachel’s Tomb used to be a simple structure complete with the traditional exterior dome that is common throughout the Middle East to identify a holy site. Unfortunately, due to repeated terrorist attacks during the intifada years, Israel was forced to renovate the site unrecognizably, essentially turning it into a military fortress. On the inside, however, much of the original structure and architecture remains. It is considered to be the third holiest site in Judaism.
While the tomb is a center of pilgrimage for prayers of all types, it has a unique association for women praying for fertility and a successful childbirth. This of course, is related to the fact the Rachel died in childbirth while giving birth to Benjamin. As the Torah says: “And Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrata, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her tomb: that is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb until this day.” Genesis 35:19-20
There are a number of customs and traditions associated with Rachel’s Tomb. The most famous of which is no doubt the red string that many wear on their wrists. There is a belief that a red string that was wrapped around the cenotaph at Rachel’s Tomb is a segula, a charm, for fertility and other blessings. Similarly, there is a belief that the key to the Tomb is a segula, as well. Woman in childbirth were often given the key to the tomb to be placed under their pillow which was said to assist for a safe and uneventful childbirth.
There is a tradition that Joseph was the first to pray at Rachel’s tomb. When he was sold into slavery and was being taken down to Egypt he managed to pray at Rachel, his mother’s, tomb. We are told that his mother called out to him and said that he should not worry and in the end all will be well. We are taught that when the Messiah comes he will lead the exiles back to the Land of Israel by way of the road on which Rachel’s tomb lies.
The covering upon the Holy Ark which houses the Torah at Rachel’s tomb is made from the wedding gown of Nava Appelbaum – the young woman who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in a coffee shop in Jerusalem the night before her wedding.
According to Jewish tradition, when the Jewish people return to the Land of Israel, Mother Rachel will be standing by her tomb to greet the Jewish nation with tears of joy.
Watch this powerful, inspiring video that journeys through our history, from the spies’ rejection of the Land in biblical times, through the miraculous Aliyah Revolution taking place before our very eyes. Rachel is crying today, awaiting the return of the entire nation to it’s ancient homeland.
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