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Tisha B'Av: The Power of Rachel's Tears
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The journey Jeremiah takes us on begins with the words; Kol b'ramah nishma - a voice is heard on high. Where did Jeremiah get those words from? Ask yourself this question; aside from the Babylonian exile, if you go backwards in Biblical history, when would have been the last time that Rachel would have been crying over a lost child? You might say when Joseph was sold. But after Joseph was sold things got even worse for him. Yes, there was a brief moment of time when after he was sold he was elevated to a position of power in Potiphar's household, but then that came crashing down. There is Joseph, he's all alone in the house, Potiphar's wife comes, she tries to seduce him, she grabs his coat, says, be intimate with me. Seeing no other way out, he actually slips out of his coat and runs outside. She gathers together all the members of the household and says; Re'u heivi lanu ish ivri l'tzachek banu - you see this Hebrew slave? He's come to force himself upon me. Va'ekrah b'kol gadol - but I screamed.
Now if we stopped right here and I'd say, is this the worst point in the story? Is this the moment where if you were Rachel looking down from on high you would cry? The answer would be, no, not quite yet. Because at this point you don't know that Joseph is going to be sent down into that dungeon. She's made a claim, but Joseph will make a counterclaim. It's in the next verse that you know. She continues talking to the household members, she says; Vayehi k'shamo - and it happened when he heard; Ki harimoti koli va'ekrah - that I raised my voice and called out, he turned and ran away and left his coat with me. Then she produces the coat. That's it. Once everyone sees this, now Joseph is sunk. That's where, if you were his mother, wouldn't you cry?
But look at the words when she produces this false evidence; Vayehi k'shamo ki harimoti koli - and when he heard that I raised my voice. Now read the words backwards - we are after all proceeding backwards in our timeline. Koli/Kol - voice; Harimoti/B'ramah - raise up, K'shamo/Nishma - is heard. Kol b'ramah nishma - a voice on high is heard. It's where Jeremiah got the words from.
Okay, so now I mentioned to you that as your proceed forward in Jeremiah, it's kind of like you're proceeding backwards through the Joseph story. So if we keep on reading Jeremiah we're going to find a reference to a second time that Rachel would have cried in the Joseph story, not just when Potiphar turns on Joseph but a little bit earlier when Joseph's own family would have turned on him. When Jeremiah starts talking about; Nehi bechi tamrurim - a bitter cry. Regular bitter is Mar; Marrar is really, really bitter. Have you ever heard a Mem, Reish, Reish word anywhere in the Five Books of Moses? Have you heard it anywhere in Genesis?
It actually does appear once in Genesis, it appears in Jacob's blessing - his deathbed blessing to Joseph, when he tells him; Vayemarraruhu - they embittered your life. Rashi actually expounds Midrashically upon the two Reishes in the word Marrar, suggesting they were two they's, two moments when Joseph's life was unfairly embittered by others. One of those was the story of Potiphar but there was another of course, when Joseph's own family turned on him and threw him in the pit. At the end of his life, Jacob seems to recognize both. And now Jeremiah echoes this word, suggesting that Rachel now, she's not just crying bitterly over the exile, she's also mourning two terrible points in the life of one child, in the life of Joseph. Not just Joseph's downfall in Potiphar's house, but Joseph's downfall in his own family's house too, the sale of Joseph.
Now, as we keep on reading Jeremiah, we'll hear the details. The next words in Jeremiah; Rachel mevakah al baneha - Rachel, she's crying for her children. But what do those words remind you of? We do hear about a parent crying over a child in Genesis, it was Jacob when the bloody coat was shown to him and he concluded that Joseph was dead. Vayevk oto aviv - and his father cried over him. It's almost as if Jeremiah is saying, you think that Jacob was the only one crying? Only father, but not mother? That the mere fact that Rachel is no longer alive that would have stopped her from crying? Rachel mevakah al baneha, just like Jacob cried.
Now let's go a bit further in Jeremiah's words, that's when we meet the words; Mei'anah l'hinachem, how Rachel refuses to be consoled. Well what does that remind you of if you take one step backwards in Genesis? Vayema'ein lehitnachem - and HE refused to be consoled. He says, I'm going to go down to my grave mourning Joseph, I will never be consoled. So here comes Jeremiah, and in effect what is he telling you? He's saying, yes, Rachel, she was mourning for the Babylonian captives but she was also mourning over a kidnapped child, she will not be consoled. It's just one more step along a backwards journey.
Now take one more step forward in Jeremiah's words and one more step backwards through Genesis. Why won't Rachel be consoled? Jeremiah tells us; Al baneha ki einenu - she won't be consoled over her children because they are gone. That word Einenu, when Joseph is first discovered missing, Reuven goes to the pit to try to save him, to try to bring him back to his father only to discover an empty pit. He comes back and he says to the brothers; Hayeled einenu - the child, he's gone. It's the first discovery of the loss of Joseph in the sale of Joseph. The first time someone discovers that Rachel's child is lost.
Now the question is as you go further in Jeremiah's words will you continue to go backwards in Genesis to earlier and earlier times when Rachel might have cried? But the problem is, we seem to have reached the end, we're right now at the very beginning of the story of the sale of Joseph, when Reuven discovers that he is gone, that would have been the first time that anyone could mourn the loss of Joseph, the loss of Rachel's child. So let me ask you this, are there any earlier times that you can think of when Rachel might have been mourning for children; Ki einenu - because there weren't any? Earlier in her life Rachel was childless, she was infertile, she didn't have any children, for the longest of times she was wracked by pain over her childlessness. As we continue reading Jeremiah would we hear any references to those moments of anguish?
Koh amar Hashem - thus says G-d; Min'i koleich mi'bechi - hold back your voice from crying and your eyes from tears. Ki yesh sachar l'pe'ulateich - for there is reward for your actions. But what did she do? Why would she be rewarded we asked? Jeremiah will provide the answer for you; hidden in the promise of reward is the heroic deed itself. Say those words over and over and you'll see it. Yesh sachar l'pe'ulateich, Yesh sachar, Yesh sachar, what do those words remind you of? Yud, Shin, Shin, Chaf, Reish - Yissachar, Leah's fifth child. You want to know why Yesh sachar, why there is reward for Rachel centuries later, what her hidden heroism is? Look at the birth of Yissachar, and you will know. Jeremiah seems to be telling us this is Rachel's finest moment.
Jeremiah seems to be taking us on a journey back through Rachel's life until we meet a crucial moment of the birth of Yissachar. But that of course leaves us with a puzzle, what did Jeremiah see in the birth of Yissachar that is cause for Yesh sachar, an eternal reward for Rachel? That is the great puzzle that Jeremiah holds out to us, he's challenging us to read the story as he read it. Let's come back in our next video, let's read through this part of the Rachel story and try to see it as Jeremiah is teaching us to.
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