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Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
P19–- Rachel
December 20, 2006
© Rabbi Jack Moline

There used to be a commercial for beauty products that featured Kelly LeBrock. In it, she shook her lustrous mane of red hair and pleaded, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful." I imagine that all of us who were not the most popular kids in high school were unimpressed by her plaintive request.

In fact, our ancestor Rachel was just such a person. Jacob was so taken with her at their first meeting that he was willing to devote 20 years of his life to be her husband. He served seven initial years, only to be deceived into marrying Leah, seven more years for the privilege of marrying Rachel, and six years beyond that to help their father Laban secure his wealth.

Rachel had to be more than just a pretty face to inspire that kind of love and devotion. She seemed to be the kind of person to whom everything came easily. She was pretty and popular and accomplished and desired. It is almost as if she were God's favorite. And yet, as is so often the case with a high-profile seemingly perfect person, there was something missing in her life that made her question whether life was worth living.

Whether you were Rachel or one of her admirers, you know how it is to deeply desire something that always seems just beyond your reach. For Rachel, it was motherhood. All she ever wanted was a child of her own. As her sister's fertility produced son after son, she desperately offered Jacob her maidservant as a surrogate. When Leah responded in kind, Rachel cried to her husband, "Give me children or I shall die."

The poignancy of that plea touches a place within each of us. Those of us blessed with offspring cannot imagine living without them. Those of us who have desired children but have not been so blessed know the anguish Rachel felt. But Rachel's heartache is not limited to the frustration of infertility. Whatever the nature of creative expression that yearns to emerge from our souls, if it will not blossom, then our lives seem as if they have been forgotten by God.

But in the end, God hears Rachel's cry. She is blessed with a son named Joseph, whose birth transforms her, her family and the Jewish people. God eventually remembered Rachel and who she needed to be at her very essence.

When we call upon elohei Rachel, the God of Rachel, in the Amidah we are calling upon the God who remembers us individually, zokheir Rachel.

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