Today is י״א חשון, the Yahrtzeit of רחל אמנו, coined by some as the Jewish Mother’s Day. Inspired by an article by Rabbi Yitzchok Ginsburgh, I think it is so relevant to CyberSem readers and students. Why is רחל אמנו’s Yahrtzeit given such a central place above and beyond the other great Mothers or great women in history?
From ראש השנה until י״א חשון, there are 41 or מ״א days. Switch around the letters מ״א, and you spell the word אם, or mother, a clear indication that the day of רחל אמנו’s passing is related to motherhood. How?
רחל אמנו is the model of the mother who instilled the Jewish nature within her children and caused them to inherit these traits. Rav Ginsburgh describes it as “Jewish nature and character, best exemplified by the patriarchs and matriarchs, calls upon an individual to perform G-d's will out of his or her own accord, a state described by the sages as “acting without dictation [from Above].” This is Rochel Imeinu’s gift to us, her children.
The unique comfort and reward that Rochel received after crying that her children were going into exile was that they would return to their borders. She was buried on the road to בית לחם, not even in a nearby city, or in מערת המכפלה, where the other Avos and Imahos were buried. There are several kinds of borders that shed even more light on her central contribution to the role and qualities of Jewish women.
The borders literally are the borders of ארץ ישראל. She wanted her children to come back home to their homeland from living away in exile. The Jewish mother is her child’s key to being Jewish which is passed on because she gave birth to them. The nurturing, atmosphere of the home, the love for ה׳ and Torah are all inspired through the mother of the home. “Our ability to return to, defend, and hold on to our physical borders, i.e., to the Land of Israel, depends on our success in returning to and guarding the spiritual borders of our people.”
If you take the word חשון, and you separate the first two letters from the middle two letters and examine them separately, you see an amazing image. The ח׳ and ן spell the word חן, meaning beauty. The middle two letters ש׳ and ו׳ have the same numerical value as אשה. The power of the beauty of the Jewish woman will bring her children home from exile. Yes, שלמה המלך said, “A woman who fears ה׳, she will be praised”. This is an expression of both the physical and spiritual beauty of רחל אמנו. These are the weapons that a Jewish woman uses to bring her children home from their external exile to ארץ ישראל, as well as their spiritual exiles, back to their Jewish roots and heritage.
After the ימים טובים of תשרי, we wish each other to have a healthy time when the winter comes. May we use the winter months to strengthen our connection to our mothers and the foundational role models that they set, and in this way merit the ultimate return to our borders in the Land of Israel, speedily.