Every so often the guilt would re-surface, gnawing at my soul. How could I have let so many years pass by without returning to say a personal thank you?
My first encounter with Rachel was in 1977 during my third year in college when I came to learn at a yeshiva in Jerusalem. It was an uplifting experience. In addition to the mental and spiritual memories of the visit, I have a few photos.
In 1981 I came on aliyah. While working in Tzefat, my co-counselor and I arranged for a camp trip which included a trip to Amuka, the kever or burial site of Rav Yonatan Ben Uziel. It is said that whoever davens (prays) at his grave in Amuka will meet his/her beshert or intended within the year. Well, 1982 found me still single.
Later I was told that certain psalms need to be recited at Amuka. Moreover, a visit to Kever Rachel, the burial site of our matriarch Rachel, wife of Yaakov, near Beit Lechem is necessary. A single friend who lived in Tzefat was kind enough to drive my friend Chaya and me to Amuka. This time I recited the prescribed psalms. I also went to Kever Rachel and davened for G-d to send me my intended.
Pesach 1984 found me in the U.S. visiting family and friends. On Sunday, April 29, 1984 I was in Staten Island at cousins, having spent Shabbat with them. My plan was to travel by bus to Manhattan in order to attend a picnic for singles that my friend Chaya had arranged.
But to my dismay, I learned that there was no bus service on Sundays into Manhattan. Somehow I would have to reach the ferry in order to get to Manhattan. My cousin, a shul rav, was at work. I called a car service and went outside to wait. I waited and waited, but the car didn’t come. It looked like I would miss the ferry to Manhattan and the picnic.
But just then who should drive up? It was my great-uncle Rabbi Joe Marcus, in from Manhattan. He had driven in to see his son and family. Before he even turned off the motor, I asked if he could drive me to the ferry. His fast, New York driving was a godsend. We reached the ferry before it sailed. From Battery Park Manhattan I took a subway to Chaya’s apartment, where people were gathering before proceeding to Central Park for the picnic.
In the meanwhile a young man, who was living in Brooklyn, was making his way by car to Manhattan in order to attend the picnic. He arrived at his destination and discovered that there was nowhere to park on the street. He circled and circled the area. Finally he told himself that if he did not find a parking spot on the next attempt, he would return to Brooklyn. Just then a car pulled out. The man was my beshert. It had been one year, short one week since I had davened at Kever Rachel.
Life has been very full, thank G-d, and despite numerous plans to return to Kever Rachel, my desire was not realized until many years and seven children later. During Chanuka of 1999 my husband, myself and our three oldest boys paid a visit to Kever Rachel.
Since the Arab intifada, getting to Kever Rachel is not the same as it was when I went as a single. My husband was not sure if it would be open to the public. We attempted unsuccessfully to find out through the website. We went to sleep not knowing if the next morning, erev Shabbat of Chanuka, we would be able to go to Kever Rachel or not. The next morning my husband called up the police and learned that we could visit. The police officer added, “It’s a mitzva (commandment)!” For reasons of safety we were told to park in the police station parking lot across the street from Kever Rachel.
As our car drew closer to our destination, I noticed that there was a long line of cars waiting to leave Beit Lechem. In our direction, traffic flowed easily. Our car was one of less than a handful of cars parked at the police station lot.
Due to security reasons, the once modest building of Kever Rachel has been turned into a larger structure. There is a yeshiva on the premises. At the kever I expected to see hundreds of people, but very few people were there. At one point I was the only woman on the women’s side. I davened fervently for many things: for the health and well being of our seven children; for their continuing in the path of our forefathers and mothers; for success in their studies; for the health of my husband and myself; for the health of family members; for peace for all of Israel; for singles to meet their intended spouse; for women to have healthy babies; for my extended family to return to Torah Judaism; for my nieces and nephews, especially Rachel, to marry within the faith; etc.
Later I realized that I had not davened specifically for the missing-in-action soldiers whose names I usually wear on a dog tag around my neck, and I felt bad. This gives me impetus to return to mother Rachel.
Before we left I wanted a photo of the occasion. To my disappointment it was discovered that the camera had no film. How odd! That had never happened before. It was as if G-d wanted the moment to be etched in our memories and not on paper.
As we exited Bet Lechem I noticed that traffic heading into Bet Lechem was moving at a snail’s pace. We hit no traffic. It was as if Rachel herself had hastened our way to her and then back to our home where our other children awaited our return.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.