My Missing Mother

Shmuli Zema – 5768

In Parshat Vayishlach (לה:ח) the pasuk states “Deborah, the wet nurse of Rebecca, died, and she was buried below the plateau; and he named it Allon-bachuth.” The next pasuk (לה:ט) then says, “And God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him.”

Based on these pesukim, the medrash teaches that not only did Deborah die, but our holy mother Rivka died as well. If so, how can the Torah not mention the death of one of our Imahot?! Also, why did Yaakov name the burial site Allon-bachuth? And even further, what was the blessing that Hashem gave to Yaakov?

Although not recording the death of Rivka may seem unjustifiable at first glance, the Torah is really doing Yitzchak’s family a favor by concealing her death. Ramban explains that when Rivka died, the entire household was empty with the exception of Esav. Avraham was dead, Yitzchak was blind and therefore never left his house, and Yaakov was working for Lavan in Padan-aram. If Esav were to bury Rivka, people would say ‘cursed is Rivka who gave birth to this wicked man.’ Consequently, the non-Jewish people of חת  had to put Rivka to rest, which only exacerbated the family’s status. Rather than inserting this controversy into the text, the Torah merely hints to Rivka’s death, thereby saving her and her family this embarrassment.

We learn from this why Yaakov called the burial site Allon-bacuth. Not only did Deborah die there, but so did Rivka. Scripture is alluding to Rivka’s death. Rashi notes that Allon means “another” in Greek. Thus, אלון בכות can be translated “another weeping,” which refers to Rivka’s death.

Based on this, Rashi explains why Hashem blessed Yaakov in the next pasuk. Because of this “double weeping,” Hashem blessed him with the blessing of consolation to mourne­rs. It is now understandable that Hashem gave Yaakov that beracha in order to help him cope with his mother’s death.

Upon further thought, one can ask an additional question: Why is Leah’s death also unrecorded in the Torah? Why are the deaths of Sarah and Rachel mentioned, while those of Leah and the other important women in Tanach are left out? Were these two Imahot better than everyone else in Tanach? Everything in the Torah has a purpose. The reason these two deaths are written is because of the effect their storyline has on Tanach. Sarah’s death is recorded in order to tell the story of Avraham’s purchase of מערת המכפלה and Rachel’s death is recorded because of the historical significance of קבר רחל and the birth of Binyamin. While all the women in Tanach played a vital roll in history, it is the death of Sarah and Rachel that set the storyline for future generations.

 

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