Rosh Hashanah Day Two: Rachel’s Cry
The survivors of the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians were being driven on their feet, in chains, from Jerusalem to Babylon. They were despondent, broken and hopeless. Their enemies had smashed the
glory of Israel. The exiles felt abandoned by God.
A murmur moved from the back of the line toward the front just as they approached Rachel’s grave. Jeremiah was speaking. “Remember, why Rachel was buried here. Jacob wanted her to be here for just this moment. Rachel, the Matriarch, is crying for you. She is challenging God to have compassion, the same compassion she showed to her sister Leah when Rachel gave her sister the secret signals that Jacob and his beloved had planned to prevent Rachel being replaced with Leah. ‘I was willing to share my husband. Can You not forgive Your children who have looked to the gods of other nations!”?
Jeremiah’s words moved up the line of these despondent people. He gave them hope. He assured them that their ancestors were praying for them. They were actually challenging God on behalf of their children. Jeremiah connected the exiles by connecting to all of Jewish history and its powerful characters. The prophet brought the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Moses and Aaron, back to life to advocate for these devastated people. Jeremiah gave them hope. The Temple had been destroyed, but the glory of the Jewish people was still alive and thriving. The merit of all the great generations still beat with a vibrant heart. Jeremiah restored pride to people walking in chains, exiles, defeated in battle.
In fact, the prophet told them, this was not the proper moment to express regret for the actions that led to such devastating punishment. Regret should come after Teshuva, after they would reattach to God. He wanted them to return to God with a sense of the glory of Israel, with pride and with joy.
This Haftarah reminds us of the correct process of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We must first return, strengthen our connection to God and take pride in Israel. Regrets can come later.