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Diary of Rachel

Diary of Rachel

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The following is a compilation of biblical texts, talmudic insights and midrashic anecdotes rendered in the first person. This is not the actual diary of Rachel, wife of Jacob. To the best of my knowledge, no such document exists. Let a sizable quantity of salt accompany the reader, and lightly dust any part of this writing for which no source is given. Enjoy!


Dear Diary,

My sister, Leah, just started writing one of these, and she convinced me to start as well.

I have no idea how to begin, but here goes. My name is Rachel,1 with the “ch” pronounced like the “ch” in challah (kind of a throat clearing sound). Some people mistakenly call me Rachel though (pronouncing the “ch” like in chimichangas). I think it's a geographical thing. I kind of like both pronunciations.

I'm 13 years old,2 and I live in Padan Aram with my father, Lavan, and sister, Leah.3 Before I was born, things weren't looking too swell for my parents. They couldn't have children for quite some time. At long last, after many years of waiting, they were blessed with twin girls.4 They named the older one Leah, and they named the cuter one Rachel. (I'm kidding; we're identical.5)

My mother (whose name was Adina6) passed away some time after we were born.7 It's been an upstream swim since then. Much like salmon (that migrate upstream), my sister and I live in constant fear of being snatched by a grizzly bear In our case, that would be my father. His ever present idol worshipping8 and generally dishonest behavior are hard to avoid.

My sister's way of coping is to stay out of the house for as long as possible, hanging out with her friends.9 I'm more of an introvert,10 so I don't have that escape. I enjoy staying inside and hanging out with myself. (It's not so depressing. Really, I'm happy.) The problem is that the peaceful solace I seek at home is usually interrupted by the loud wailing rituals that accompany my father's idol worshipping (although I'm pretty sure he adds the screeching parts just to mess with me).

I've had many long, heart-to-heart talks with my dad about the error of his ways. During these talks I'm always convinced we're making headway, that we're actually getting somewhere. He gives me these innocent looking teddy bear eyes (get it? he was the grizzly in the metaphor before—a bit of a stretch, I know), that get me thinking, “Okay, he's a changed man.” But then the next day he's back at it.

My father has a long-standing battle with honesty. I just wish honesty would win every now and again.

But, very much like a salmon swimming upstream, I'm not going to give up so easily. My plan is to just keep swimming until I've reached my goal. I'm not giving up on you old man (in case you're reading this, Dad).

Sincerely,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

I have some exciting/sad/slightly disturbing news for you. I found out who I'm going to marry! No it wasn't from that woman in that dimly lit shop up the road who has had fewer baths than she has teeth (six).

Basically, there's been a rumor going around that my sister and I are going to marry our cousins from Canaan, who are also twins.11 Their names are Esau and Jacob. The adults liked the idea so it was arranged.12 It seems to have worked out perfectly, right? Well, not so much. See, the older one, Esau, the one assigned to my sister, is a lowlife. By the time he was 15, he had already checked murder off his bucket list. He's had a full career since then, so you can only imagine what he's been up to. The only way I can see someone wanting to marry him, is if that person has barbarism and sadism on the pro side of their wish list, and kindness and civility on the con side.

A testament to how horrible the prospect is, is the other wailing that can be heard coming from our house, from the direction of my sister’s room.13

Now picture the polar opposite of this guy. Instead of the awfulness and cruelty, imagine kindness, sensitivity and fear of G‑d. Think of the very epitome of goodness. You are currently picturing my guy. Our two cousins are as different as two humans could possibly be, and they're twin brothers.14

I'm currently torn between emotions. My indescribable joy at the thought of having such a perfect spouse is only marred by the sadness I feel for my sister.

I just wish there was something I could do to help her.

Sincerely,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

My father owns a boatload of sheep (like enough to put you to sleep for 40 years, never counting the same ones twice). It's customary that boys tend to them, but because we have no brothers, that leaves me and Leah. Because Leah is older, and consequently the one traditionally married off first, my father doesn't let her do it15 (also, because of the near constant crying, her eyes are very sensitive, and lengthy exposure to sunlight can be harmful16). So that just leaves little old me.

Thankfully, I seem to have a real knack for shepherding.17 There was a plague that struck the herd, and the only sheep to survive were the ones I was tending to.18 Dad tells me I'm the best he's ever seen, and if it weren't for my obvious talent he wouldn't let his gorgeous girl do such a degrading job.19 To be honest, if I weren’t a shepherdess I would probably never see the outdoors.20

In other news, I'm still very excited to marry Jacob, and people even say that I've gotten better looking because of my anticipation.21 But when I look in the mirror all I see is a whole lot of sheep’s wool stuck to my robes.

Sincerely,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

What a day! I have a ton to tell you.

Every morning when it comes time to give the sheep water, all the shepherds gather by the well to lift off the heavy rock that's on top of it. The rock is there for security, and it can be lifted only by a group effort, all the shepherds lifting together.22

Today, as I approached the well, with all my sheep in tow (it's not a big deal, they're just obsessed with me), I noticed a stranger standing there with all the shepherds. As he saw me approaching, he instantly grabbed hold of the stone, and single-handedly popped23 it off the top of the well.24 It was surreal. It was like watching a magic show, except without all the awful puns.

Turns out the stranger was our cousin Jacob, and he had come to town to find a wife. He was thrilled to see me, but he was disappointed that he had nothing to give me.25

Upon hearing about our impressively strong guest, my father came running out to greet him and give him a hug.26 I think he was expecting him to come bearing gifts, like Eliezer did when he came to find a wife for Isaac. My father was very disappointed at the blatant absence of any gold-laden camels. But, not being one easily deterred in his quest for treasure, he then proceeded to conduct a thorough TSA-like pat down to try and find any precious stones Jacob might be carrying on his person. He even checked in Jacob’s mouth for heaven’s sake!27 But I guess part of the job of good parents is to embarrass their children in front of their fiancés.

Oh yeah, he asked to marry me. So basically ... we're ... ENGAGED!! I almost got through that bit of news completely calmly. I'm beside myself with joy. We are so compatible, we're like two corns on a cob. I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with him.

My father told Jacob he would have to earn the right to marry me.28 The man never passes up an opportunity to make a quick buck. So Jacob offered to work for seven years as shepherd in chief to my father's flock as a down payment for my hand in marriage.29

The reason he doesn’t want to marry Leah, even though she's older, is because his brother Esau is planning to.30 A little while back, Esau and Jacob got into a little scuffle, and Esau, not one for proportionality, now wants to kill Jacob.31 I think Jacob’s reluctance to marry his assassin’s fiancée is justified, but maybe that's just me.

Sincerely,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

I left you last with Jacob’s proposal and my obvious acceptance. A short time has passed, but a lot has changed. It seems my father has other plans for us.

Since Jacob has come, our little town has been blessed with an abundance of rain. My father, being the devious fellow he is, hatched a plan with the townspeople to keep Jacob here for as long as possible. He told them he'll trick Jacob into marrying Leah first, so that he'll have to stay another seven years to marry me.32

Jacob suspected my father would pull something like this, so he explicitly asked my father to marry “Rachel, your daughter, the younger one.” He was ensuring my dad doesn't substitute me with a random girl named Rachel, or change Leah's name to Rachel, and replace me in the wedding ceremony.33 He even gave me a secret code to be able to distinguish me from a different girl.34 (I can't write it here because I'm pretty sure everybody is reading this … I'm looking at you, Dad.)

My father doesn't seem fazed. He gives all the gifts Jacob sends for me to Leah.35 He plans to marry Jacob off to her instead of me, hoping that Jacob won't notice. Jacob is already on high alert, so you'd have to be a pretty convincing liar to pull this off. If there's someone out there who can pull it off better than my dad, I do not want to meet him.

Sincerely,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

The day of the wedding is finally here. The past seven years have been a tangled web of lies and deception. I’ve had to carefully toe the line between truth and falsehood. Teetering between pretending to Jacob that everything is cool and on track, and not actually lying outright. My trick is just keeping quiet. I've become like a giraffe, except less talkative (giraffes have no vocal cords). I've been biting my tongue so often these days, that were it not the fastest healing organ (it is, look it up), it would look like an intricate treasure map by now.36

I've decided I'm going along with all this. I even told my sister the secret code that Jacob gave me.37 I just couldn't bear the thought of her being humiliated in front of everyone. The thought of her standing up there as Jacob refuses to marry her is too much for me.38 Also, if she doesn't marry Jacob, she's going to have to marry Esau, and my happiness is not worth that much.39

I'm currently decked out in full bridal dress, jewelry and makeup, ready to stand by and watch as the love of my life is tricked into marrying my sister.40 Lucky me!

Sincerely,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

My father's plan worked without a hitch. My father had me enter the bridal palanquin all dressed in white, then he secretly snuck Leah in, extinguished the lanterns, and arranged for me to slip out.41 Because Jacob recognizes my voice, I also had to sneak around them and respond to any question Jacob asked.42 It's not fun being forced to watch—and actively participate—as the man you love gets married to another woman.

Upon finding out that he had been duped, Jacob immediately confronted my father. My father told him that in our town we don't marry off a younger sibling before the older one. Jacob then asked to marry me in exchange for yet another seven years of labor. My father agreed, and the wedding is set for right after the customary seven celebratory days for Leah.43

Sincerely,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

I haven't been up to writing these past couple of years. I’ve been too sad. My sister, Leah, has been blessed with many children, thank G‑d. But it seems that I was not worthy. She has obviously been deemed righteous in G‑d’s eyes, and I was found wanting.

I started to become increasingly jealous of my sister's righteousness.44 I thought perhaps my sin of tricking my saintly husband has come back to haunt me. I begged my husband to pray for me, to show G‑d that he completely forgives me.45 But he informed me that he has been praying, and it's ultimately up to G‑d.46

I realized I must have a specific sin that was preventing me from this amazing blessing. After some introspection, I came to the conclusion that it must be the jealousy I was feeling toward my sister. So I decided to go to the opposite extreme of jealousy and add another co-wife to the family.47 Her name is Bilhah, the woman my father appointed as my personal maid. She is so called because she is equally pained at my infertility (her name comes from the Hebrew word “behala,” which means to be alarmed and pained).48

Since then, she has begotten two children, thank G‑d. I named the first Dan, because G‑d has judged me (“dan”) and acquitted me; He has heard my voice.49

I named the second Naftali, because I have stormed (“naftulei”) the gates of heaven and finally been answered. I am accepted like my sister.50

About a year ago, I noticed Leah's eldest, Reuben, with some duda’im, which are an effective fertility treatment.51 Because Leah feels I have stolen our husband’s affection from her, because I am his favorite, I offered Leah my allotted time with Jacob in exchange for the duda’im. She agreed.52

I've heard of medication having a delayed effect, but after a year of waiting I think I can safely say the duda’im haven't worked...53

Sincerely,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

I have some AMAZING news for you. I had a son!!!54 My prayers have finally been answered! Cue the marching bands!

I named him Joseph because I'm not letting G‑d get away with just giving me one child (Joseph, or “Yosef,” means “to add”).55

Everyone thinks I'm nuts for writing in my diary so soon after childbirth, but I just couldn't wait. Also my labor really wasn't so bad!56 OK, I’ll talk to you later. I have to go, my kid is crying (listen to me, talking like a seasoned mom already).

Sincerely, and with a bursting heart,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

The inevitable day has finally come. Jacob wants to move. He heard my brothers (born after Jacob came to town57) saying that he profited at the expense of of my father, and he's had enough.58 He called me and Leah in and went into a long explanation about how faithfully he's worked and how dishonest my father has been.59 I think he was expecting some resistance. But Leah and I have watched him work loyally for my father for 20 straight years, never even getting a regular night’s sleep in a bed!60 We watched my father cheat and deceive him out of his deserved pay time and time again. My father had treated us, his two daughters, like complete strangers.61 So Jacob was preaching to the choir, and the choir was already packing to go.

The only thing gnawing at me as we prepare to escape (besides for the shooting pain in my lower belly, I think I'm pregnant again!62) is the thought that I'm leaving my poor father in his erroneous idol worshipping ways.63 Try as I might, I haven’t been successful in convincing him to abandon them. But maybe if I just steal them from him, he'll drop them for good.64

Also, my father is a talented sorcerer, and if I leave his idols here he could use them to discover our whereabouts. I will therefore place them under the saddle of my camel, and by disgracing them this way, remove any power they possess. 65

We leave at dawn. Wish us luck.

Sincerely,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

We made it.

My father found out about our escape three days after we left, and immediately began the chase. Despite our head start, he caught up to us pretty quickly. He was furious about the idol theft. Jacob, in his attempt to quell already heated emotions, was quick to tell my father that he knew nothing of the theft (he didn't), and that whoever stole them should be cursed (ouch).66

My father had a pretty heavy hunch that it was me. He kept poking around in my stuff.67 He finally approached me and asked me to get off my camel. My heart was beating fast, I told him I couldn't because I had a feminine issue.68 That usually terrifies men, so I figured that should do the trick. It didn't. He demanded that I dismount.

At this point my heart was beating so strongly, I was scared he could see it through my robes. I slowly dismounted, and lying there in all their glory were… not the idols?! I was completely floored. It took every facial contorting muscle I possessed to mask my shock and instead shoot my father a what-were-you-expecting?-look. G‑d saved me! The idols were miraculously transformed into feminine products to support my story and save me from certain awfulness.69 Phew! Dodged an arrow there!

Sincerely, and grateful to be alive,

Rachel


Dear Diary,

After having survived my father, we had another hurdle to overcome. Jacob’s brother, Esau, was still on his tail, and we had to confront him.

Jacob organized a series of gift-bearing messengers to meet Esau first, to try to placate the bloodthirsty beast. Jacob was doing a lot of praying and strategic positioning to prepare for the highly charged, long dreaded face off with his older, hairier twin brother.70

In the meantime, we had a pretty jarring experience (pardon the pun, you'll get it in a second). Just as Jacob finished transporting the entire family over a river, he went back to fetch some small jars we left behind.71 As he was bending down to lift the jars, an angel appeared (I don't believe the angel appeared as a result of his rubbing the jar). We watched in horror as the angel began wrestling with Jacob. Being on the other side of the river, we were completely powerless to help him (not that I would've been much help, my angel fighting skills are a bit rusty since the last time I never fought an angel). The scuffle lasted the entire night. I don't mean to brag but it ended with my husband pinning the angel down until he eventually let him go.72

In the morning, Jacob limped across the river toward us. He sat his eager audience down and told us what had happened. Apparently the angel he fought was Esau’s guardian angel.73 Because Jacob was victorious, he received a special name change. The angel added the name Israel because he fought (“sarisa”) with angels and men, and he was victorious.74

Without a moment's break, we looked up, and there was Esau marching toward us. He had an entourage of 400 men marching alongside him.75 He was not messing around. This was no friendly family reunion.

Jacob positioned all the children in back of their mothers and went ahead of us to protect us. He slowly walked toward Esau bowing with each step. After what seemed like an eternity, he reached his brother.76

Finally, we noticed a crack in the armor, so to speak. Esau’s rugged face seemed to soften, and he ran up and hugged his brother. He fell on Jacob’s neck and kissed him. They were both sobbing. It was a touching blend of hugging and crying, and we on the sidelines were just happy to be alive.77

Afterwards, we were introduced to Esau (he's much hairier in person than I even imagined). Each of the mothers passed by him with their kids, and bowed. My son and I went last because we are Jacob's favorites.78 But right before we passed, my little boy jumped in front of me so that the lascivious Esau wouldn’t cast his lustful gaze my way.79 Joseph is very mature for a six-year-old.

Sincerely,

Rachel


This is the last diary entry we have for Rachel, she passed away a short time later, at the tender age of 37,80 while giving birth to her second son. She was informed as she was dying that it was a healthy baby boy.81

Rachel was buried at a crossroads near Bethlehem. She was buried there and not in the traditional, more respectable burial plot in Hevron (where Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, and later Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah were buried) because the Jewish people were destined to be exiled and led past that place, and it would be Rachel's tear-filled prayer that ultimately saved them.82

Rachel, in her death, as in her life, was the very picture of selflessness, sacrificing her own personal happiness for the sake of others.

DISCLAIMER: A large portion of this article is based on a literal reading of the texts. Please note: Our ancestors were vastly more spiritual and in tune with G‑d than we can ever fully grasp. The Zohar tells us that they are called chariots.83 Just as every twist and turn of a chariot is a direct result of the one guiding it, so every aspect of our ancestors’ beings was reflective of, and in tune with, their G‑dly mission. Any attempt to humanize them and bring them down to our level is usually a result of our inability to comprehend what is out of our league.

Please read these articles for more on how to find the proper balance between the literal text and its deeper meanings.

Footnotes
1.
She was called Rachel because it's a mashup of the words ra’uyah she’tachel aleha Shechinah,” which translates to: “Worthy that the Shechinah [Divine Presence] rest on her.”
2.
They got married at 22 (Seder Olam chapter 2), so they were 15 when Jacob came to town (this was two years before then).
4.
Sefer Hayashar, p. 83.
5.
Seder Olam chapter 2; Midrash Tanchuma (Buber) 12.
6.
Sefer Hayashar above.
7.
Bereishit Rabbi 9; Rashi 29:12.
8.
Genesis 31:19; Rashi 24:31.
9.
Rashi, Genesis 34:1.
10.
See Ohr Hachaim 29:9.
12.
Midrash Tanchuma (Buber), Vayeitzei 12.
14.
Genesis 25:27. See Rashi ad loc.
15.
Lekach Tov.
16.
Ramban, Genesis 29:9.
17.
Ohr Hachaim, ibid.
18.
Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 36.
19.
Ohr Hachaim, ibid. He also writes there that Lavan saw through sorcery that Rachel would be very successful with the sheep.
20.
Ohr Hachaim, ibid.
21.
Midrash Tanchuma (Buber) 12.
23.
Rashi to Genesis 29:10.
25.
Bereishit Rabbi 70.
26.
Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 36.
30.
Midrash Tanchuma (Buber), Vayetze 12.
32.
Bereishit Rabba 70.
35.
Midrash Tanchuma 6.
36.
Ibid. Benjamin, Rachel’s son, also had this gift, and that's why his stone on the High Priest’s breastplate was yashpe, a contraction of the words yesh lo peh vishotek,” “he has a mouth and he's quiet.”
38.
Megilla 13:2; Bava Batra 123:1.
39.
Peticha to Eicha Rabati 24.
40.
Midrash Tanchuma Hakadum 19.
41.
Midrash Tanchuma 7.
42.
Peticha to Eicha Rabati 24.
43.
Genesis 29:25-27; See Yerushalmi, Moed Kattan 1:37; Avot D’Rabbi Natan (2), chapter 1.
44.
Rashi, Genesis 30:1.
45.
Alshich, Genesis 30:11.
46.
Ramban, Genesis 30:1.
47.
Klei Yakar, Genesis 30:2; For a more Kabbalistic explanation as to why she had Jacob marry Bilhah, see Rabbeinu Bachye 29:35 and Recanti Vayeitzei.
48.
Midrash Sechel Tov. Another explanation offered there is that she was called that because she was astoundingly beautiful (also derived from “behala”).
50.
Ibid., 30:8. According to Rashi, the name Naftali comes from the root “psaltol,” which means stubborn.
51.
Seforno, Genesis 30:14.
53.
Alshich, Genesis 30:12.
55.
Ibid., 30:24.
56.
Midrash Tanchuma (Buber) 19.
57.
See Rashi on Genesis 30:27, which explains that Laban was blessed with sons because of Jacob's presence.
59.
Ibid., 31:4-13.
60.
Bereishit Rabba 68.
62.
Lekach Tov 31:35. I don’t believe this Midrash fits with the timeline traditionally used that has Jacob and his family travelling for an additional two years before Rachel’s passing during childbirth.
63.
Bereishit Rabba 74:4.
64.
Genesis 31:19. See Rashi ad loc.
65.
Zohar Vayeitzei, p. 378; Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 36; Tanchuma 12.
68.
Genesis 31:35. For explanations on how this works with her being pregnant, see Lekach Tov above. The G”RA (Kol Eliyahu, Vayetze 32) writes that Rachel was referring to the halacha that idols transfer impurity like a nidda, a woman in a state of ritual impurity.
69.
Bereishit Rabba 74:6.
70.
Genesis 32:8-21; Rashi 32:9.
75.
Ibid., 33:1.
76.
Ibid., 33:1-3.
77.
Ibid., 33:4.
78.
Rashi, Genesis 33:2.
79.
Rashi, Genesis 33:7. See Yalkut Shimoni (Tehillim 55, Remez 772) that states that Rachel was actually destined to marry Esau, but through Jacob and Leah’s prayers on her behalf she was saved. See also Aggadat Bereishit (chapter 52), which explains that Lavan planned to give her to Esau when she couldn’t have children. See Rashi 30:22
80.
Seder Olam, chapter 2.
82.
Rashi, Genesis 48:7.
83.
Zohar 1, 210:1. It's taught that even during their sleep they were still on that level.
Rabbi Zalmy Labkowsky grew up in LA and currently lives in Brooklyn where he studies Talmud.
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Mary Lucas November 24, 2017

Rachel Weeps for Acceptance I enjoyed this diary about Rachel . I just wonder if Rachel knew better than to touch the idol; yet to lie and hide it from her dad settled just consequences. and fate . Rachel was beautiful yet Leah’s weak eyes warm and tender hearted earned her a far more respectful burial whereas; Rachel with her beauty and wit she will always remain weeping for acceptance in the eyes of Jacob to please . Reply

Ellen Abramson Ann Arbor December 24, 2016

I loved this. Thank you. Reply

Yossi December 14, 2016

Wonderful... Please more like this..... Reply

Vicki Stone Portland December 14, 2016

this was terrific and really good for young adults and old adults, like me!! Reply

Anonymous December 14, 2016

Amazing!!
So fun to read!!! Reply

Lieba Rudolph Pittsburgh December 14, 2016

Fantastic! What a clever way to make the story real. Thank you for writing this! Reply

jim dallas December 14, 2016

zalmy, remarkable research and intelligence. i realize the great depth of centuries of uncovered, related knowledge that make up this study, really amazing and commendable! i will think on it and take it all in over time. thanks for the material and sharing! Reply

Deby December 10, 2016

Wow!! This is incredible!! Really enjoyed reading the whole thing :) Reply

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