1. Rachel is one of the Four Matriarchs

Along with Sarah (wife of Abraham), Rebecca (wife of Isaac), and Leah (her sister and fellow wife of Jacob), Rachel is one of the four mothers of the Jewish people.1

Read: Why Just Four Mothers?

2. She is referred to as “Mamma Rochel

Like the other matriarchs, she can be referred to as Rachel Immenu (Rachel Our Mother), even though she is technically only the mother of two out of the 12 tribes of Israel. In Yiddish she is affectionately called Mamma Rochel, reflective of her special place in the heart of the Jewish people (more on that later).

Read: Lots of Fun Yiddish Words to Learn and Use

3. Her name means “sheep”

In Hebrew, the name Rachel means “sheep,” associated with her lovable, serene nature. And it is perhaps no accident that we read of how she would watch her father’s flocks.

Read: A Kabbalistic Take on Sheep

4. The Bible describes her beauty

Scripture is sparing in its depiction of the physical appearance and features of the people whose stories are told. One of the few exceptions is Rachel, who we are told “had beautiful features and a beautiful complexion.”2

Read: Does Torah Disdain Feminine Beauty?

5. She was the beloved wife of Jacob

When Jacob came to her hometown of Padan Aram to search for a wife, he helped her water her father’s flock, and the two felt an immediate deep connection. Jacob so wished to marry Rachel that the seven years he had to work for her father, Laban, to earn her hand in marriage, “were like a few days in his eyes.”3

Read: Love at First Sight: 5 Biblical Examples

6. She sacrificed for her sister

Recognizing that Jacob was a “catch,” Laban decided to secretly place Leah, his elder daughter, under the bridal canopy. Suspecting that Laban might pull a fast one, Jacob gave Rachel a prearranged password to identify herself. However, knowing how mortified Leah would be when discovered, Rachel gave her sister the secret sign and watched as she married the man of her dreams.4

The following morning Jacob discovered the ruse, and agreed to work for seven more years if Laban would allow him to marry Rachel a week later.5

Read: How Could Jacob Marry Two Sisters?

7. She suffered from infertility

Soon after her marriage, Leah began to produce sons (she had six in total). Even Bilhah and Zilpah, their maids, had two sons each. But Rachel’s “closed womb” caused her so much grief, she told her husband that to live without children was akin to death.6

Her pain was eased (but not erased) when she was blessed with a son, whom she named Yosef (Joseph), meaning “he shall add,” expressing her wish for yet another son.

Read: The Case for Large Families

8. She “stole” her father’s idols

As Jacob prepared to move back to his native Canaan (eventually to become the Land of Israel) with his wives and children, Rachel stole her father’s teraphim (idols),7 in a final effort to wean him from idol-worship.8 When Laban confronted Jacob about the missing figurines, Jacob innocently declared that whoever had taken them should die.9

Read: Can G‑d Be Stolen?

9. She died in childbirth and was buried on the roadside

Jacob’s ill-spoken words came true, and Rachel died shortly thereafter, while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin. Jacob buried her on the road near Bethlehem, on the way to Efrat.10 She is the only one of the matriarchs not buried alongside Adam and Eve and their respective husbands in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

Read: Rachel’s Tomb

10. She cries for her long-lost children

Buried alone on the roadside, Rachel is a pathetic yet proud figure, the quintessential Jewish mother, looking out for her children who have been dispersed all over the world. In the words of Jeremiah: “A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, for they are not.” And G‑d replies to her: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears . . . and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for your future . . . and the children shall return to their own border.”11

The sages paint a heartbreaking scene in which Rachel evokes her sensitivity for her sister’s distress and pleads with G‑d to have mercy on His children. Indeed, even after disregarding the prayers of the Patriarchs and even those of Moses, He agrees to return the exiles in response to Rachel’s arguments.12

Read: A Mother’s Tears

11. Her passing is celebrated on 11 Cheshvan

Tradition places the anniversary of her passing on 11 Cheshvan. Thousands flock to her tomb to pray, evoking her lonely sacrifice and suffering, and beseeching G‑d to have mercy in her merit.

Read: The Jewish Mother’s Day

12. She is associated with speech

Chassidic teachings13 explain that Leah’s soul stemmed from the world of thought, while Rachel’s soul was from the world of speech. Leah was introspective, a master of meditation and internal communication, while Rachel was charismatic and appealed to others. Together they laid the foundation for our nation. Rachel instilled within us the strength to exude a powerful and far-reaching aura of influence. Leah gifted us with the strength to tug at our soul strings and talk to G‑d with integrity.

Read: Why Jacob Loved Rachel but Married Leah First