"As for me, [Jacob], when I came from Padan, Rachel died on me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still a stretch of land to come to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem"Genesis 48:7.

And I did not take her even to Bethlehem to bring her into the [inhabited region of the Holy] Land…but you should know that I buried her there by divine command, so that she would be of assistance to her children. When [the Babylonian general] Nebuzaradan exiles [the Israelites] and they pass by there, Rachel will emerge from her grave and weep and beg mercy for them, as it is said: "A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel is weeping for her children." And the Holy One, blessed be He, answers her, "'There is reward for your work... and the children shall return to their own border.'" (Jeremiah 31:14-16)Rashi's commentary on the verse, from Pesikta Rabbati ch. 3.

The Midrash explains the "work" for which Rachel was rewarded with G‑d's assurance that her children would return to Israel: After the Jews were exiled to Babylon, the Patriarchs, Matriarchs and Moses went to appease G‑d, attempting to evoke Divine mercy on their children's behalf. G‑d answered Rachel: "You have defended your children well. There is reward for your deed and for your righteousness."Each one invoked the various great deeds which he or she had performed, requesting that G‑d reciprocate by having compassion on the Jews. But G‑d was not swayed. Then Rachel entered and stated, "O Lord of the Universe, consider what I did for my sister Leah. All the work that Jacob worked for my father was only for me, however when I came to enter the nuptial canopy, they brought my sister instead. Not only did I keep my silence, but I gave her the secret password which Jacob and I had prearranged (which was intended to prevent any wedding night bridal switch). You, too, if Your children have brought Your rival into Your house, keep Your silence for them." G‑d answered her: "You have defended them well. There is reward for your deed and for your righteousness. Refrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is reward for your work, says the L-rd, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for your future, says the L-rd, and the children shall return to their own border."

Why, indeed, was Rachel's deed so much more precious in G‑d's eyes than the accomplishments of all the other petitioners? Why was her gallant act dearer than Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son or Moses' forty years of selfless leadership of the relentlessly belligerent Israelites?

Perhaps this question can be answered by examining the legitimacy of Jacob's marriage to Rachel and Leah. How was Jacob able to marry them both when the Torah explicitly forbids one man from marrying two sisters? Nachmanides explains that since the Patriarchs lived before the observance of the mitzvot became mandatory at Mount Sinai, they observed the laws of the Torah only whilst in the Land of Israel. Therefore, Jacob was "allowed" to marry two sisters while residing in Padan Aram.

Following this line of reasoning, Nachmanides explains Jacob's real, but unstated, reason for not burying his favorite and most beloved wife Rachel in the Cave of Machpela, opting instead to reserve the resting place beside him for Leah. Simply put, Jacob was embarrassed to bring his second wife, the wife whom he married "illegally," to the family plot. What would Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebecca say about his deed? Furthermore, Nachmanides states, this is also the true reason why Rachel died immediately upon Jacob's arrival in Israel—the holy air of Israel could not tolerate Jacob's second wife.

For thousands of years she would lie alone on the side of a remote road, awaiting the Redemption and the Resurrection of the DeadRachel was a prophetess as well as a very learned and wise woman. When she agreed to give Leah the password which would allow her sister to become Jacob's first – and only "legitimate" – wife, she was fully cognizant of the extent of her sacrifice. She realized that – even if Jacob would agree to take her as a second wife – she wouldn't be able to live with her cherished husband when he inevitably would return to the land of his fathers. Her children would be raised by her maidservant Bilha and she would not live to see her grandchildren. And to top it all off, she wouldn't rest in her rightful burial plot, alongside Jacob and her holy in-laws. Instead, for thousands of years she would lie alone on the side of a remote road, awaiting the Redemption and the Resurrection of the Dead. Surrendering one's physical life pales in comparison to this mind-numbing sacrifice. Rachel sacrificed everything – both her physical and spiritual future – for her sister's sake.

The Patriarchs and Moses were magnificent. But they had nothing which even remotely rivaled such mind-blowing sacrifice.

Mother Rachel cried for us and G‑d heard her pleas. It is certain that despite G‑d's request that she "refrain her voice from weeping and her eyes from tears" she continues to cry until she sees the realization of G‑d's promise. But perhaps G‑d is waiting for her children to behave in Rachel-like fashion. One more totally selfless act on behalf of a Jewish brother or sister will finally cause Rachel to smile.