Genesis 48:7 “Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).” As I started this post this morning I am once again in awe of God. Today’s post is based on Genesis 48. We all know that this is where Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh. This is what I thought we would be focusing on, but no, I feel today, rather than focusing on these blessings, we are to focus on one verse; verse 7 where Jacob explains to Joseph why he not bury Rachel with the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The wife, mother, woman of the home, is the mainstay of the home, the foundation of the next generation. Jacob insisted that Joseph not bury him in Egypt. He had him swear to bury him with his father and grandfather, in the land of Israel. Later, right in the middle of preparing to bless his grandsons he says, “As for me, when I cam from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.” One of the great sages, Rashi, expounds on this verse by describing it this way:
“And I did not take her even to Bethlehem to bring her into the Land, and I know that you hold it against me; but you should know that I buried her there by divine command, so that she would be of assistance to her children…when they (Israel) are exiled and they pass by there, Rachel will emerge from her grave and weep and beseech mercy for them, as it is said, ‘A voice is heard on high, Rachel is weeping for her children.’ And the Holy One, blessed be He, answers her, “There is reward for your work,’ says the Lord, ‘for your children will return to their own border.'”
Jacob let Joseph know that Rachel had willingly given up her spot in the Cave of Machpelah in order to be there for her great-grandchildren, who would desperately need her help. It was very important to Jacob that he be buried in the land with his father. For Rachel, however, it was more important to be there for her children, even if it meant sacrificing her own opportunity to be buried with her husband. She got little visibility, but her efforts went very far, ensuring that her children would be eventually returned to Israel. Both men and women can be devoted to the service of god. But oftentimes the man’s devotion is more overt and recognizable. A woman’s service seems less spiritually oriented. The woman takes care of the home, the children, the cooking; her role is more central. Her time is spent nurturing others. Having this in mind, Jacob was telling Joseph, “Don’t be mistaken. Rachel was no second-class citizen. She was from the secret service. She understood the value of nurturing human beings over public ritual. She wanted to be buried in Bethlehem.”
Serving God requires humility. Keeping the commandments compels us to focus on God’s desires instead of our own natural inclinations. However, there is a danger of developing a religious ego. Even though we may be doing the right thing, the smug superiority that comes along with it is not a Godly sensation. That is the trap found in the masculine service of God. Masculine service is out there in the open, so it’s more susceptible to arrogance. In contrast, feminine service of God is more subtle, behind the scenes. It is an investment in the future, an investment which will take years to mature. It is a humble service.
Obviously, every single individual, male or female, is created with the primary goal to connect with God in the details of their daily lives, and through this to fulfill the purpose of their existence, which means also helping the world as a whole to fulfill its purpose.
Perhaps this distinction applies, among many other distinctions, to men and women in general. The male seeks achievement and fulfillment, through Torah (God’s word and instruction) study, many practical commandments, and activity in the world. The woman seeks to care, to protect, to love, and to help. In general, one represents achievement and the other caring: Jacob and Rachel, the combination of these two qualities, builds a wholesome life and a wholesome world.
Rachel sacrificed her holy space to be there for her children and grandchildren – but what does this have to do with the knowledge of God? I don’t know one mother who would not sacrifice for her children; the ones that she gave birth to; but let me ask you ladies, would you sacrifice for another’s child? Most women I know would. Still, what does this have to do with the knowledge of God?
I think about our churches. It is the ladies who handle the planning, organization, and preparations for pot luck dinners. It is usually the ladies who teach the children’s Sunday School lessons, direct Christmas plays, and tend the nursery. Ladies, you hold a valuable place in that church! These functions are the same as nurturing your family! You aren’t doing it for earthly recognition, but as a service to God! Please DO NOT FORGET that this work you do is a service to God. Therefore, always treat each other kindly and with love; not just when you are in each other’s presence, but at all times! Those little eyes are on you; those little ears hear you! Make certain your actions teach the children God’s knowledge! You may not agree with each other all of the time, but that is OK. Just as Rachel was weeping for her children you pray God’s will be done, NOT your own! You sacrifice your will for God’s will; and you will build a wholesome life and wholesome world.
Our ladies need to get back into their holy space of nurturing and build our houses around us. When we do this, our churches will show more love to those who enter it. You aren’t in competition with one another. Build each other up and train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it!
You are a valuable part of the body of Christ, even if you are not visually recognized! You are the foundation for the next generation! You walk in a holy space, just as Rachel did!
Father, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I humbly come before you this morning and I thank you that Jacob took the time to explain to Joseph why Rachel was buried in Bethlehem! I thank you for allowing this to be the focus of today’s post. Each year we look at this chapter, and normally, we focus on Jacob blessing Ephraim first. You have shown us today that verse 7, the verse explaining why Rachel is buried in Bethlehem is just as important. Through this verse, you are showing us women just how valuable we are. You are teaching us that our service to you is recognized and valuable to you. Forgive us for not valuing our role. Forgive us for the times that we have come against each other, essentially feeding the youth poison instead of nourishment. I ask you now, Lord, when we attempt to speak without thinking, when we get distracted with something someone is doing that we do not agree with, silence us. I ask you to only allow loving words which speak life into others to spill from our lips. Thank you for this message to the women. May our nourishment in our places of worship fill them with love, make them welcoming to visitors, and add abundantly to your kingdom. In Jesus name. Amen.