Living Al Kiddush Hashem by Rabbi Yosef Adler

(2004/5765)

The Haftorah of the second day of Rosh Hashanah makes reference to the famous words of Yirmiyahu as he describes Rachel petitioning Hashem to enable Am Yisrael to return from the Babylonian exile.  “Kol Biramah Nishmah Nehi Bechi Tamurim Rachel Mivakah Al Baneha…Vishavu Banim Ligevulam.”  Many have raised the question as to why only Rachel is crying and not any of the other Avot or Imahot. 

The Midrash on Megillat Eicha describes an unusual scene.  As the Beit Hamikdash was burning, Hashem was crying and screaming, “where are my children, my prophets, my Kohanim?  I feel like someone whose only son died suddenly at his Chupah.”  Hashem instructs Yirmiyahu to summon all the Avot and Imahot and make them petition to Him on behalf of Am Yisrael.  Avraham is the first to speak.  He rips his hair, tears his garments, and places ashes on his forehead and laments: “Ribono Shel Olam, you granted me a child at age 100 and yet when you asked me to sacrifice him on the altar I did so without hesitation.”  However, Hashem was unimpressed.  Yaakov appears before Hashem and says, “I worked for Lavan for 21 hard years.  Upon leaving I was confronted by Esav who wanted to kill me and my children and I stood before them and was prepared to die to protect them.”  Nevertheless, Hashem was unimpressed.  Moshe appears before Hashem and says, “I spoke on behalf of your people for 40 years and yet I died before entering Israel.  Let my death substitute for them and enable them to return to the Holy Land.” 

Rachel finally gets her turn and says, “Yaakov had initially worked for me for seven years.  My father Lavan cajoled me to allow Leah to trick Yaakov.  I could not bear witness to the shame that Leah would have experienced had Yaakov deleted the trickery during the wedding night.  Having suspected that Lavan might pull a fast one, Yaakov gave me certain Simanim to identify myself.  I then willingly gave those signs to my sister Leah to spare her from shame and embarrassment.  I stood outside the door and as Yaakov spoke to Leah I instructed Leah to remain silent and I filled in the answers.”  Upon hearing this Hashem was overcome with mercy and compassion and said, “my children will return.”

All the Imahot and Avot spoke on behalf of their children.  But they all focused on their willingness to die in order to protect a loved one or to adhere to Hashem’s commandments.  Rachel advised Hashem that she was willing to live Al Kiddush Hashem.  This is our challenge as well.  We have high regard and enormous respect for every member of Tzahal who is prepared to die Al Kiddush Hashem if necessary.  Since we, in America, are not faced with that daunting challenge, the very least we can do is live our lives Al Kiddush Hashem.  May we fulfill the Pasuk “Vi Rau Kol Amei Haaretz Ki Shem Hashem Nikrah Alecha” and thereby merit “Vishavu Banim Ligvulam.”

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