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וַתָּ֖מׇת רָחֵ֑ל וַתִּקָּבֵר֙ בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ אֶפְרָ֔תָה הִ֖וא בֵּ֥ית לָֽחֶם׃

Bereshit 35:16

  1. Why was Rachel Imenu not buried in Machpelah's cave?

  2. Was her burial in Ephrata a punishment?

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  • As she'd died quite far from Hebron, it wasn't practical to haul her decomposing remains that far. (Yes, Jacob wound up being buried in another country entirely, but that's because his family had access to professional embalmers.)
    – Shalom
    Mar 1, 2023 at 10:26
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    This is basically spelled out in 48:7. Jacob has just asked Joseph to take his remains to Hebron ... "but what about your mother? She died on me when we were traveling, so I had to bury her nearby."
    – Shalom
    Mar 1, 2023 at 10:27
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    There's a certain sense that Leah deserved the spot in the cave more than Rachel, as she was the wife Jacob needed (if not the one he wanted), the mother of more of his children, etc.
    – Shalom
    Mar 1, 2023 at 10:28
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    It's not a punishment per se, but notice that Jacob had fatally cursed "whomever stole Laban's house-idols!", not knowing it was Rachel. Whose fault was that? Rachel for taking them? Jacob for assuming she hadn't? Or some of both, if the relationship is such that they're unknowingly working at cross purposes?
    – Shalom
    Mar 1, 2023 at 10:30
  • I had the feeling that God punished Jacob for blindly loving Rachel, and hurting Leah throughout his life. Being, Leah Imenu a woman with yirat shamayim. So I concluded that to honor the matriarch Hashem gave the kingship of Israel to her son Judah saying 'the scepter shall not depart from Judah'. Burying her in the Cave of the Patriarchs, Machpelah. We find this out because of the name Leah Imenu gave her children. Mar 1, 2023 at 13:09

2 Answers 2

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The Midrash says that Jacob did not bury Rachel in the Cave of Machpelah because he "saw" that when Israel would be exiled, they would go on the road to Efrat and she would "see" them and react to that sight. Indeed, Jeremiah 31:14–16 says: "A cry is heard in Ramah -- bitter weeping -- Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are gone." Then God, moved by her tears, consoles her: "Your children shall return to their country” [Genesis Rabbah 82:10].

The Ramban also says that Jacob did not want to make it too obvious that he married two sisters, something later forbidden by the Torah, so he buried them in separate places.

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  • Since Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife it seems strange to me that she was just buried beside the road and not placed in tomb of the Machpelah. Mar 1, 2023 at 13:20
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Of course it's not a punishment. The avoda of Leah's soul is more on the side of bringing down Kedusha. Chazal teach that Rachel Imeinu is the mother of the golus/redemption, which is why she is the only one who can birth a soul power of the Moshiach ben Yosef, who is charged with the task of going into the galus, staying righteous and fighting the evil; Therefore, we may conclude that Rochel's main avodah would be to do the job similar to the Moshiach ben Yosef by her tremendous issurim (suffering) and by crying for her children in golus (who are all of klal yisroel), which could possibly explain why she must be buried outside.

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