Jerusalem – The Internet was abuzz with accounts of a mysterious woman in black named Rachel who several times warned Israeli soldiers in Arabic not to enter booby-trapped buildings. Was the story real, as claimed? Who was the saving angel?
According to Rav Shmuel Eliahu, the chief rabbi of Tzefas and a teacher at the religious nationalist Machon Meir in Jerusalem, the mysterious woman was no less than Rachel Imenu herself. His father, the mekubal and former Israeli Chief Rabbi, Rav Mordechai Eliahu, confirmed that the woman was our matriarch coming to help her beleaguered descendants.
After a hospitalization of months, one of the first stops that the discharged Rav Eliahu took was at Kever Rachel. He visited the shrine a total of three times
Rav Shmuel Eliahu was asked by his yeshiva dean if the reputed mysterious woman was in any way connected to his father. Rav Eliahu was reluctant to ask, since his father usually dismisses these kinds of allegations. But he recalled that the Iraqi mekubal, Rabbi Shalom Mutzafi, had a vision of Rachel Imenu praying when he had gone to pray at her shrine during World War II when the Germans were poised to conquer the Holy Land. So he decided to ask his father.
Rav Mordechai Eliahu confirmed that he had visited the shrine to implore Rachel Imenu to awaken mercy for her children. When his son told him about the mysterious woman who had saved Israeli soldiers, Rav Mordechai replied, “Did she mention that I sent her?”
However, not everyone is happy that assistance with contemporary military conflicts is being sought from tzadikim of past generations.
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, the head of the hesder yeshiva in Petach Tikvah and a founding member of the Tzohar rabbis organization, says that stories of mythical saviors can lead to a crisis in one’s faith. Rabbi Cherlow studied under religious nationalist roshei yeshiva Rabbi Avraham Shapira and Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, although his current ideology differs from them. He is a leader in the Hesder yeshivot network and the “Datim haHadashim” movement in Israel.
Rav Cherlow was asked on his Moreshet web site about the mysterious woman who helped soldiers, and his reply was, “Stories about Rachel Imenu are completely unnecessary… the Torah commands us to keep our distance from various forces and communicating with the dead, and to cling to life.
“Every intelligent person would assume that this story didn’t happen and it was invented in the head of someone who found gullible people he wanted to manipulate. The world of faith demands that a person should above all be critical and not accept fanciful stories without first investigating and verifying them.
“It’s a shame that people naively believe such stories, which destroy a person’s faculties of intelligence, and his ability to reach proper decisions. Moreover, such stories can even bring a person to a crisis in faith. For instance, why didn’t ‘she’ come to save other people?”
Rabbi Cherlow said that even in the event that the story had taken place, “the Torah commands us to keep away from communicating with the dead and to cling to life. The Torah wants us to admire the Jewish people’s heroic courage and elevated conscience, and to realize that Hashem is behind them and He is the One Who gives us strength to succeed. Every story that attributes success to “supernatural forces” distances a person from this perception.”
He concludes, “The Torah tells us ‘Be wholehearted with Hashem your G-d.’ Leave all these fables about Rachel Imenu and cling to proper choices in life and taking action in G-d’s world. That’s the