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CALL : +685 24414
FAX 20429
5th Floor John Williams Building
Tamaligi, Apia

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Wednesday 25 November
Rachel’s tears

 

 

Read Jeremiah 31:15–30

Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. (verse 15b)

 

And Rachel wept. Rachel, of course, had lived hundreds of years before this. She was the beloved of Jacob unable to bear children, until she bore Joseph (Genesis 30:23–24). She died giving birth to her second son, Benjamin (Genesis 35:19). Here, she weeps for her precious children who lost their lives at the hands of the invaders. But God offers an astounding promise: she must dry her tears, because her children shall return (verse 17). God still ‘remembers’ the people (‘Ephraim’) and is ‘deeply moved’ by their plight (verse 20). 

 

As Christians reading Jeremiah, we might want to comfort Rachel (this passage is quoted in Matthew 2:18). After all, God promises a new future to Rachel and the Christian Bible ends with victory, not death. But for the sake of all who grieve the loss of children, I think it is important to let Rachel weep, and to have the courage to hear her pain. In a moving reflection on this passage, the Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim suggests that Rachel is still weeping; now, over her children lost in the Holocaust, or Shoah. Though healing might come, though other children might be born, life cannot remain the same (Fackenheim’s article, ‘New Hearts and the Old Covenant’, is collected in The Divine Helmsman edited by Crenshaw and Sandmel, 1980).

 

Fackenheim concludes his essay with a powerful story. A Hasidic Jew from Warsaw survived the war and made his way to Israel, where he adopted many children orphaned by war, becoming the grandfather to many. The lives of those lost can never be replaced, and we must never forget them. But life also goes on in ways beyond our imagining.

 

† God of Rachel, our hearts are broken for your lost children in every age. Gather again the threads of life and stitch us into a people of wholeness and peace. Amen