Parasha Inspiration – Vayishlach

וַיְהִ֥י בְהַקְשֹׁתָ֖הּ בְּלִדְתָּ֑הּ וַתֹּ֨אמֶר לָ֤הּ הַֽמְיַלֶּ֨דֶת֙ אַל־תִּ֣ירְאִ֔י כִּֽי־גַם־זֶ֥ה לָ֖ךְ בֵּֽן: וַיְהִ֞י בְּצֵ֤את נַפְשָׁהּ֙ כִּ֣י מֵ֔תָה וַתִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ בֶּן־אוֹנִ֑י וְאָבִ֖יו קָֽרָא־ל֥וֹ בִנְיָמִֽין: וַתָּ֖מָת רָחֵ֑ל וַתִּקָּבֵר֙ בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ אֶפְרָ֔תָה הִ֖וא בֵּ֥ית לָֽחֶם: וַיַּצֵּ֧ב יַֽעֲקֹ֛ב מַצֵּבָ֖ה עַל־קְבֻֽרָתָ֑הּ הִ֛וא מַצֶּ֥בֶת קְבֻֽרַת־רָחֵ֖ל עַד־הַיּֽוֹם:

It came to pass when she had such difficulty giving birth, that the midwife said to her, “Do not be afraid, for this one, too, is a son for you.” And it came to pass, when her soul departed for she died that she named him Ben oni, but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the road to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob erected a monument on her grave; that is the tombstone of Rachel until this day.

Genesis 35:17-20

This week’s Torah portion contains the sad event of the passing of Rachel. Rachel dies after giving birth to her second son. Verse 17 contains a curious Hebrew structure, “for this one, also, is a son for you.” Also? What does this mean?

The sages explain in Midrash Rabbah that it must mean that the son also had a twin. Since the twin is not mentioned as one of the children of Israel, it must be a twin sister. The labor was difficult and ultimately ended with Rachel’s passing.

Because of the pain and difficulty of Rachel’s labor, she wanted to name the sun Ben-Oni, that is, the son of my pain. But Jacob overrules her and names the child Ben-Yamin, or Benjamin.

There are several meanings to the name Benjamin, as the direction south is connected with the ocean. Yamin can mean south or southward. So Benjamin can mean son of the south. Yamin can also mean right, or right hand. Benjamin can then mean son of the right hand.Yamin is also a defective spelling of the term Yamim, which means days. Benjamin, then, means son of days, referring to Jacob and Rachel’s old age.

Rachel passes away on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. She does not make it to Machpelah, and so is buried beside the road. Jacob erects a stone for her, which can be seen even until today. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.