For weeks now, we have been hearing rumors about a mysterious woman who appeared before Israeli troops in the thick of the Gaza battles. Not just any woman, mind you, but the biblical Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, matriarch of Israel. (My nine-year-old daughter gave me an excellent speech about the pluses and minuses of believing these rumors.) Israel’s former chief rabbi, Mordechai Eliyahu, announced that he himself had sent her. And now another former chief rabbi and Shas spiritual leader, Ovadiah Yosef, has confirmed these reports.
This is the point where I’m supposed to say how ridiculous it is. A hoax, or a superstition, or something. But I’m not gonna’ do it.
I don’t care if you call the appearance of Rachel a metaphor or a miracle. There is a point in rabbinic discourse where miracles and metaphors all mingle together, where the word “literally” loses its meaning, making room for midrash — the art of saying something illiteral and literary. To say that Rachel was with our soldiers, that our matriarch was protecting her boys, is a deeper statement than anything that can be made by a professional reporter with a camera.
Let’s give the religious spinmasters the benefit of the doubt. Of course she wasn’t there. But, of course, she was.