Rachel is in some ways the most tantalizing of all the matriarchs. We know relatively little about her; except that the love that our patriarch, Yaakov, had for her was so fierce that he was prepared to wait an additional seven years to marry her. In addition, while her sister and competitor, Leah, had multiple children, Rachel was barren for many years. However, she did give birth – to two sons – Yosef (Joseph) and Binyamin (Benjamin), after whose birth she died.
Thus Rachel died. She was buried on the road to Efrat, now Beit Lechem.
וַתָּמָת רָחֵל וַתִּקָּבֵר בְּדֶרֶךְ אֶפְרָתָה הִוא בֵּית לָחֶם
va-ta-MAT ra-KHAYL va-ti-ka-VAYR b’-DE-rekh ef-RA-tah HEE BAYT LA-khem
Yaakov did not bury his beloved wife Rachel in the family plot in Chevron, but rather in nearby Beit Lechem. Rashi explains that Rachel was intentionally buried there, in Beit Lechem, on the side of the road on which the Jews were forcibly marched into exile following the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash. At that devastating moment in Jewish history, the downtrodden people found comfort in Rachel’s holy resting spot as she entreated God’s mercy toward His people. This is alluded to in Yirmiyahu’s prophecy ( Jeremiah 31:15-17) “A cry is heard in Rama — wailing, bitter weeping — Rachel is weeping for her children.”
According to the Zohar, the Mashiach will ultimately lead the dispersed Jews along that same route, again passing Rachel’s grave as they are led back to their land and thus fulfilling the continuation of Yirmiyahu’s prophecy, “they shall return from the enemy’s land… the children shall return to their country.” Today, Rachel’s Tomb on the outskirts of contemporary Beit Lechem remains a popular destination for people to pour out their hearts in prayer for the day when all of Rachel’s descendants will pass her grave, on their way back home into Eretz Yisrael.