A Capsule History of Rachel's Tomb www.rachelstomb.org
The Kever of Rachel. Our third-holiest site, has been the scene of prayer and pilgrimage for more than three thousand years. Rachel, the beloved wife of the third of our Avos, Ya'acov died in childbirth on the way to Hevron returning to his family's home:
So Ya'acov set up a monument over her lonely grave site so that exiled Jews would recognize it and pray and be comforted as they were being led into captivity. Ancient writings describe the grave marker as 12 stones that represented the 12 tribes of Israel with one large stone that symbolized Ya'akov.
Why did Yaakov bury Rachel here and not in Me’aras Hamachpela?
Ya'acov buried Rachel at this spot along the road, rather than at the family burial plot at Me’aras Hamachpela in Chevron, because he foresaw that his descendants would pass this site during the forced exile to Babylon in the year 423 B.C.E. And then Rachel would pray for their safety and ultimate return
Changing the Look: From the Byzantine period until the 1800's, Rachel's Tomb consisted of a tiny domed structure:
More Recently … About 150 years ago, there was a wealthy British Jew names Sir Moses Montefiore who did many things to help his fellow Jewish people. Once, he and his wife went to Eretz Yisroel which in those days was under Turkish rule. He got permission to fix Kever Rochel. They cleaned it and built a beautiful stone building over the site. It has a large room where travelers could rest and eat something, if they were tired or hungry.
Kever Rochel – about 20 years ago
In Our Times … In 1996, the government of Israel built a large stone building around the site, so that visitors would be safe. Even though the outside of Kever Rochel now looks different, it is still the same holy place that Jews have been visiting for hundreds of years.
Inside View ..
11 th Day of Mar-Cheshvan Kever Rochel is most visited on the 11 th day of Cheshvan, the day Rochel Imeinu passed away. Men, women and children come to daven and touch the velvet cover which drapes over her grave.
Women who have no children cry to Rochel and ask her to daven by Hashem. She knows exactly how they feel, because she too had no children for so many years. Orphans without parents come to cry by Rochel – for she died young and left her two children motherless (Yosef was 6 and Binyamin a newborn baby). We can imagine how her soul prayed to Hashem for her little boys. Now surely she comes and prays for the Jewish people who come and pour out their hearts to Hashem. So many different Jews come to cry and beg her to go before Hashem. Surely one day soon, Hashem will return us to our land forever – with Moshiach.