Sunday, May 10, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Rachel's Tomb (Hebrew: קבר רחל; Arabic: translit. Qubbat Rakhil, trans. Dome of Rachel), is the traditional gravesite of the Biblical Matriarch Rachel and is widely considered the third holiest site in Judaism. It is located in the central West Bank on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
 Location and dimensions
"And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." — Genesis 35:19-20
Today, along the biblical Bethlehem-Ephrath road, adjacent to the Israeli neighbourhood of Gilo at the northern entrance to Bethlehem, stands an ancient tomb traditionally believed to be that of Rachel. This location is mentioned by Jewish travelers since c1300.
The actual tomb consists of a rock with 11 stones upon it, one for each of the 11 sons of Jacob who were alive when Rachel died in childbirth. Over the centuries, the rock was covered by a dome supported by four arches. In 1841, Sir Moses Montefiore was granted permission by the Ottoman Turks to restore the tomb. He built the large, two-room building seen today. A month before he died at Tamuz in 1885, he pledged to have it renovated and the dome structure was eventually enclosed by Sir Moses Montefiore, who added a second room. The dome was fortified and enclosed inside a building with a hall from the entrance in the 1990s, due to the deteriorating security situation.
In 1864, the Sefardi Jews of Bombay donated the necessary money to dig a well. Although Rachel's Tomb is only an hour and a half walk from the Old City of Jerusalem, many pilgrims found themselves very thirsty and unable to obtain fresh water.
Others contend that Rachel's Tomb is located in northern Jerusalem at a site local Arabs call "the grave of the sons of Israel" which is near present day A-Ram, the site of Biblical Ramah. The place is mentioned in the "Prophets" section of the Hebrew Bible as the site of Rachel's burial when King Saul visits the site, in I Samuel 10:2. Later Jewish sources take the site near Bethlehem as the real site.
During the Jordanian period (1948-1967), Jews were forbidden to visit the tomb despite assurances in the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Recently, the site has been surrounded by a barrier to separate it from Bethlehem. Access is now restricted to pilgrims and tourists approaching from Israel.
 Cultural icon
Rachel's tomb has equal status with Machpelah (the Tombs of the Patriarchs), in Hebron, as the oldest place of prayer. Pilgrims stopped by her tomb on their way to and from Jerusalem on their way to Egypt hundreds of years before King Solomon built the Temple. Pilgrims journeyed regularly from Damascus and the Euphrates valley.
The Zionist movement had the building depicted on the Jewish National Fund collection boxes. Following the 1936-1939 Arab attacks against the growing Jewish population in Palestine, the ultra-orthodox Jews were evacuated from most of the older cities, including Hebron and Bethlehem, and later houses and workshops were erected on the site. Following the 1967 Six Day War the local building was restored to Jewish (and international) visiting.
There is an ancient tradition regarding the 'segulah' (charm), a scarlet thread that is tied around one's neck or wrist as a protection against all forms of danger, this charm works especially for pregnant women. Before the thread may be used, it must first be wound around the Tomb of Rachel, transforming the thread into a special 'segulah'. Even today, women will circle the tomb with a scarlet thread in their hands.
This is done only at the Tomb of Rachel, because Rachel was considered the "eternal mother," caring for her people when they are ill.Rachel is also deemed the perfect mediator for a pregnant woman, especially when she goes into the delivery room.
There is also a tradition regarding the key that unlocked the tomb. The key was about fifteen centimeters long, made of brass by Reb Zalman of Jerusalem in such a way that the lock was unbreakable. The beadle kept it with him at all times, and it was not uncommon that someone would knock at his door in the middle of the night.
"Please," came the voice of someone at the door. "So-and-so is having strong labor pains. We need the key."
As soon as the beadle gave the person the key, the person would dash to the bedside of the expectant mother and place the key under her pillow and almost immediately, the pains would subside and the delivery would take place peacefully.
Over the years, Rachel's Tomb has been a place of pilgrimage for Jews, especially Jewish women unable to give birth. Many come to visit on the 11th of the Jewish month of Cheshvan, the anniversary of her death. Jewish tradition teaches that Rachel weeps for her children and that when the Jews were taken into exile, she wept as they passed by her grave on the way to Babylonia. Believers in Kabbalah sometimes wrap red string around the tomb and then make it into bracelets that serve as talismans.
The tomb of Sir Moses Montefiore, adjacent to the Montefiore synagogue in Ramsgate, England, is a replica of Rachel's Tomb. During an 1841 visit to Palestine, Montifiore obtained permission from the Ottoman Turks to restore the tomb.
 Claims of Muslim origin
For centuries, Muslims as well as Jews recognized the site as Rachel's Tomb. Since 1996, Palestinians have referred to the site as the alleged "Bilal ibn Rabah" mosque in an attempt to claim it as their own. The claim is that it was built by Muslims at the time of the Arab conquest, despite the site's thoroughly documented history.
Monday, May 4, 2009
1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
4 The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life,
but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
5 A fool spurns his father's discipline,
but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
6 The house of the righteous contains great treasure,
but the income of the wicked brings them trouble.
7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
not so the hearts of fools.
8 The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
9 The LORD detests the way of the wicked
but he loves those who pursue righteousness.
10 Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path;
he who hates correction will die.
11 Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD—
how much more the hearts of men!
12 A mocker resents correction;
he will not consult the wise.
13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful,
but heartache crushes the spirit.
14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.
15 All the days of the oppressed are wretched,
but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.
16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD
than great wealth with turmoil.
17 Better a meal of vegetables where there is love
than a fattened calf with hatred.
18 A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension,
but a patient man calms a quarrel.
19 The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns,
but the path of the upright is a highway.
20 A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.
21 Folly delights a man who lacks judgment,
but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.
22 Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.
23 A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—
and how good is a timely word!
24 The path of life leads upward for the wise
to keep him from going down to the grave.
25 The LORD tears down the proud man's house
but he keeps the widow's boundaries intact.
26 The LORD detests the thoughts of the wicked,
but those of the pure are pleasing to him.
27 A greedy man brings trouble to his family,
but he who hates bribes will live.
28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
29 The LORD is far from the wicked
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
30 A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones.
31 He who listens to a life-giving rebuke
will be at home among the wise.
32 He who ignores discipline despises himself,
but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.
33 The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.
Friday, May 1, 2009
In defense of the unborn, we wish to express our deepest opposition to Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.’s invitation of President Barack Obama to be the University of Notre Dame’s principal commencement speaker and the recipient of an honorary degree. Our objection is not a matter of political partisanship, but of President Obama’s hostility to the Catholic Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life at its earliest stages. Further, the University’s decision runs counter to the policy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops against honoring pro-choice politicians. We cannot sit by idly while the University honors someone who believes that an entire class of human beings is undeserving of the most basic of all legal rights, the right to live.
Additionally, Fr. Jenkins has put some of his students into a position of moral dilemma as to whether they should attend their own graduation. Many pro-life seniors, along with their families, now feel personally conflicted about participating in the commencement. The lack of concern for these devoted sons and daughters of Notre Dame, who love this University and the Catholic principles on which it was built, is shameful.
An ad hoc committee sponsored by a coalition of University-sponsored student groups has been organized to lead student responses. These groups include:
- Notre Dame Right to Life
- Notre Dame Knights of Columbus Council 1477
- Jus Vitae (Notre Dame Law School Right to Life)
- The Irish Rover independent student newspaper
- Notre Dame College Republicans
- The University of Notre Dame Anscombe Society
- The Identity Project of Notre Dame
- Notre Dame Militia Immaculata
- Notre Dame Children of Mary
- The Orestes Brownson Council
- Notre Dame Law St. Thomas More Society