Real Beauty: Three Lessons from our Matriarch Rachel
Three lessons from our matriarch Rachel.
I wish someone would had told me long ago that being pretty brings you attention, but it can’t bring you love. That being thin makes you popular but not necessarily well-liked. That being well dressed looks good but won’t give you goodness. That having people stare at you doesn’t mean that they really see you.
Real beauty is all around us. Hidden in tiny crevices of rocks. Stretched out above us across the sky at dawn. Glistening inside the rain. Climbing through our minds. Beating in our hearts. And I wish someone would have told me long ago that all this beauty we see is meant to be channeled into greatness. That even the beauty inside of us is there for us to use to transform the world around us. And I wish I would have known that no one is born beautiful. That being beautiful takes a lifetime of work.
I remember when I first saw real beauty. It was at the end of a long, rainy day, in the middle of an agonizingly slow line in a crowded supermarket. She stood at the front of the line with her husband – an elderly couple with a cart full of heavy groceries. They unloaded the milk, the chicken, the piles of produce as the rain began to pour in torrential gusts against the windows in front of us. And that is when the husband reached into his pocket to take out his wallet and looked up at his wife with a mixture of panic and surprise flashing through his watery blue eyes.
“I forgot my wallet,” he said loudly enough for all of us to hear. The young cashier looked exasperated and exhausted. I looked up at the wife’s face, expecting to see anger or at least a flicker of irritation. But she had a serene expression on her face. Like the sky had not just turned dark and stormy. Like she had not just spent the past hour picking out groceries she wouldn’t be able to buy. Like her husband had not disappointed her with his forgetfulness. Instead she smiled as if her husband was her best friend and had just shared a great joke with her.
She apologized to the cashier and to the person behind her on line, and said, “I guess we weren’t meant to buy groceries today.” And she really meant it. You could see it in her eyes as she turned to go.
I think of that woman on the upcoming yahrzeit of our matriarch Rachel because Rachel embodied this kind of beauty. She taught us how to take the strengths inside of us and channel them into this world.
Here are three lessons in real beauty we can learn from our mother Rachel:
1. The Beauty of Kindness. Rachel’s legendary kindness to her sister Leah when she taught her the signs that would allow her to marry Yaakov teaches us how to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. How to want to help them as much as we want to help ourselves. How to go to great lengths to avoid embarrassing another person even if it means giving up our own happiness and comfort. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “You can never do a kindness too soon, for you never know when it will be too late.”
2. The Beauty of Patience. Rachel waited 7years to marry Yaakov and many more years until she was able to have children. She taught us how to keep focused on our goals no matter how distant they may seem. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor E. Frankl
3. The Beauty of Faith. Our Sages tell us that Rachel was buried in Beit Lechem, separate from the rest of the patriarchs and matriarchs who were buried in Chevron, so that she could remain near the borders of Israel, waiting for her children to return home. Rachel Imenu cries for all of us when we are far from who we yearn to be. But her tears are not tears of despair. They hold the faith and essence of a mother’s prayers. A mother who believes in her children’s future. Who knows they will eventually find a way home. Who knows that we will find a way to bring back the beauty she brought into the world so long ago.
I wish I would had known long ago that kindness, patience and living with faith and integrity makes a person beautiful. That standing in a crowded supermarket on a dark winter’s day can be a chance for greatness. And I wish I knew long ago that our mother Rachel is waiting patiently for us, crying as we search for the beauty inside us all and find a way to turn it into infinite light.