Kever Rachel in Tiberias is a real holy site

Along the side of the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias, there are several memorial tombs of famous and saintly rabbis; plus one memorial tomb of a famous and saintly rebbetzin: Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph the convert.

One tomb is Kever Rambam, the tomb of Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) of whom it was said, and is inscribed in large letters opposite his tomb; that from Moses to Moses (Ben Maimon) there was no one like Moses (Maimonides).

Kever Rachel, the memorial tomb of Rachel, the wife of Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph the convert, is slightly larger in size then Kever Rambam, and there are several inscriptions in both Hebrew and English, that relate the pious activities or this righteous and influential woman.

Rachel was the daughter of a very wealthy Jew who in addition to lots of money, also had lots of yihus — status. Yet Rachel defied her father’s will, and agreed to marry a poor, ignorant, illiterate, son of a convert to Judaism, named Akiba ben Joseph the convert, when he promised her that he would overcome his ignorance and study Torah for the rest of his life.

This is why Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph the convert, and his wife Rachel frequently taught his disciples: “Husband and wife: if they are worthy, Shekheenah abides between them; if not, fire consumes them.” (Talmud: Sotah 17a)

Most people erroneously think, that the biblical account of God building a woman from Adam’s side means literally from Adam’s rib. But the word mistranslated as rib in the Greek Septuagint, actually means side (for example Ezekiel 41:5,11 or Exodus 26:26, 27, 35).

Built seems to be a strange term to use, but the Hebrew word for side appears mostly (40 times) in the context of building a sacred structure. A wall or a corner, with only one side does not exist. A one-sided building cannot shelter anyone. An Adam with only one side is only half a man.

Thus the Torah concludes, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

Two sides become one whole. Two sides can stand together. Which side became the woman’s side? Probably the right side because Psalm 45:10 says, “A royal consort stands at your right side” This is why the bride stands at the grooms right side in a Jewish wedding ceremony.

The “royal consort” woman built by God is described as an “ezer k’negdo” — a helper corresponding to or equal to him, i.e., a partner or a teammate. The right side does not differ greatly from the left side in bilateral creatures; but the two different sides of the human brain are complimentary psychologically, so perhaps she is the ‘inside’ and he is the ‘outside.’

This would symbolize a greater difference. Good partners bring different abilities and talents together. Thus, as partners, one plus one is greater than two. Even a skeptic like Kohelet declares, “If two lie side by side, they keep each other warm; but how can one keep warm alone?”(Ecclesiastes 4:11)

This is why God says, “ It is not good for a male to dwell alone. I will provide a helpmate partner for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

Genesis 2:18 says God made an ezer k’negdo for Adam (a Hebrew phrase meaning a helpmate opposite or against him); but the word ezer connotes strength and is usually used in reference to God’s power to help (Psalms 33:20, 70:6, 115:9 and 146:5); so a better understanding of the term is that God created woman as a gift for mankind; she is to be a helpful force advising, guiding and when needed, restraining or chastising her partner.

Thus the rabbis taught that the term ezer k’negdo was used to teach all males that when her husband was right, his wife would be there to support him with her strength…. and when her husband was wrong, she would be there with her strength, to oppose or restrain him.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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