By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
Although the date traditionally observed as the Yartzeit for Rachel Imenu is the eleventh of Cheshvan, the accuracy of this date is far from unanimous within historical texts. The primary source for observing the eleventh of Cheshvan as the Yartzeit is a Midrash which lists the dates that each of the founding fathers of the twelve tribes were to have been born on. It states there that Benjamin was born on the eleventh of Cheshvan. The Book of Jubilees also confirms that Benjamin was born of the 11th of Cheshvan. As the Torah records that Rachel died as she gave birth to Benjamin, we can derive from here that this day would be her Yartzeit as well.
Nevertheless it appears from no less an authority than Rashi that Rachel’s passing took place at the start of the summer, a view which is supported by others as well. Yet other sources contend that Rachel actually died between Pesach and Shavuot.
Along with so many other issues in Judaism, there are often a multitude of opinions and traditions, and this is no exception. Even the Yartzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, traditionally observed on the 7th of Adar is disputed with eminent authorities insisting that his Yartzeit is to be observed on the 7th of Shevat. Nonetheless, there exists a concept within Torah thought that it is a Divine sign of legitimacy when ambiguous matters have been mainstreamed by the entire nation.
Some commentators suggest an additional reason as to why Rachel was buried in a separate location away from the other Patriarchs and Matriarchs. While prayer at Ma’arat Hamachpela is certainly meritorious and worthy of Divine favor, some suggest that prayer at the tomb of Rachel is even more powerful. Indeed, it is only Rachel that in addition to her righteousness also has the tremendous merit to her credit for having saved her sister from embarrassment. It is owing to her concern about her sister’s dignity over her own that God specifically shows Divine mercy to those who pray there. Had she been buried along with everyone else we may not have been able to access her unique and independent potential.
Concerning the accuracy of the site traditionally assumed to be that of Rachel’s Tomb, see: http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/parsha65/12-65vayechi.htm, by Rabbi Yakov Medan where an alternative site is suggested as well.
For a deeper look into the issue of the accuracy of Rachel’s Tomb see these Hebrew articles by Dr. Yoel Elitzur: http://www.Daat.ac.il/Daat/tanac…el/ elitzur1.htm, http://www.Daat.ac.il/Daat/tanac…el/ elitzur2.htm,and
 Yalkut Shemoni;Shemot, Rabbeinu Bechaya;Shemot
 Jubilees 32:33
 Bereishit 35:16
 Siftei Chachamim ad. loc.
 Pesikta 3 s.v. Bayom Hashemini
 Cited in Meorot Natan;Hilchot Chanuka by Rabbi Yitzchak Natan Kupershtok, in the introduction.
 Magen Avraham O.C. 580:8 in the name of the Yalkut Shimoni. Further study is required to understand why the Yalkut is relied upon as the date observed for Rachel’s Yartzeit, yet its registration of the Yartzeit for Moshe Rabbeinu has been rejected.
 See for example, Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 345:18 for a similar idea
 A “must read” Midrash about Rachel’s merits is to be found in Eicha Rabba in the introduction.