Two days have passed since the ceasefire in Gaza took effect, and one of the most widespread legends of the days on the battlefield has received rabbinical approval. On the last days of the war, rumors spread about a woman presenting herself as Jewish matriarch Rachel appearing to IDF soldiers and warning them of explosives, booby-trapped houses and terrorist ambushes within the Gaza Strip.
Former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who is considered one of most prominent religious leaders in Israel, recently prayed several times at Rachel's Tomb for the safety of the troops. When asked about the rumor, the rabbi said, "The story is true. I sent her."
Due to his illness, the rabbi has not been giving his weekly sermon in recent months, but has been replaced by his son, Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu. In Monday's sermon Rabbi Eliyahu junior commented on the rumor, saying, "If I hadn't heard this story with my own ears, I wouldn't be able to tell it, but I met the head of a Yeshiva who told me, 'This is not a fabricated story. I know the man this happened to'.
"He gave me the man's name, and then asked, 'Say, does this have anything to do with the fact that Rabbi Eliyahu left the hospital and went to Rachel's Tomb before the war? He went there once, twice, three times, and didn't go anywhere else'.
"To be honest, I was afraid to ask the rabbi," Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu continued. "When we go to him with such stories, he always throws us out, so I approached him with caution. I told him, 'Father, you know, they are saying such and such happened in the war. Should we believe? Should we not? Is it true? Is it a lie?'
"He looked and me and said, 'Yes, it is true. I told her, I told Rachel there is a war, don't stop yourself from crying, go before the Holy one blessed be He, pray for the soldiers that dedicate their souls for the people of Israel, that they may strike and not be stricken.'
"I said to him, 'Then you should know that she really did appear there," and he asked, 'Did she tell them that I sent her?' This story that I am telling you is fresh and hot!"
Rabbi Aviner: These things need proof
Despite the craza caused by the rumors, there are some who are not so quick to believe the story. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner commented on the legend in his video blog saying, "On such matters they say, 'A sucker will believe anything'."
According to Aviner, Rachel is with the Jewish people at all times, and there is no need for any evidence to show that she revealed herself to anyone personally.
"There are two types of extremism," Aviner continued, "One type of extremism is to deny miracles, and another type of extremism is to believe when anyone tells you about a miracle that there really was one.
"We may have been imagining. Sometimes a person imagines things, a sane person. Sometimes one is under pressure, tired, hungry, and thinks he sees something that isn't there, and later fosters it in his memory. This is called FMS – false memory syndrome."
"It may have been a gentile woman. There are also good Arab women – not all of them are, but there are some. And maybe someone dreamed up this idea to strengthen faith, and to say, 'you see? There are people that go to war and there are people that don't go to war but they pray, and because of them, Rachel came to save us.' That's why such things need proof."
Aviner summed up his speech saying, "There were soldiers that fell in battle and Rachel was not there.
"There were also soldiers who won battles due to their great dedication and wisdom, and courageousness to fight, and Rachel was not there, meaning, Rachel was not there in the image of a woman guiding them and telling them go this way, go that way, shoot from here, shoot from there."