Posted on December 8, 2022

By Hazzan Jacob Sandler.


In search of inspiration for this week’s Thursday Thought I turned to our very own Rabbi Emeritus Vernon Kurtz’s book Encountering Torah. One of the reflections in this collection is entitled “Deborah’s Legacy” that brought to my attention an obscure line toward the end of our parsha I hadn’t noticed before.

“Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and was buried under the oak below Bethel; so it was named Allon-bacuth. [‘the oak of weeping’]” (Gen 35:8). 

How did Deborah end up with Jacob and the rest? Rashi notes that Rebecca promised Jacob “I will fetch you from there [Laban’s house]” (Gen. 27:45). Still is this the same nurse that went with Rebecca and Abraham’s servant Eliezer all those years ago? Maybe, maybe not. Rabbi Kurtz shared an opinion from Genesis Rabbah 81:5 that “while Jacob was mourning Deborah, he received the news that Rebecca had also passed away.” Rebecca’s death is never explicitly mentioned in the Torah. This may be why the site of Deborah’s burial is called Allon-bacuth — plural of weeping because of the two losses in the family. If you’re interested in what else Rabbi Kurtz wrote, you should check out the book.

What happens next I find especially moving. “God appeared again to Jacob on his arrival from Paddan-aram. And God blessed him.” (Gen 35:9) According to Rav Acha in the name of Rabbi Yonatan, God blessed Jacob with the blessing of consolation addressed to mourners. (Genesis Rabbah 81:5). Just as God comforts mourners, so too should we comfort mourners. This is one of the examples of how we ‘walk in God’s ways.’