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Matriarchs, The


The four "mothers" (arba immahot) of Jewish liturgy. In the Bible, *Sarah, *Rebekah, *Leah, and *Rachel are, somewhat asymmetrically, the wives of the three *patriarchs, *Abraham, *Isaac, and *Jacob. All except Rachel were buried in the Cave of Machpelah. Sarah is to be the mother of nations and kings (Gen. 17: 15–16), while Rebekah is to produce myriad offspring who will seize the city gates of the foe (Gen. 24:60). The matriarchs played significant roles in the Genesis story, especially to insure the succession of their sons to the divine promise first given to Abraham. Sarah insists on the expulsion of Hagar in order to eliminate Ishmael as a rival claimant to Isaac (Gen. 21:10). Rebekah initiates Jacob's deception of Isaac so as to ensure that Jacob receive the birthright (Gen. 27). In Jewish tradition, the names of the matriarchs are specifically mentioned in the Mi-she-berakh prayer after the birth of a child and in the parental blessing of a daughter on the eve of Sabbath. However they are not named in other Orthodox liturgy. In recent times, under the influence of feminism, they are mentioned in prayers alongside the patriarchs in many non-Orthodox liturgies. Jacob's lesser wives Bilhah and Zilpah have not yet attained matriarchal status even among the heterodox.

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