The rabbis say that when a wife dies, God forbid, ein ishah metah ella l’va’alah – “she dies only for her husband” (Sanh. 22b).
They know full well, and need no reminding, that her death affects the whole family, not only her husband, but it is he with whom her soul had been most deeply bound up (Gen. 2:24 calls them basar echad – “one person”).
Jacob and Rachel are symbolic of the Jewish people; when one Jew suffers, every other Jew is in pain.
This is why we Jews all still hurt from the Holocaust. Outsiders may say impatiently, “Can’t you move on? Why are you still so obsessed with these old events?” We *have* moved on; we have picked up the pieces and re-established Jewish life. But the pain is still there. It is our pain, not theirs.
Only a part of us can laugh and sing and be normal; deep down we are still crying.