Ma'arat HaMachpela: The Roots of the Jewish People
by David Wilder
The Jewish Community of
Erev Parshat Chaye Sarah
The Torah teaches us that Avraham, sitting outside his tent following his brit milah, seeing three men approaching, ran to fix them a meal. When he entered the sheep pen to prepare fresh meat, a calf ran away. As Avraham chased the calf, the animal suddenly disappeared. Continuing to search, Avraham saw a cave in the distance and approached, thinking that perhaps the calf had run inside. Arriving at the cave and peering in, Avraham saw a bright light glowing, from deep within. Entering to investigate, walking deeper and deeper into the cave, Avraham discovered the tombs of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman. He also smelled fragrances from the Garden of Eden.
How did Adam and Eve arrive at this site? It is written that following their exile from the Garden of Eden they wished to return, but they had no idea where it was. They searched and searched until they reached a point where they could smell the exquisite fragrances of that unique place. There, the first man began digging and dug a cave within a cave, until a voice from the heavens forbade him to dig further. There he buried his wife Eve, and later he too was interred there (Zohar).
Realizing the sanctity of the site, Avraham left the cave, desiring to purchase it. According to the Midrash (Pirkei d’Rebbi Eliezer) he approached the Jebusites and requested to purchase from them the cave. (The Midrash specifies that the Jebusites and the Hittities were both from the same tribe, Paleshet.) They answered Avraham, “We know that your future offspring will try to conquer our home city (
Avraham agreed and signed a contract which was hung on statues outside the gates of
Did Avraham really agree to relinquish
Where is a connection between
Very likely the merit by which Avraham earned discovery of Ma’arat HaMachpela is due to his desire and willingness to fulfill the positive precept of ‘’hachnasat orchim,” hosting guests,, despite the very hot weather and the pain he experienced three days after his Brit Milah. This reflects Avraham’s primary trait, that of ‘chesed’ or total, unrelenting loving-kindness.
Where did Avraham learn the trait of chesed? It would seem, from HaShem, from G-d Himself. In our prayers, which we repeat three times daily, we say, “the great, strong, awesome G-d, the supreme G-d.” What would we expect to follow? Perhaps, the G-d who created heavens and earth, or who created man? No. We continue, “[G-d] who practices fine chesed and remembers the chesed of the Forefathers. This is what Avraham learned from HaShem. And this is the pillar of Ma’arat HaMachpela – chesed.
This is Avraham’s primary trait, that of chesed, as it is written, ‘He bestowed chesed to Avraham.’ Why especially to Avraham? It is written, “A world of chesed will be created.” In other words, creation of the world was dependant on total chesed, without any restrictions. Later, rules were established and the chesed was limited, borders were implemented. (So it is that Yitzhak’s trait is ‘gevurah,’ which represents the ability to live with restrictions, an enclosing, an implementation of constraints, and the opposite of chesed.)
Why was Avraham’s trait chesed? His existence in the world and his revelation of one G-d was as the re-creation of the world anew, the seeds of the birth of Am Yisrael, a time necessitating total chesed, as was during the time of Adam and Eve. And so it was that Avraham was merited to be the first person to discover their final resting place, the entrance to the Garden of Eden.
There are different levels of revelation and of recognizing HaShem. There is a superficial recognition but also a deeper appreciation.
Of course, each site has levels within levels. Beit HaMikdash has a section called Kodesh, Holy and a more restricted area called Kodesh HaKodeshim, the Holy of Holies. Ma’arat HaMachpela has two caves, an outer cave and an inner cave.
Why then is the supreme holiness in
With that it should be noted that the final goal, the full redemption, is return to the era of the Garden of Eden before man’s original sin.
All may view that which is revealed but revelation of the hidden is dependant on G-d, on His chesed, His willingness to allow entrance into ‘the arena of the hidden’ In other words, Avraham’s discovery of Ma’arat HaMachpela is an example of how chesed begets chesed (i.e., an example of ‘mida k’neged mida’ – an attribute begets an atttibute).
We know of four couples buried at Ma’arat HaMachpela: Adam and Eve, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rivka, Ya’akov and Lea.
However, it is written that there are actually five couples buried at Ma’arat HaMachpela, three ‘revealed’ and two ‘hidden.’ The ‘revealed’ three are the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The ‘hidden’ are Adam and Eve and Moshe (Moses) and Tzipporah (attributed to Sefer HaTemunah in the name of R’ Nechunia HaKana and R’ Yishmael Kohen Gadol).
What is Moshe’s connection to Ma’arat HaMachpela? The Torah writes that Moshe was very humble; he was most humble of all men. Humility is a trait reflecting selflessness and concealment. Moshe brought Torah to the people of
In the Torah it is written (in Hebrew) Ma’arat Sde HaMachpela (the cave in the field of Machpela.) The initials of these three words, (in Hebrew) Mem, Shin and Hay, combine to spell Moshe.
With blessings from