Friday, November 13, 2009

Hebron-Shabbat Chaye Sarah: The Dream and the Reality

Hebron-Shabbat Chaye Sarah: The Dream and the Reality
November 13, 2009

Sometimes the past and the present really blend together. As right now, the eve of Shabbat Hebron – the Shabbat when we read during the weekly Torah portion about Abraham’s purchase of Ma’arat HaMachpela almost 4,000 years ago.
How so?
A few weeks ago a fascinating explanation about Hebron and Ma’arat HaMachpela come to my attention. Usually when speaking about this site to visitors, I refer to it as the 2nd holiest site to the Jewish people in all the world, second only to Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This is, by all means, the truth. However, in Judaism, there can be defined two different kinds of sanctity. The first is as we find in Jerusalem and in the area of Temple Mount, where the ‘holiness’ has actual significance. For example, the sanctity of Temple Mount is so intense, that there are areas where it is forbidden for people to access. During the days of the first and second Temple, the Kodesh haKodeshim, the holy of holies, was totally off-limits excepting one day of the year, that day being Yom Kippur, and then it was accessible to only one person, that being the “High Priest” – the Cohen HaGadol. And it was known that should he even think impure thoughts while inside the Holy of Holies, he would not exit alive. For that reason, before entering this inner sanctum of the Temple, a rope was tied on to his body, which could be used to pull him out should he die inside.

On the other hand, there is a sanctity such as in Hebron; a holiness that does not have such actual implications, but spiritually can be conveyed of as ‘holy.’

So I thought. However, Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook, wrote differently. In a book titled “Shmuot HaRaiya” he presents the following thought:
He defines two types of holiness or Kedusha; the first being actual and the other, potential. Of course, he goes into some detail explaining these terms and exemplifying them. But the bottom line is quite clear. When HaShem told Abraham to ‘get up and walk the land, the length and width of it, Abraham quickly makes his way to Hebron, because here was revealed the potential holiness of Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Kook says, “Eretz Yisrael was not sanctified ‘in potential’ except by the bodies of the Forefathers and their burial, and by interring Sarah in the beginning in Eretz Yisrael, the potential sanctity was established and this holiness established the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael for eternity.”  Of course, the ‘actual’ sanctity is developed and found in Jerusalem at the site of Beit HaMikdash, the Temple.

This is why David began his reign in Hebron, for seven and a half years,  first to immerse himself in the roots of the potential Kedusha, prior to actualizing this holiness in Jerusalem.
Rav Kook’s principle student, Rav Yaakov Moshe Harlap, in the first chapter of his classic work Maayanie HaYishua, writes that the value of the expectation of salvation (potential) is greater that the (actual) salvation itself because the expectation, in potential, is never-ending, whereas the actual salvation itself, at each stage, is limited.

In other words, the holiness of Hebron is real, and no less significant than that of Jerusalem. We know that these two cities are intrinsically bonded. Temple Mount was declared off-limits in 1267 by Marmaluk emperor Bibers, as was Ma’arat HaMachpela, by the same person at the same time.

In 1929 we lost Hebron. In 1948 we lost the old city of Jerusalem and with that, access to the Wall. In June, 1967 we liberated Jerusalem and the next day, Hebron. Hebron was divided in 1997; ever since, Israeli Prime Ministers have offered to divide Jerusalem. Only by the grace of G-d has this been prevented.

How does this fit into today’s reality?

Next Saturday night Hebron’s United States organization, the Hebron Fund, will hold its annual dinner reception in New York. This year, as a change of pace, rather than conduct the event at  a Manhattan hotel, the dinner will be hosted at Citi Stadium in Queens, new home of baseball’s New York Mets. A week or so ago a group of left wing American organizations, led by Adalah-New York, an Arab-loving, Israel-hating organization, began a campaign to have the Mets cancel the Hebron event at their stadium.

Who is Adalah? According to its web site, they are the “Coalition for Justice in the Middle East” They “began organizing actions in response to the escalation of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip at the end of June and the subsequent Israeli war on Lebanon in July 2006. Adalah-NY has carried out numerous street protests and educational forums focusing on Israel's assault on Gaza and war against Lebanon, the US' threatened attack on Iran, …It is a grassroots strategic alliance of concerned organizations and individuals in New York, formed to demand an immediate, unconditional, and permanent end to U.S. and U.S.-sponsored Israeli aggression in the Middle East. In response to the continuing injustices committed by the U.S. and Israel, which constitute gross violations of international law, Adalah-NY stands with the people of the Middle East in their demands for justice, equality, democracy, and respect for human rights.”

Together with Gush Shalom in Israel, Jews against occupation in the US, and other rabidly anti Israel groups, Adalah New York   and others are making a major effort to prevent Hebron’s annual event next week. But they have failed. The Mets have heroically decided not to bow to these racist demands to cancel Hebron’s dinner.

What does this have to do with all the above-related material? Why are these groups so anti Hebron? Why do they classify Hebron’s Jewish population as being almost synonymous with monsters? Very simply, they can sense the Keddusha, the sanctity that emanates from this holy city.  They know that the key to all of Eretz Yisrael lies with the roots, site where it all started, where the potential for continuous Jewish settlement in all of Israel is never-ending, somehow understanding that the path to Jerusalem runs through Hebron.

A Cohen, a priest in the Temple would, early every morning, climb high and look south. His compatriots would ask, has the sun yet risen, even as far away as in Hebron? If he answered affirmatively, the day’s activities could commence. However, if not, they had to wait. In other words, if it is dark in Hebron, it is dark in Jerusalem. If it is light in Hebron, it is light in Jerusalem. And the light shining forth from Jerusalem, radiates throughout the entire world. And should G-d forbid, it should be ‘dark’ in Jerusalem, that darkness permeates throughout all of mankind.

It is those forces of evil, those forces of darkness, who so desire to extinguish the lights of Hebron and the lights of Jerusalem and the lights shining throughout the world. But it is not to be. From the month preceding Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, through the month and a half holiday season, over 150,000 people flocked to Hebron. Tomorrow we expect to host some 25,000 people in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, coming to participate in reading how Abraham paid 400 silver shekels (today valued at $750,000!) for the Caves of Machpela from Efron the Hittite, where it happened, almost 4,000 years ago. Each and every one of these people is another light, a flame emitting a beam of eternity, embodying the potential holiness that begin with Sarah’s burial, some four millennium ago.

That potential still exists today, and is being actualized by the continued flow of Jews to Israel, to Jerusalem, to Hebron, and throughout the rest of the Land. This is our potential; this is our actuality. This is our dream, and this is our reality. Happy Shabbat Hebron.

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