Holy City of the Patriarchs From the Treasures of the Oral Tradition
While the entire Land of Israel is holy to G-d, there are four cities which have always been regarded with special reverence, and these are referred to as the holy cities. These are Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron and Safed.
The Jewish Peoples Special Connection To The Land
One might think that in a discussion of Israels holy places, we would naturally begin by discussing Jerusalem. But in reality, Hebron precedes Jerusalem, for King David reigned there for seven years prior to reigning in Jerusalem. Why was it necessary for King David to be in Hebron before he could reign from Jerusalem? Because Hebron, the oldest Jewish city in the world, is the source of our deepest roots to both the holy land and the faith of Israel... from the very earliest inception of the Jewish people... indeed, Hebron represents the very connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel - thus its name, Hebron, which comes from the Hebrew word meaning both friend and connection. A person is deeply connected to a good friend, an insight conveyed here by the holy Hebrew language... and Hebron is named for Abraham, the special friend of G-d... the man who looked for G-d and found Him in a time of utter G-dlessness and world chaos.
Abraham, Father of the Jewish People: The Friend of G-d
As the prophet Ezekiel states (Ez. 33), Abraham was one- he was unique in all the world. Although he was alone in his worship of G-d, and he alone sought out the Creator of heaven and earth, through his great faith he brought a ray of light and hope to all humanity. In a world of rank paganism and idolatry, a world gone mad, he was the one true servant of the One True G-d. As a result of his great and fervent attachment to G-d, the Holy One caused His Divine presence to rest on Abraham... for the truly righteous themselves become a vehicle for the resting of the Divine Presence. Great and pious men like Abraham do not cease to be ordinary human beings - but because they elevate themselves to such a degree of holiness and sanctity, the result is that their very physical being becomes pure, so pure that the shechina - the Presence of G-d - can shine through them.
Hebron is Synonymous with the Merit of the Forefathers
On page 10 of this issue of THE RESTORATION, we read about the journey made by the 12 spies sent by Moses, and all which this caused. In Numbers 13:22 we find, And they ascended into the Negev (the south side), and came to Hebron...
There they found giants and their descendants, and a huge city built to accommodate such inhabitants. This added to the fears and doubts of 10 of the spies that the Land of Israel could not be conquered. But why did they go specifically to Hebron? The sages of Israel teach us that one of the two spies who remained righteous, Caleb the son of Yefunah, recognized the weakness in the other ten spies and therefore he went to the Maarat Ha-Machpela (the double cave of the patriarchs) in Hebron in order to pray to G-d at that holy site. There, he asked that G-d should grant him strength and courage to resist this weakness, and not to be influenced by the others. Because of this, Caleb (together with Joshua) was able to deliver a positive report. Because of this, he merited to receive the city of Hebron when the Land of Israel was subsequently captured and divided.
Maarat Ha-Machpela - The Double Cave
The famous double cave of Hebron is called so for two reasons: One, because it is actually on two levels, with one cave over another (the building over the caves which can be visited today was originally erected by Herod). The second reason is because of the four pairs who are buried there: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Leah (it will be recalled that Jacobs wife Rachel is buried on the road to Hebron, in Bethlehem).
Genesis 23 tells us that Abraham was very specific about the particular piece of property in which he desired to bury Sarah. He was literally consumed with longing and desire for this land, not only for Sarahs sake, but for all his descendants... but how did he first become aware of the importance of Maarat Ha-Machpela? According to the rabbinical tradition:
Every day Abraham would go out into the field to pray... he saw a great light emanating from this cave, and went inside... The Holy One, Blessed be He, spoke to him. He entered inside and saw that Adam and Eve were hidden there. How did he know it was they? Because he saw that within this cave was the location of the entrance to the Garden of Eden. He saw a great light within, and from this time on, all his desire was towards this cave. He began to yearn that his own eternal resting place should be in this place, and this remained his desire from this time forward. When Abraham entered within, he smelled the fragrance of the Garden of Eden... he saw a candle burning and heard the voices of the ministering angels saying: Adam is buried here, and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are worthy of being buried here.