Friday, December 2, 2016

Traditions Concerning Hebron

Recently Arutz Sheva, a right wing media outlet that caters to national religious Israeli Jews, published an article seeking to justify the presence of Israeli settlers in Hebron, the traditional site of Abraham and Sarah's graves by mentioning various traditions concerning the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. (Arutz Sheva, November 25, 2016.)

One particularly tragic trouble spot in the Holy Land is Hebron. Because the State of Israel acquired Hebron as a result of the Six Day War of 1967 the international community, including the 161 nation states that recognize the State of Israel, view Hebron as occupied territory ruled by, but not a part of, the State of Israel.

Hebron has been partitioned with Israeli settlements built within the city and Hebron being occupied by Israeli soldiers who are there to protect the settlers living in the midst of thousands of Palestinians. In 1977 Israeli settlements were established in the midst of Hebron despite the objections of the Palestinian population and the international community's view of Hebron as occupied territory. Normally Israeli settlements are built away from Palestinian towns but this settlement is built within the city yet kept separate from the surrounding city being guarded by Israeli soldiers.

The settlers are attracted to Hebron because it is the site of a shrine of Abraham and Sarah's graves, the Cave of the Patriarchs. For centuries the shrine had existed as a Muslim mosque until 1994 when a fanatical settler named Baruch Goldstein went on a murderous rampage in it murdering 29 innocent Palestinians. (It was after this massacre that Hamas began to target civilians with suicide bombers thus Goldstein's wicked deeds helped pave the way for so much more violence and suffering.) After this massacre the mosque was partitioned to allow the Israeli settlers to have a presence in the shrine.

Despite the severe problems in Hebron the settlers are still motivated to live in their settlements despite everything.

One tradition asserts that the Cave of the Patriarchs originally contained the graves of Adam and Eve because it had a connection with the Garden of Eden. Another tradition maintains that Jewish souls and prayers proceed through the Cave of the Patriarchs. These traditions were mentioned in a recent Arutz Sheva article justifying the presence of Israeli settlers in Hebron.
The Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer says on this Parsha that Abraham was directed to the Mearat Hamachpelah when the three Angels came to visit him after his circumcision. 
In Parshat Vayera when the Posuk says "Abraham ran to the cattle" for the Angels, it implies he was running after a wayward calf. This calf was apparently found by Abraham in the Mearat Hamachpelah [Cave of the Patriarchs]. At that time Abraham discovered the graves of Adam and Chava [Eve] there and smelled the sweet aroma of Gan Eden [the Garden of Eden]. This is why Abraham was so determined to purchase the Mearat Hamachpelah. 
The Yalkut Reuveni quoting the Zohar HaChodosh says that the Mearat Hamachpelah is the Gateway to Gan Eden. Abraham obviously discovered this and wanted to secure the location for Sarah and his Family. The Megaleh Amukot also quoting the Zohar Hachodosh says that all Jewish Souls who leave this world must first go through the Mearat Hamachpelah-the Doorway to Gan Eden. Adam and Chava are buried in the Mearat Hamachpelah based upon our Kabbalah. 
It is brought down in the Yalkut Reuveni that when Chava died, Adam (who was familiar with the smell) smelled Gan Eden in that "Cave" and buried her there. He started digging in the "cave" to try to reach Gan Eden for the sake of Chava but a Bat Kol [divine voice] told him to stop. Adam's son Seth buried Adam in the Mearat Hamachpelah. The Mearat Hamachpelah is not only a direct gateway to Gan Eden but acts as a "router" for our prayers according to the Megaleh Amukot in the name of the Zohar Hachodosh. Just as Jewish Souls who leave this earth go through the Mearrat Hamachpelah so do our prayers. Gan Eden can be construed to be a "parallel universe". (Arutz Sheva, November 25, 2016.)
May peace soon come to the Hebron and the Holy Land.

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