The Holy Biblical Scriptures say in Beresheith/Genesis 23 that when Avraham/Abraham lost his wife, Sarah, he purchased the Cave of Machpelah from the Hittites. Over time, this cave has come to be known as follows:
Cave of the Patriarchs
This is what is looks like:
Jews pray in the other sections of the building most of the year, and are only allowed to visit Ohel Yitzchak ten days a year. One of these is the Shabbat of Chayei Sarah, when we read the Torah portion that describes Abraham’s purchase of the Cave. Tens of thousands of visitors converge in Hebron during this weekend to experience this Shabbat together.
The Cave of Machpelah is open to tourists and visitors every day. Many Egged buses (equipped with bulletproof windows) travel every day from all of Israel’s major cities to Kiryat Arba, the adjoining Jewish community. Some continue on to the Jewish area of Hebron and the Cave of Machpelah. If you wish to walk from Kiryat Arba to Hebron, it is advisable to do so only with an armed guard.
A Shabbat stay in Hebron, or the adjoining Jewish community of Kiryat Arba, is a really uplifting and beautiful experience.
The Friday night prayers in the synagogue at the Cave of Machpelah are hauntingly beautiful.
Spending time at this holiest of venues amongst all different types of Jews is truly inspiring.
Genesis 23 Good News Translation (GNT)
Sarah Dies and Abraham Buys a Burial Ground
23 Sarah lived to be 127 years old. 2 She died in Hebron in the land of Canaan, and Abraham mourned her death.
3 He left the place where his wife’s body was lying, went to the Hittites, and said, 4 “I am a foreigner living here among you; sell me some land, so that I can bury my wife.”
5 They answered, 6 “Listen to us, sir. We look upon you as a mighty leader; bury your wife in the best grave that we have. Any of us would be glad to give you a grave, so that you can bury her.”
7 Then Abraham bowed before them 8 and said, “If you are willing to let me bury my wife here, please ask Ephron son of Zohar 9 to sell me Machpelah Cave, which is near the edge of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for its full price, here in your presence, so that I can own it as a burial ground.”
10 Ephron himself was sitting with the other Hittites at the meeting place at the city gate; he answered in the hearing of everyone there, 11 “Listen, sir; I will give you the whole field and the cave that is in it. Here in the presence of my own people, I will give it to you, so that you can bury your wife.”
12 But Abraham bowed before the Hittites 13 and said to Ephron, so that everyone could hear, “May I ask you, please, to listen. I will buy the whole field. Accept my payment, and I will bury my wife there.”
14 Ephron answered,15 “Sir, land worth only four hundred pieces of silver—what is that between us? Bury your wife in it.” 16 Abraham agreed and weighed out the amount that Ephron had mentioned in the hearing of the people—four hundred pieces of silver, according to the standard weights used by the merchants.
17 That is how the property which had belonged to Ephron at Machpelah east of Mamre, became Abraham’s. It included the field, the cave which was in it, and all the trees in the field up to the edge of the property. 18 It was recognized as Abraham’s property by all the Hittites who were there at the meeting.
19 Then Abraham buried his wife Sarah in that cave in the land of Canaan.20 So the field which had belonged to the Hittites, and the cave in it, became the property of Abraham for a burial ground.
Video: Tour of the Cave Machpelah | Located in Hebron, Israel | Beit Tehila
Parshat Chayei Sarah to Attract Masses to Hebron on Shabbat
A picnic-like atmosphere prevails each year as thousands visit the city discussed in the Torah portion.
Every year thousands of people visit Hebron for the annual Shabbat Hebron on the weekend of Parshat Chayei Sarah. The weekly Torah reading of the traditional Jewish synagogue service will be the portion referred to as Chayei Sarah [the Life of Sarah].These chapters include the story of how the Biblical patriarch Abraham purchases the Cave of Machpela to bury his beloved wife. The Torah describes how Abraham insists on paying full price for the cave and the surrounding field despite the generous offer to obtain it for free. (Genesis Chapter 23.)Because of the tie-in with the weekly Torah portion, Hebron is a prime destination for those wishing to be in the city mentioned in the Shabbat reading.Every year the Jewish Community of Hebron prepares for this mass of people with logistics such as food, security, home hospitality. The Hall of Rebecca & Isaac, the largest in the Tomb of Machpela, is open for Jewish services, one of the ten days out of the year that the space is accessible.In the monumental structure built by King Herod the Great some 2,000 years ago, people read about the dramatic purchase of the underground double cave, in the very location described in the Torah.Outside the Herodian edifice, tents cover the grass, like a picnic or festival, with young people camping out and enjoying the atmosphere.Shabbat Hebron became an organized happening in 1994 and has grown over the years.Since then other cities in Israel have followed suit by inviting masses on the Torah parsha in which their town is mentioned.This year Shabbat Hebron will occur on November 25-26, 2016. It will be the first time since 2005 that the Shabbat of Parsha Chayei Sarah will coincide with the American holiday of Thanksgiving. This will not occur again until the year 2027.The Hebron Fund will be organizing a special Chayei Sarah mission for English speaker from abroad. This will include tours and other activities.
Video: Secrets of the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron
“Me’arat Hamachpelah” Facts
(Note that most of the information recorded in The Midrash can actually be found in the Book of Jasher/Upright Man!).
- According to the midrash, Abraham, who was a resident of Hebron, had a supernatural encounter at the site of the Cave of Machpelah. It was after his circumcision, and he was receiving three angels (disguised as humans) as guests. A calf that he wanted to serve them ran away, and while chasing after it, he stumbled onto this cave. He recognized the graves of Adam and Eve. Candles were lit and there was a special fragrance. He saw the entrance to the Garden of Eden.
- No one has ever gone into the Caves of the Patriarchs itself, which lies deep underground. Legend tells that none of those who dared such an attempt ever returned. Only one Jew, Rabbi Abraham Azulai, the kabbalist known as the “Chesedl’Avraham,” is known to have descended into the cave and come out alive. The story took place approximately three hundred years ago. The Turkish Sultan had mistakenly dropped his sword into the Cave. After a number of the Sultan’s soldiers were lowered down to retrieve it, only to die underground, the Sultan ordered the Jewish community to supply a volunteer who would retrieve the sword. If not, they would all be killed. Rabbi Azulai, who was then elderly, solved the dilemma by volunteering to go down himself. When he retrieved the sword successfully, the Jews of Hebron celebrated. The next seven days and nights Rabbi Azulai spent teaching his students kabbalistic secrets. One week after he had been lowered into the Cave, he died and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Hebron.
(The Second Book of Adam and Eve makes it clear that where Adam and Eve were buried was a very holy place and in fact when their descendants sinned greatly at some point in history, Adam’s and Eve’s bodies as well as some of the other descendants bodies who had died after them started shaking a lot and talking and praying in the cave as a cry out to YAH for what was happening to the generations after them. It was not a place where just anybody entered. It was very holy!)
- According to Midrashic sources, when Jacob died, Esau tried to stop Jacob’s sons from burying their father in the Cave of Machpelah. While fleet-footed Naftali ran to Egypt to retrieve the deed to Machpelah in order to prove their ownership, Dan’s deaf-and-dumb son, Hushim, saw the commotion and cut off Esau’s head. It rolled into the cave and came to rest in the bosom of his father Isaac, where it remains buried till today.
SECOND BOOK OF ADAM AND EVE
Confusion in the Cave of Treasures. Miraculous speech of the dead Adam.
THE children of Jared were in the habit of visiting him hour after hour, to receive his blessing and to ask his advice for every thing they did; and when he had a work to do, they did it for him.
2 But this time when they went into the cave they found not Jared, but they found the lamp put out, and the bodies of the fathers thrown about, and voices came from them by the Power Of GOD, that said, “Satan in an apparition has deceived our son, wishing to destroy him, as he destroyed our son Cain.”
3 They said also, “LORD GOD of heaven and earth, deliver our son from the hand of Satan, who wrought a great and false apparition before him,” They also spake of other matters, by the Power of GOD.
4 But when the children of Jared heard these voices they feared, and stood weeping for their father; for they knew not what had befallen him.
5 And they wept for him that day until the setting of the sun.
6 Then came Jared with a woeful countenance, wretched in mind and body, and sorrowful at having been separated from the bodies of his fathers.
7 But as he was drawing near to the cave, his children saw him, and hastened to the cave, and hung upon his neck, crying, and saying to him, “O father, where hast thou been, and why hast thou left us, as thou wast not wont to do?” And again, “O father, when thou didst disappear, the lamp over the bodies of our fathers went out, the bodies were thrown about, and voices came from them.”
8 When Jared heard this he was sorry, and went into the cave; and there found the bodies thrown about, the lamp put out, and the fathers themselves praying for his deliverance from the hand of Satan.
9 Then Jared fell upon the bodies and embraced them, and said, “O my fathers, through your intercession, let GOD deliver me from the hand of Satan! And I beg you will ask GOD to keep me and to bide me from him unto the day of my death.”
10 Then all the voices ceased save the voice of our father Adam, who spake to Jared by the power of GOD, just as one would speak to his fellow, saying, “O Jared, my son, offer gifts to GOD for having delivered thee from the hand of Satan; and when thou bringest those offerings, so be it that thou offerest them on the altar on which I did offer. Then also, beware of Satan; for he deluded me many a time with his apparitions, wishing to destroy me, but GOD delivered me out of his hand.
11 “Command thy people that they be on their guard against him; and never cease to offer up gifts to GOD.”
12 Then the voice of Adam also became silent; and Jared and his children wondered at this. Then they laid the bodies as they were it first; and Jared and his children stood praying the whole of that night, until break of day.
13 Then Jared made an offering and offered it up on the altar, as Adam had commanded him. And as he went up to the altar, he prayed to GOD for mercy and for forgiveness of his sin, concerning the lamp going out.
14 Then GOD appeared unto Jared on the altar and blessed him and his children, and accepted their offerings; and commanded Jared to take of the sacred fire from the altar, and with it to light the lamp that shed light on the body of Adam.