Hevron – “Meaz Uletamid”
“And Avraham bowed himself down before the people of the land. And he spoke to Efron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, But if you will give it, I pray of you hear me: I will give you the price of the field: take it of me, and I will bury my dead there….. And Avraham accepted Efron’s request …… four hundred shekels of silver.” Bereishit Chapter 23 Verses 12 – 16)
“And the field of Efron which was in Machpela, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made over to Avraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Chet, before all that went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Avraham buried Sara his wife in the cave of the field of Machpela before Mamre: the same is Hevron in the land of Canaan. And the field, and the cave that is in it, were made over to Avraham for a possession of a burying place by the sons of Chet.” (Bereishit Chapter 23 Verses 17 – 20)
“…..And David said (to Arvana the Yevusi), (I have come) to buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the L-rd that the plague may be stayed from the people. And Arvana said to David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him: behold, here are oxen for the burnt offering, and threshing instruments and other equipment of the oxen for wood….. (Yet David replied) No; but I will surely buy it from you at a price….. So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.”
(Shmuel Bet Chapter 24 Verses 21 – 25)
“The appointed Kohen said to his fellow Kohanim: go and see if the time has arrived to begin the offering up of the morning sacrifice…. Matitya the son of Shmuel said: The man at the outpost was asked, has dawn broken on the eastern horizon until Hevron and the man at the outpost affirmed.”
(Massechet Yoma Chapter 3 Mishna 1)
Why was the beginning of the morning sacrifice dependant specifically on the breaking of dawn in Hevron? Surely the Mishna is implying an inherent connection between the Bet Mikdash and Hevron?
I would like to consider that connection, the connection between two of the holiest sites that rightfully belong to the Jewish people. Two sites that were paid for by Avraham and David respectively, bought with good money despite the offers of their respective owners to give the land away for free.
Hevron is the burial place of our patriarchs and matriarchs – Avraham and Sara, Yitzchak and Rivka, Yaakov and Leah (Rachel as we know was buried in Bet Lechem); it is also, according to tradition, the burial place of Adam and Chava.
Hevron is not only one of the holiest Jewish Cities in Israel, and therefore in the world, it is also the city that represents the grass roots of our religion and of our people, it is a fundamental part of who we are.
Avraham and Sara represent everything there is to represent regarding gemilut chasadim – loving kindness. From the moment that we are introduced to our ‘founding father’, we see a man who is only worried about his fellow human beings.
Avraham is a man who on the one hand will leave everything that is important to him – his country, his homeland and even the house of his father, in order to fulfill the commandment of Hashem. Avraham is an individual who will willingly sacrifice his own flesh and blood at the command of the Almighty. Yet, on the other hand that very same Avraham will ‘negotiate’ with the Creator of the universe in order to try and salvage the inhabitants of Sodom and Amorrah. Avraham, at least according to one view in Rashi, will readily leave the Almighty waiting in the middle of a dialogue, in order to welcome in guests. Though ailing from circumcision at the age of ninety-nine, he will run towards potential visitors who are showing hesitancy as to whether or not to disturb him during his convalescence.
Is it not remarkable that the founder of monotheism, the perpetrator of the Akeida, is known throughout the Jewish world, not for his excellence in the study and practice of theology, but for his loving kindness – chesed leAvraham. Is this not a statement of worth to every living Jew as to exactly what the fundamentals of our wonderful religion are all about?
If our first patriarch is renowned for his chesed, then our second patriarch, Yitzchak is known for his gevura, for his fear and service of the Almighty. Yitzchak, according to Chazal never left the holiness of the Land of Israel, the perfect burnt offering, the son who (according to Rashi) at the age of thirty seven was completely willing to give of his life if that was the wish of the Creator. Yitzhak who was indeed righteous, the son of a righteous man – went out to speak in the field, to meditate, to commune with the Ribbono Shel Olam; Yitzchak the prototype of Avodat Hashem – service of the L-rd.
And as the Rebbe from Slonim remarks so beautifully; when you bind (akeida) the chesed (ahava) of Avraham Avinu together with the avodat Hashem (yira) of Yitzchak his son, you will inevitably arrive at emet – at truth; you will undoubtedly reach our third patriarch Yaakov – father of the tribes of Israel.
Yaakov, a pure man who dwells in tents, whose dedication to the Torah way of life enables him to survive over twenty years with the unscrupulous and scheming Lavan. Yaakov is the father of the children of Israel – from Yaakov our nation finally emanates. Yaakov is tested time and again until his truth is refined and he becomes Yisrael. Yaakov represents Torah (emet). There is no other truth to this world asides the truth of our holy Torah – the manual of the world written and provided by the Almighty G-d Himself.
Thus, our three patriarchs, Avraham Yitzchak and Yaakov represent the three fundamental values of Gemilut chasadim (loving kindness), Avodah (service of G-d), and Torah (ultimate truth).
The order is essential; it is only through chesed and kindness that one can reach the Almighty G-d. There can surely be no real dialogue with the intangible Creator of the universe, if we are unable to hold dialogue with our very tangible brethren of flesh and blood here on this earth? And surely it is only when we combine that chesed with true dialogue with the Almighty, only then can we reach the real truth that is laid before us in our holy Torah.
At this stage some would ask but what of the matriarchs, what were the virtues of our matriarchs? Yet to this I would reply that the essence of Avraham was Sara, the essence of Yitzchak was Rivka, and the essence of Yaakov was Rachel and Leah. Only the yet to be married youngsters see the matriarchs and patriarchs as separate entities. The longer that one is married the more one understands how husband and wife, two people who started off as independent individuals, will slowly, in the goodness of time, and with much effort and goodwill, forge together to be as one in every way. As the years pass, the two young single individuals who nervously entered the canopy so many years ago separately; will in time become one. Those souls, who began together in Heaven all those years ago, will eventually merge together once again here on earth.
And so it is not apologetics, it is in fact reality for all of us who are honest enough to admit it – Avraham and Sara as one represent chesed, Yitzchak and Rivka represent avodah, and Yaakov together with Rachel and Leah represent Torah.
The second Mishna in the first Chapter of Pirkei Avot, informs us of the wise statement of Shimon the Tzaddik:
“Upon three things does the world stand Torah Avodah and Gemilut Chassadim.”
The fundamentals of this world are in fact those very same fundamentals represented by our forefathers. So indeed is it not apt to say the least, that according to tradition, buried together with our patriarchs and matriarchs in Hevron are Adam and Chava the first human beings to exist in the world.
Can we not therefore suggest that Hevron and all that it represents is a real translation of that most famous mishna in Avot as quoted above:
Upon three things does the world stand Torah Avodah and Gemillut Chassadim. The world stands – creation of the world represented by Adam and Chava, only because of three things:
Torah – Yaakov and Leah;
Avodah – Yitzcahk and Rivka
Gemillut chasadim – Avraham and Sara
Hevron, was and always will represent the starting point of the Jewish people. We cannot move an iota, without the principles represented by Hevron. In fact it is interesting to note that in his most magnificent commentary to Pirkei avot, Maharal explains that these three principles of Torah, Avodah, and Gemilut chasadim, are so essential to our existence, that if one were ever required to ultimately erase one of these principles, better die than transgress.
We are informed by our Rabbis that even though in Judaism life has immense value, there are three cardinal sins that we may never transgress: murder, sexual promiscuity, and idolatry.
Maharal, notes masterfully that these three cardinal sins run in absolute parallel to the three fundamental principles of our mishna in Avot.
Torah – the striving for excellence in our spiritual realm as opposed to immorality and promiscuity, the reality of being a slave to ones animal desires.
Avodah – the pure service of the Almighty G-d as opposed to the worship of gold silver and stone.
Gemilut chasadim – the reality of absolute giving as opposed to the absolute taking of murder.
Thus, if one were required to perform one of these cardinal sins, one would be, to all intents and purposes, negating the essence of this world. Halacha therefore requires of us the ultimate sacrifice, die rather than transgress.
Having conclusively illustrated everything that Hevron represents, are we in any way surprised to see that before beginning the avodah in the Bet Hamikdash, the guard at the outpost would look to Hevron? Our service of G-d stems from Hevron, our existence as a people is defined by Hevron. It is surely of no coincidence that before David king of Israel reigned in Yerushalayim, he firstly reigned for seven years in Hevron.
Hevron and Har Habayit are so fundamentally important to our people that Divine providence saw to it that these two places specifically of all the holy places in our wonderful land were bought by our forefathers. There can be no dispute whatsoever as to who has the true legal claims to Hevron and Har Habayit. It is surely of no coincidence that these two holy cities are at the core of our long term plight to live in peace in our land. Our enemies know only to well that if one were to cut off the roots of a tree, that tree will surely die.
Our battle for Hevron is not simply about the past, about an emotive connection to days gone by. Our battle for Hevron is about the past that leads to the future. We must never discard the past; we must draw from our roots so that we can blossom even more.
The Rambam in a letter to R’Yaffet HaDayan describing his visit to Har HaBayit and to Hevron writes as follows:
“On Tuesday the 4th of Marcheshvan, we left Acco on our journey towards Yerushalayim, and I entered the area of Har HaBayit on Thursday the 6th of Marcheshvan. On Sunday the 9th, I left Yerushalayim for Hevron to kiss the graves of my fathers. On that very same day, I stood and prayed there. And those two days – the 6th and 9th of Marcheshvan, I vowed, would be for me festivals, days of simcha and prayer to the Almighty.”
I cannot help but shake with emotion as I conclude.
If the Rambam, who visited Hevron and Yerushalayim, praying in our holiest places, then went on to celebrate those special days as chagim for the rest of his life. I cannot imagine how the very same Rambam would have celebrated the wonderful reality that we are honored to live today.
On this parasha of Chayai Sara, let us remember Hevron, visit Hevron, reflect on the fundamental principles represented by Hevron, and let us look forward to the day, when the guard at the outpost on Har Habayit will once again inform the Kohanim that dawn has broken in Hevron.