Updated: Sep 8
The Me’arat HaMachpelah (“double-floored cave”) occupies a
very special place in Jewish tradition. It’s been the center of
pilgrimages for Jews and non-Jews since the children of Israel settled
in the Holy Land. The Cave itself is smaller than it appears from the
outside. The stone building we have today was actually built King
Herod about 200 years before the destruction of the Second Holy
The first account of someone having prayed there is when the
12 spies were sent to scout the Land of Canaan. Calev foresaw the
evil plans of his fellow spies (except for Joshua) and prayed there to
be saved. And our sages teach that there are 4 holy couples buried
there: Adam and Eve, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzhak and Rivka, and
Yaakov and Leah.
Knowing that holy people in their graves act as a conduit for
prayers to ascend much more quickly, we can readily understand a
bit better the power of the Me’arat HaMachpelah.
But there’s much more. The cave occupies a very important
place in Kabbalistic teachings because it’s a passageway to Garden of
Eden according to Yalkut Reuveni citing the Zohar Chadash.
Moreover, as we explained in the article “What are Gilgulim all
about”, there are 4 foundational elements: Earth, Wind, Water and
Fire. Each of these correspond to one of the holy cities in Israel.
Jerusalem is Fire, Tveria is Water, Tzfat is Wind and Hevron is Earth
because it has the Me’arat Hamachpela, each of these are very
powerful spiritual conduits for meditation and prayer.
The Me’arat HaMachpelah also represents the attribute of
Kingship (Malkhut) in Kabbalistic literature and is associated with
the Divine Name of B’an (Beit + Nun, Gematria = 52). This name is a
Milui (filling) of the name YHVH and has 4 “double” letters
(הה|וו|הה|יוד) corresponding to the 4 holy couples buried there. Note
that the Yod is written י (10) = ו (6) + ד (4), which means that its first
letter is equal to the sum of the two that follows it.
We find in the Midrash Talpiot that it used to be that anyone
going inside the Me’arat HaMachpelah would be burned alive. This
happened until Avraham Avinu bought the cave from Efron. This is
because there’s a Midrash that says that the Me’arat HaMachpelah is
connected to the higher worlds and, in fact, every soul traverses
there from the underground to reach its destiny after death. This is
what the Megale Amukot revealed to us.
The Zohar explains that Efron was actually the Ministering
Angel of Earth and a powerful Klipah (Shell, from the Evil Side). Had
he known what the cave represented, he would never have sold it to
A very famous story is told about the Kabbalist Rabbi Avraham
Azulai (great grandfather of the Chida). He was called the “Chessed
L’Avraham” after his deep work which teaches about many occult
secrets of life after death, spirits and so on.
Once some 300 years ago, the Turkish sultan that ruled
Jerusalem at that time went to the Me’arat HaMachpelah with his
entourage. He accidentaly dropped his sword in the hole leading to
the lower caves. Saddened by his loss, he lowered a few of his guards,
one by one, each one tied by the waist to try to retrieve it. And, each
of the attempts ended with horrible screams and their dead bodies
being carried back.
Following the suggestion of one of the guards, the sultan
decreed that the Jews should bring someone to retrieve his sword or
be put to death. Fearing the worst, the Jews prayed and fasted for
many days until the Chessed L’Avraham volunteered to do down and
bring the sword up. Legend says that he met the holy forefathers,
Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov there and, after 7 days he passed away.
But guess what? Very few people know that there’s one more
person buried in there!
There’s a Gemara in Sotah 13 which states that when Yaakov
Avinu was about to be buried in the Mearat HaMachpelah, Esav
appeared and claimed that he sold only his birthright, but not the
right to be buried there along with this forefathers!
A fierce discussion ensued. During the commotion, the 12
brothers present sent Naftali to run to Egypt and get the deed of sale
that stated that the last place in the cave, in fact belonged to Yaakov.
Meanwhile, Chushim, who was Dan’s only child was wondering what
the discussion was all about. He was death, and not particularly
strong. When the brothers explained to him what was happened the
exclaimed “We are disgracing our holy father, delaying his funeral,
because of this rasha (Esav)?!”.
Immediately, Chushim took a club on his hands and hammered
Esav’s head, cutting it off. The head rolled down to the hole where
Yitzhak Avinu was buried.
From this little story, many of the Rabbi’s learn that just as
Chushim didn’t engage in discussions with Esav, so too we should
engage in discussions with the Yetzer HaRah (Evil Inclination). Only
one who shuns his arguments and refuses to listen to them can beat
him. And so, Chushim was blessed to have have one of the biggest
numbers in the tribe census in the desert, even though he was Dan’s
This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue spreading emuna!