As we read the Book of Genesis, we are spellbound by a rapid
succession of sharp and vivid images that leave deep and lasting
impressions. The Creation, the Flood, Abraham’s departure from home,
the angels bearing tidings of the birth of Isaac, the destruction of
Sodom, Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, the conflict between
Jacob and Esau, the rivalry between Joseph and his brothers and many
others pass before us, each sketched in bold strokes in a small number
of verses and laden with endless moral and spiritual significance.
In this week’s parshah, however, we find a relatively extensive
account of Abraham’s negotiations for the purchase of the Cave of the
Machpelah in Hebron as a burial ground following the death of Sarah.
Why did Abraham go to such great lengths to acquire this particular
piece of land? And what is so significant about the acquisition of the
Cave of the Machpelah that the Torah focuses upon it in such great
Furthermore, the Midrash tells us that Abraham eulogized Sarah by
using each verse of the Woman of Valor (Proverbs 31) to describe
another of her virtues. How did the phrase “she planned the purchase of
a field and acquired it” apply to Sarah? The Midrash explains that this
referred to her acquiring a permanent resting place in the Cave of the
Machpelah. But how can this be? The Cave was acquired by Abraham,
not by Sarah - and only after her death.
The Zohar writes that the Cave is “the very entranceway to the
Garden of Eden.” The Hebrew word machpelah means twofold. The
Cave is considered “twofold,” because it bridges the material and
spiritual worlds, linking them by serving as an entrance from one to the
other. The name of the city in which the Cave is situated, Hebron, also
bears the etymological roots of “connection.”
The Cave, as the point of fusion between Heaven and earth, was
the proper resting place for the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, whose lives
were the perfect bridges between the two worlds - involvement in the
mundane affairs of this world without ever losing sight of the spiritual
goals and aspirations that infused their lives with meaning and direction.
This was how Sarah had “acquired” the Cave. She had lived her life as
the paragon of an intelligent and thoroughly spiritual woman of the
world, never compromising her purity, modesty or righteousness. Such
a woman deserved to find her final resting place at the Gateway to
We are all “twofold” creatures. We have our spiritual sides and our
material sides, and we have to forge a beneficial union between the two.
We must give the full deserved attention to those daily activities that put
bread on our tables and roofs over our heads. We must take our
children to the doctor, and we must fix the transmission on the car. But
we must also be intensely spiritual, treating our fellow men with love,
kindness and compassion and seeking closer ties with the Creator. How
do we reconcile these two worlds? How do we open a gateway from one
to the other?
The truth is, we don’t need to. The gateway already exists. It is
called the Torah. If we establish the Torah squarely in the center of our
lives, right between the two conflicting worlds we represent, we will find
a perfect harmony such as we never thought possible.