The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
On the Shabbat when we read the portion of Chayei Sarah, Chevron residents are joined by thousands of people from all over Israel and around the world in celebrating Father Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpelah and its surrounding fields as a burial place for Sarah Imeinu.
This year, with rain and strong winds in the forecast, there were slightly fewer people than last year, but still the crowd was massive and it was beautiful to dance with thousands of fellow Jews. Everywhere the eye could see there were tents and families, girls and boys, young and old. And Hashem rewarded us by withholding the inclement weather until the end of the dramatic day.
At this point I’d like to give a shout out to the police and soldiers who did such a fine job ensuring our security. And to the Magen David Adom attendants who were on hand in giant tents and were able to be part of the magnificent celebration, as the peace and serenity of this special Shabbat was felt by all.
I’d like to share with you some points about Chevron that hopefully will encourage more people to join us from all over America for Shabbat Chevron next year and the years to follow.
First, the fact is that our holy forefathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – chose Chevron over Yerushalayim. Of course, most people who visit Israel make Yerushalyim and the Kotel the major point of their visit, and people making aliyah dream of living in Yerushalayim.
So why did the Avos choose Chevron? Obviously the Meoras HaMachpela, the cave where our forefathers are buried was already special in Abraham’s days, for Abraham knew that Adam and Eve were buried there.
The Midrash in Vayeira tells us that Abraham, wanting to make a meal for the three malachim who came to visit him, chased an animal in order to slaughter it. When the animal ran into the cave, Abraham discovered that the first man and woman created by Hashem were buried there.
And since Abraham understood that the purpose of creation was for the sake of Am Yisrael receiving the Torah, he knew the cave of Machpelah would be the proper and natural burial place for all the forefathers.
The name “Chevron” itself is very significant to the oneness of our nation. It comes from the root word chebur, which means “connected.”
Somehow, by our coming to Chevron on this special Shabbat, we feel this connection with all our ancestors going back to Father Abraham.
And here is why: in the Shemoneh Esrei amidah, which we pray three times daily, we chant “U’mekayem emunaso l’shenei afar,” meaning that God will keep his promise to those who “sleep” in the dust (the assurance that the land is ours and that the dead will one day rise).
The Avos are actually referred to as “the sleepers in the dust of Chevron.” And what about my father and my grandfather and my grandfather’s father, all the way back in time? They too are the sheinei afar, those who sleep in the dust until the resurrection.
Now add to this the objective of every Jew in his service to God, which is to reach the level of “lowliness of spirit,” just as our father Abraham declared, “I am dust and ashes.”
And we end our three daily amidah prayers by begging heavenly assistance in our quest that “nafshe k’afar la’kol teheyeah” – my soul shall be like “dust” in all of life’s situations.
As I prayed the Minchah amidah prayer in the holy cave of our ancestors, it dawned on me that this Shabbat Chevron is the only day that all three Avos are alive and speaking from the scriptures. Abraham and Isaac speak in the morning Torah reading and Isaac and Jacob in the Minchah Torah reading. It’s the only Shabbat that all three of them, at once, are with us through the scriptural readings of the day!
And in the short Minchah amidah prayer we are actually praying to feel our oneness with our three forefathers.
May we all merit to reach the level of being One Nation in the merit of our forefathers, whose teachings bring us to be one with them.
About the Author: Dov Shurin is a popular radio personality and the composer and producer of several albums. He lives with his family in Israel and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His Jewish Press column appears the third issue of each month.
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