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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘cave’

Beginning The Journey

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

A while back, a British newspaper, The Times, interviewed a prominent member of the Jewish community (let’s call him Lord X) on his 92nd birthday. The interviewer said, “Most people, when they reach their 92nd birthday, start thinking about slowing down. You seem to be speeding up. Why is that?”

Lord X replied, “When you get to 92, you start seeing the door begin to close, and I have so much to do before the door closes that the older I get, the harder I have to work.”

Something like that is the impression we get of Abraham in this week’s parshah. Sarah, his constant companion throughout their journeys, has died. He is 137 years old. We see him mourn Sarah’s death, and then he moves into action.

He engages in an elaborate negotiation to buy a plot of land in which to bury her. As the narrative makes clear, this is not a simple task. He confesses to the locals, the Hittites, that he is “an immigrant and a resident among you,” meaning that he knows he has no right to buy land. It will take a special concession on their part for him to do so. The Hittites politely but firmly try to discourage him. He has no need to buy a burial plot. “No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead.” He can bury Sarah in someone else’s graveyard. Equally politely but no less insistently, Abraham makes it clear that he is determined to buy land. In the event, he pays a highly inflated price (400 silver shekels) to do so.

The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah is evidently a highly significant event because it is recorded in great detail and highly legal terminology – not just here but three times subsequently in Genesis, each time with the same formality. For instance, here is Jacob on his deathbed, speaking to his sons:

“Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites” (Genesis 49:29-32).

Something significant is being hinted at here; otherwise why mention, each time, exactly where the field is and from whom Abraham bought it?

Immediately after the story of land purchase, we read, “Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and God had blessed Abraham with everything.” Again this sounds like the end of a life, not a preface to a new course of action, and again our expectation is confounded. Abraham launches into a new initiative, this time to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac, who by now is at least 37 years old. Abraham leaves nothing to chance. He does not speak to Isaac himself but to his most trusted servant, who he instructs to go “to my native land, to my birthplace” to find the appropriate woman. He wants Isaac to have a wife who will share his faith and way of life. Abraham does not specify that she should come from his own family, but this seems to be an assumption hovering in the background.

As with the purchase of the field, so here the course of events is described in more detail than almost anywhere else in the Torah. Every conversational exchange is recorded. The contrast with the story of the binding of Isaac could not be greater. There, almost everything – Abraham’s thoughts, Isaac’s feelings – is left unsaid. Here, everything is said. Again, the literary style calls our attention to the significance of what is happening, without telling us precisely what it is.

The explanation is simple and unexpected. Throughout the story of Abraham and Sarah, God had promised them two things: children and a land. The promise of the land (“Rise, walk in the land throughout its length and breadth, for I will give it to you”) is repeated no less than seven times. The promise of children occurs four times. Abraham’s descendants will be “a great nation,” as many as “the dust of the earth” and “the stars in the sky.” He will be the father not of one nation but of many.

Keep the Hebron Show Going

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

It happened again.

In 2002, on the first day of the huge Sukkot celebrations, early evening, an Arab terrorist opened fire near the Avraham Avinu neighborhood. As a result, Rabbi Shlomo Shapira from Jerusalem was killed.

Fast forward: Sukkot, September 2013, eleven years later. Almost the same exact time. An Arab terrorist shoots, killing an Israeli soldier, near the “Beit Merkachat” intersection in Hebron. As with Rabbi Shapira, the soldier never really had a chance. A bullet penetrated his neck, leaving an entrance and exit wound. Medical personnel did everything humanly possible. But it wasn’t enough.

Prior to the killing, I could define today as “interesting.” Actually I really don’t know if that’s the right word to use.

More than 10,000 people arrived in Hebron Sunday, filling Ma’arat HaMachpela, walking the streets, visiting the Avraham Avinu neighborhood, all having a good time. One of the day’s highlights was the opening of the Cave of Otniel ben Knaz to Jewish visitors, an event occurring only very few days during the year. This, because the site is located on the “Arab” H1 side of the city.

On holidays, such as today, the 300 meter walk from the “Kikar HaShoter” checkpoint to the holy site is heavily protected, allowing visitors, escorted by soldiers or police, to view and worship at the cave.

But earlier, prior to its opening, I’d received notification of trouble. A firebomb was hurled at soldiers in the area. Rock-throwing, an almost normal occurrence in Hebron, was starting. But the security forces had the situation under control, and dozens and dozens of people walked back and forth to the place.

Me, too. Today was the first day of our special VIP tour. A busload of Hebron friends and supporters visited our newly initiated Tel Hebron overlook, on the roof of Beit Menachem, in Tel Rumeida. They also heard a short talk from Mrs. Tzippy Shlissel (whose father, Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, was killed by terrorists in Hebron), and then, too, participated in the walk to the fascinating Cave of Otniel.

I had the privilege to escort a wonderful woman whom I’ve known for about 15 years, Mrs. Ruth Simons, 91 years young, but you’d never know it. When we arrived at the Cave, she climbed up the stairs on her own two legs, entering the site for the first time in her life.

But, honestly, on the way there, and on the way back, I wasn’t entirely relaxed. I’ve done this many times before, and people here, well, sometimes we develop “antennas” which pick up vibrations in the air. And the vibes were definitely there.

Everything and everyone were in place – soldiers, border police, regular police, but, at the same time, booms from stun grenades and rubber bullets being shot at distant attackers, filled the air. It wasn’t, as it usually is, a quiet walk. I was very impressed by my guests. Ruth and her family, who didn’t seem phased in the least. They took it all in stride.

But my insides, my gut, didn’t like it. It is a disgrace for Jews to have to walk down a street to the tune of stun grenades exploding, not too far from them, on a Jewish holiday. Or on any day, for that matter.

But we did it, and that was that.

Later, our guests were treated to a delicious lunch at the Yeshivat Shavei Hebron sukkah and then visited Machpela. After they left, I recalled, for some reason, Rabbi Shlomo Shapira’s murder, as I walked past the site of that terror attack, back to the office.

A little while later, at 6:30, I received a call from my son, who works with security in a community outside of Hebron, asking about the shooting.

“What shooting?”

“There was a shooting and someone was hit.”

It didn’t take long to get preliminary details, where, when, and the victim’s condition: very critical. Together with a few others, we watched soldiers and police running back and forth, huddling, talking in whispers. Ambulances, their red lights flashing, driving by, in all directions. There wasn’t too much else to do, except wait.

Later tonight we’ll meet, and talk, to discuss our reactions.

The first reactions are easily expressible. First, our shock and pain at a young soldier’s death, as a result of an Arab terrorist sniper’s bullet.

Million-Year-Old Cave Found in Shomron

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

A million-year-old cave was discovered in western Samaria during work to move the security fence nearer the Jewish community of Tzofim, located east of the northern metropolitan Tel Aviv city of Kfar Saba and several miles west of Maaleh-Ginot-Karnei Shomron and Kedumim.

Construction was being carried out to move the security fence closer to Tzofim and to create better traffic patterns for the Israeli and Palestinian Authority vehicles that share the roads.

The construction was stopped after the discovery of the cave to allow for geological testing.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/million-year-old-cave-found-in-shomron/2013/07/07/

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