Photo Credit: courtesy, Israel Border Guard Police at Cave of the Patriarchs (photographed by a non-Jew)
Cave of the Patriarchs, Parshat Chayei Sarah in Hebron 5779 / 2018

At least 40,000 people streamed into the ancient holy city of Hebron to be present for the reading of the Torah portion which tells the story of the passing of the Biblical Matriarch Sarah, wife of the Patriarch Avraham, who purchased for her burial site the cave which today is known and revered as the Cave of the Patriarchs.

Bereishit (Genesis)23:1 – 23:6 “Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, also known as Hebron, in the land of Canaan. Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to weep for her.

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“Avraham rose from beside his dead and he spoke to the children of Heth. ‘I am an immigrant and a resident among you,’ he said. ‘Sell me property for a burial place with you so that I can burn my dead, [and not have her here] right in front of me.”

“The children of Heth replied to Abraham, saying to him, ‘Listen to us, Sir, You are a prince of God in our midst. Take our best burial site to bury your dead. No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead.'”

The (Torah portion) parsha goes on to detail how Avraham asked the children of Heth to arrange the sale of the cave with Ephron, the Hittite, son of Tzohar — but Ephron wanted to give him the cave as well as the field he had already given him. But Avraham refused.

23:13 “I am giving you the money for the field. Take it from me, and I will bury my dead there.”

Ephron replied, setting the price, (23:15) “My lord, listen to me. What’s 400 silver shekels worth of land between you and me? Bury your dead.”

And so it is written, (23:16 – 23:19) “Avraham understood what Ephron meant. He weighed out for Ephron the silver that had been mentioned in the presence of the children of Heth, 400 shekels in negotiable currency.

“Ephron’s field in Machpelah adjoining Mamre thus became [Abraham’s uncontested property. [This included] the field, its cave, and every tree within its circumference. It was Abraham’s purchase with all the children of Heth who came to the city gate as eyewithnesses. Abraham then buried his wife Sarah in the cave of Machpelah Field, which adjoins Mamre (also known as Hebron), in the land of Canaan.”

The above account is written in Bereishit (Genesis), the first book of the Torah. Each year, tens of thousands gather at the Cave of Machpela — where all of the matriarchs and patriarchs except Rachel were laid to rest — to listen to the reading of the Torah portion in which the story is recounted anew.

“We thank the Master of the Universe, we thank the Israeli security forces, and all of the people and organizations who were involved in this huge production,” said the Jewish Community of Hebron in a statement following the conclusion of the Sabbath.

“A personal thank you to each and every one of the tens of thousands of precious guests who came and went.”

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