Parashat Chayei Sarah relates the death of Sarah, and Abraham's efforts to buy for her a burial place – the Cave of Machpela in Hebron.

The negotiations for this piece of property are related in exhaustive detail by the Torah, which clearly states that Abraham purchased this cave for the full price – 400 silver shekels in the presence of witnesses. Lest there be any questions as to its ownership in the future, the Torah stated: "This is how the field and its cave became the uncontested property of Abraham as a burial site, purchased from the children of Heth."

What exactly is the Cave of Machpela and why is it given so much importance in the Torah?

The Zohar tells us that the Cave of Machpela – where not only Sarah, but also Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah (and according to some opinions, also Adam and Eve) are buried – opens into the Garden of Eden. The Midrash adds that anyone buried there is guaranteed a double portion of reward.

We know that an opening is always an intermediary between two places – between that which is inside and that which is outside. If so, the Cave of Machpela is a link between the world in which we live, and the world to come, where souls go for spiritual reward after they depart from the body. The Cave of Machpela unites our lower physical world with the higher spiritual worlds. Anyone who is buried there has a double reward – in this physical world and in the world to come.

Shem miShmuel explains that as humans, we were created in such a way as to unite the upper and the lower worlds. That is why we human beings are composed of a body and a soul. When we use our bodies to follow the inclinations of our spiritual intellect, we succeed in joining the body with the soul. Those of us who do so find that the path is smooth, since we remain at all times attached to the goal. Every facet of our personality is united and working in harmony, and in this way we succeed in joining the physical universe with its spiritual counterpart – as did our patriarchs and matriarchs.

The Cave of Machpela – where they are buried – is in Hebron, and for this reason they are called the "Sleepers of Hebron." The name Hebron comes from the Hebrew word hibur, meaning a "joining/uniting." It is most likely that Hebron was given this name because it is the site of the Cave of Machpela which connects and unites the upper and lower worlds. Those who are buried there are not really separated from their souls. Since in their lives, they managed to join the upper and lower worlds, they merited to be buried in the place which also connects the upper and lower realms. They are called "sleepers of Hebron" (and not "deceased") because their bodies and souls are not separate from each other. Those who are asleep maintain a connection with their soul, although it is not as revealed as when they are awake.

The Zohar tells us that Abraham and Sarah were like "soul and body." Each one had his and her own soul and body, but they were united in their complementary tasks and approaches. Abraham's approach was to reveal G‑dliness from above to below – by bringing kindness into the world in order to attract men to G‑d and persuade them of His existence. Sarah's approach was to induce in the women a desire and yearning for G‑d, and thereby to convert them to His ways. Her service of G‑d was from below to above. What they both had in common was that they fused the upper and lower worlds together, thus meriting to burial in the "Cave of Joining," the Cave of Machpela.

Shem miShmuel notes that the Cave of Machpela is the place where our prayers arise to the heavens – from below to above. Of course, this is also said of the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, but there is a difference.

The Temple Mount is on Mt. Moriah, the place where Jacob dreamt of a ladder with angels "ascending and descending." From this we know that the Temple Mount is a place of service of G‑d both from above to below and from below to above. The Cave of Machpela, is a place that only joins from below to above, since this is the place where the soul ascends to the heavens after leaving the body.

In this sense, the Cave of Machpela is more connected with Sarah, whose G‑dly service was from below to above, than with Abraham, whose service involved bringing kindness and illumination from above to below. All of her life, Sarah worked to join the lower world with the upper spiritual worlds, and this is why the Cave of Machpela was bought in her merit and she was buried there.

[From "Inner Lights from Jerusalem" based on the Shem miShmuel and other Chassidic and Kabalistic Sources, translated and presented by Rabbi David Sterne]