It is a great mitzvah to bury the dead and to eulogize them, and to take special pains to eulogize a Torah scholar and to weep for his passing. It was Abraham who taught us this, as the Torah reports, "Abraham arrived to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her". (Gen. 23:2) Even though this commandment is not enumerated as a separate positive commandment in the 613 commandments, it is included in the general commandment "endeavor to emulate G‑d's ways; just as He buries the dead (quoting G‑d burying Moses (Deut. 34:6)) so you too are enjoined to bury the dead", as we have discussed at the beginning of parashat Vayera. The earth Adam was made of...contained earth from all parts of the globe...

The whole subject matter of burial is connected with the verse "For you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gen. 3:19) Adam's origin was dust from the earth. Our Sages describe G‑d as having taken earth from the site that is described: "Make for Me an altar of earth." (Ex. 20:21, Jerusalem Talmud Nazir 7:2) The Sages also describe G‑d as having gathered a little dust from every part of the globe so that wherever man would die, the local earth would not reject his remains since he contained part of it. (Gen. 2:7, Rashi) Both statements are accurate and point us in the same direction.

It is well known that Adam incorporated within him all subsequent generations of mankind, for their very existence was through him. Our Sages described all subsequent mankind as being related to Adam either through his head, his eyes, his hair, etc. [In present-day parlance this means that all of our genes were at one time part of the genes of Adam.] Even in death, a person is not totally severed from his connection with original man: the earth Adam was made of was holy soil, from the site of the earth of the altar mentioned. That piece of earth in turn contained earth from all parts of the globe, seeing that this site is the site from which the whole earth receives its sustenance.

Had Adam not sinned he would have lived forever. Since he sinned, however, and was expelled from the Garden of Eden because G‑d did not want him to eat from the Tree of Life and live forever, he was destined to die sometime. The experience of death, when it is the death of one of His pious ones, is something very precious in the eyes of G‑d. (See Psalms 116:15) This is because it enables man to return to his lofty place in the Garden of Eden and his soul to live forever. Once there, his soul will ascend to ever higher levels. ...Adam was buried in the cave of Machpela...the site which has an opening to the Garden of Eden...

The reason Adam was buried in the cave of Machpela is that it is the site which has an opening to the Garden of Eden. The Zohar on parashat Chayei Sarah (page 28, Sulam edition) says that Abraham recognized a secret sign in the cave after he had seen Adam and Eve buried there. How could he have known? After all, had he ever seen Adam and Eve? He had a vision of Adam and a door opened to the spiritual Garden of Eden. Adam had lived in the Garden of Eden at one time; it was appropriate therefore that his burial place should adjoin it. The Zohar continues that anyone who has a vision of Adam will die immediately. Abraham, however, saw an apparition of Adam and survived. He beheld the cave light up and one candle remained lit. He now decided that he also wanted to be buried there. From then on his constant longing was to be buried in that cave.

Original man, as we have said, was created from earth from all parts of the globe, taken from the site of the altar, whereas when he died he wound up in the cave of Machpela because from there he could ascend to the Heavenly Regions rising ever higher. Only the Creator knows which site on earth is suitable to create man from, and which is suitable for his burial and transfer to the Garden of Eden. Adam...has something in common with every human being when that human being dies...

Adam contained elements of all mankind. When a person dies, Adam becomes visible to that person, seeing he is a "branch" of him. Everyone's burial site should contain some connection with original man, however physically distant it might be from either the original altar or the cave of Machpela. Every person will benefit in some way from the example of Adam, the degree of such benefit depending on his individual merit. The point is that just as Adam incorporated parts of all mankind when he came into being, so he has something in common with every human being when that human being dies.

Our Sages have said that the souls of the righteous are offered as a sacrifice on the celestial altar. This statement is what is meant when the Talmud describes the time when the daily morning sacrifice was offered in the Temple. Tractate Yuma 28 describes how it was determined whether the sky had become sufficiently light to proceed with offering the daily morning sacrifice. The lookout watched in the direction of Hebron and, when the time was right, called out "Barkai". Mattyah ben Shmuel would then query once more if the entire Eastern sky was already lit up, and the lookout would respond "yes!" The lookout towards Hebron was important because Adam, who had been taken from the site of his atonement, the earthen altar, was buried there. From there he has to return to the site of the altar in the Heavenly Regions for his soul to be a sacrifice.

Although we have stated that all generations subsequent to Adam contain some element of his, the link to Adam is only via the Patriarchs who serve as the go-between. The only people who are named "Avot", "Patriarchs", are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The same applies to the Matriarchs; only Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah are considered "Imahot", "Matriarchs". The Jewish People are all considered their children, seeing that they are the roots and we are the branches. This whole process commenced ultimately with Adam and Eve, both of whom together are called "Adam".

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk]