"Grant me the Cave of Machpela…sell it to me for its full price, in your midst, as a burial property." (Gen. 23:9)

In Kabbala, the word "the Machpela" refers to the letter hei appearing twice in G‑d's name (Zohar I:129a). The relationship between G‑d's name - the source of life - and the burial place of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs is as follows: The soul is sent into the body
...to accomplish its unique task in disseminating divine consciousness in this world…

The reason the soul is sent into the body is for it to accomplish its unique task in disseminating divine consciousness in this world. When it finishes its task, it returns "home" to its origin in G‑d. Now, in small increments, this return occurs whenever we renew our relationship with G‑d, bringing to the relationship all the heightened awareness of G‑d we have garnered in the interim. Either of two causes can inspire us to renew our relationship with G‑d: our desire to reinstate our good standing with Him after a fall or period of estrangement, or our desire to intensify our relationship with Him.

In the first type of return, we are realigning our behavior (alluded to by the second, or "lower" hei of G‑d's name) with our emotional commitment (alluded to by the letter vav); it is therefore termed the "lower" return. In the second type of return, we are realigning our mentality (alluded to by the first, or "higher", hei) with our pristine divine inspiration and insight (alluded to by the yud); it is therefore termed the "higher" return.

[Note: In Hebrew, the allusion to this is the fact that the word for "return" ("teshuvah") can be read: "return (in Hebrew, 'tashuv') the hei."] The burial cave of Machpela signifies the consummation of the process of return…

Thus, the process of return, which forms the cornerstone of our relationship with G‑d throughout our lives, is alluded to by the two letters hei in G‑d's name. And the two letters hei are alluded to by the word "the Machpela" ("hei Machpela" - literally "double hei").

The final return does not happen, as we said, until the soul finishes its task on earth and leaves the body. Thus, the burial cave of Machpela signifies the consummation of the process of return. This is the connection between the two letters hei of G‑d's name and the burial site of the Patriarchs.

For Its Full Value

Despite the repeated efforts of the children of Heth and Ephron to give Abraham the land he needed for free, Abraham insisted on paying for it. Indeed, he refused even to have the price discounted, but rather insisted on paying its full value. This was in spite of the fact that he had legal claim to the entire land even without the natives' agreement.

We find a similar phenomenon, as Rashi points out, in the discussion between David and Aravna. (See Samuel 24:1, Chronicles 21:24.) Aravna was king of the Jebusites and ruler of Jerusalem. When David conquered Jerusalem, Aravna converted to Judaism. David was shown by an angel that Aravna's silo was the exalted spot upon which the Holy Temple should be built. When Aravna heard this, he willingly offered his silo to David. However, despite having conquered the land and having the express consent of the owner, David insisted on paying Aravna for the full value of the silo.

Indeed, it is stated in the Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 79:7) that there are three places in the Land of Israel over which the Jewish people established their ownership incontrovertibly: the Cave of Machpela in Hebron, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and Joseph's tomb in Shechem. The sale of each of these was clearly recorded in the Torah as having been finalized, at full value, without any shadow of dissension. Both Abraham and David wished to sever any connection between the land and any previous owners…

Why did Abraham insist on paying for the cave, rather than receiving it as a gift? By comparing this to the purchase by David, Rashi hints at the answer. David told Aravna that he refused to accept the land as a gift "for I will not take that which is yours to G‑d, and burn sacrifices on land which is free." When a person accepts a gift, there remains some connection between the giver and the recipient. Both Abraham and David wished to sever any connection between the land and any previous owners, so that the holiness of these unique places would remain pure and unblemished.

Furthermore, the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, being a precursor to the revelation of the Torah, expressed the general revelation of G‑d in the world, while the revelation of G‑d in the Temple and through the prophets were particulars of this general revelation. Eliezer's prayer for the match was therefore answered more quickly than were the other two prayers. The marriage of Isaac and Rebecca...the unification of two of the four principle ways of spelling out the name of G‑d…

[In Kabbala, the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca expresses the unification of two of the four principle ways of spelling out the name of G‑d. Isaac is identified as the name of G‑d spelled out so that its numerical value is 45, while Rebecca is identified as the name of G‑d spelled out so that its numerical value is 52. As is explained in Kabbala, the union of these two variations on G‑d's name is the essence of our study of the Torah and performance of its commandments.]

It is ironic to note that Jewish control over just these three places has become hotly contested in recent times. Darkness and concealment lead to distortion. A nation's lack of confidence and pride in their own validity and identity leads others to doubt it as well. Only if we are unequivocally proud in our identity and convinced of our rights of ownership can we illuminate others.


[Based on Likutei Sichot, vol. 1, pp. 34-36; vol. 20, pp. 91-99; Hitva'aduyot 5742, vol. 1, pp. 399-405]

Copyright 2001 Chabad of California http://www.LAchumash.org