"Sarah died at Kiryat Arba." (Gen. 23:2)

We must not misunderstand that Kiryat Arba was the cause of her death. The reason the town was mentioned and was so named is to tell us that it was built on the four basic elements. Death normally implies a departure from, or disintegration of, the four basic elements that the body is composed of. When the Torah adds that "Kiryat Arba" is also known as "Hebron", this is an allusion to the Hebrew word "chibur", something that is joined together. The message is that when the righteous "die", this is not to be viewed as a process of disintegration. The righteous are still called "alive" even when they have ceased to function in physical bodies on this earth. While the righteous are alive in this world, the four basic material elements that every human being is composed of become transformed into something spiritual and attach themselves to their souls by means of the good deeds that such persons perform during their sojourn on earth.

When a person cleaves to G‑d, all his elements become transformed into the element fire….

Maimonides illustrates this somewhat in the fourth chapter of Hilchot Yesodei Torah where he describes that one element is capable of becoming transformed into another element which was similar to it, i.e. earth can be transformed into water. When a person cleaves to G‑d, all his elements become transformed into the element fire, which forms the basis of the soul. Kabbalists are familiar with this.

The Torah adds the apparently superfluous words: "in the land of Canaan". This is an allusion to the fact that this present world is called "Eretz Canaan", a simile for the evil urge, Satan. This is so because the existence of Satan is the incentive for us to overcome him and to attain holiness and sanctity. (Zohar 1:80)

[Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of "Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar" by Eliyahu Munk.]