The Temple Institute: Chayei Sarah: The Cave Deal

 

 


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Chayei Sarah: The Cave Deal

reprinted from Arutz Sheva
19:12 Nov 25, '05 / 23 Cheshvan 5766

by Levi Chazen

"And after that, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah facing Mamre, which is in Hebron, in the land of Cana'an. Thus the field stood, and the cave that was in it, as Abraham's as a holding for a grave, from the children of Heth." (Parshat Chayei Sarah)

Abraham's desire to possess the cave of Machpelah first came about when the three angel-guests came to visit Abraham. As our rabbis teach us, Abraham ran after the sheep to prepare a banquet for his guests. The sheep, though, had eluded Abraham time and time again until it entered the Machpelah cave, with Abraham in hot pursuit. It was then that Abraham discovered the cave and, as it turned out, the gravesite of Adam and Chava; he then realized that he was at the entrance of Gan Eden. From that point on, Abraham knew that he must acquire the cave for the Jewish people. But at what cost?

Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out to Ephron the money that he had mentioned as witnessed by the children of Heth - four hundred silver shekalim in negotiable currency. But besides the exchange of the large amount of money that Abraham paid for the cave, he also exchanged property rights with Ephron and his descendants for generations to come. Given over to Ephron and his children by Abraham was none other than the area in Jerusalem that would become the Temple Mount.

And so, we find in the book of Joshua: "But the Jebusite, the inhabitants of Jerusalem whom the children of Judah were not able to drive out, dwelled among the children of Judah, in Jerusalem until this day." Rashi comments that they were not descendants of the nation of the Jebusite, for HaShem had already commanded the Jewish people not to allow any of them to live, but they were the descendants of the children of Heth from whom Abraham had bought the Machpelah cave. It's not that the Jews were incapable - for they had the military might to conquer the city - but they were not allowed to conquer Jerusalem, because of the covenant Abraham had made with the children of Heth.

Even after King David went up to make Jerusalem his capital and finally conquered the city, as the Book of Samuel tells us, David built around the city, from the Milo and inward. Still, the fields of the Temple Mount remained in the hands of the descendants of the children of Heth, with whom Abraham had made the covenant. David and the Sanhedrin tried for years to find a solution, but were unable to acquire the holy place.

Everything changed in the blink of an eye, after the horrendous plague that descended upon the Jewish people, killing some 70,000 Jews in the time of King David. G-d sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as he was in the process of destroying, HaShem saw and reconsidered the evil. He told the destroying angel: Enough now, stay your hand. The angel of HaShem was standing at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. So frightening was this sight of the destroying angel, that King David fell on his face, and Ornan the Jebusite and his four sons ran for cover and hid in a cave in the area. Wanting nothing to do with the place anymore after that, Ornan quickly relinquished all rights to the place after David had paid him the full price for his fields. So, Ornan the Jebusite, the descendant of Ephron from whom Abraham had bought the Machpelah cave, gave up his rights to the Temple Mount.

And so, after all the years that King David and his court tried to acquire the Mount, when the right time had come, it was, in the blink of an eye, turned over to the children of Israel. So, too, today, many people will look at the reality of the Temple Mount and not see any hope at all for the situation to be turned around. We seem so far away from building the Temple and having the Kohanim return to their true work. But know that, in the blink of an eye, the day is not far away when we will be singing a new song for Zion.

Still, to our dismay, Abraham had made a covenant with the nations of the land, and we had to pay the price, a price we are still paying today. Our rabbis teach us that because Abraham had made a covenant with Avimelech the king of Philistine, offering up seven sheep, so seven righteous descendants would be killed by the Philistines, for seven months the Ark of G-d would wander in the fields of the Philistines, and seven houses of HaShem would be destroyed by them. The Land of Israel, given by HaShem to the Jewish people for an everlasting covenant, cannot be given over to any of the nations. This is the covenant that will stand forever.

 

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