The Cave of the Patriarchs

The “Cave of the Patriarchs” is the place, in which, according to Jewish tradition, all patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah) with the exception of Rachel ,are buried. Another very interesting Talmudic tradition says it’s also the place where Adam and Eve were buried, and that explains the meaning of the Hebrew name for the place – מערת המכפלה (“cave of the double tombs”, in Hebrew) which suggests that there are four couples buried there (Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah). The cave itself is located in the city of Hebron (in Judea) – which derived from the Hebrew root ח.ב.ר.(Ch-b-r), which means friend or in this case God’s friend – one of Abraham’s nicknames in both Jewish and Muslim tradition (in Arabic the name of the city is “Al-Khalil” which means “the friend” – Abraham’s nickname in the Islamic tradition as mentioned). Later on in history, Hebron became King David’s first capital (before Jerusalem) and was one of the Four Holy Cities – the collective term in Jewish tradition for the four places in the land of Israel that hosted large Jewish communities prior to the modern history of Zionism (the other cities are Jerusalem, Safed and Tiberias).

I would like to finish this post with a nice historical anecdote. A very interesting dialogue can be found in the story of Abraham’s negotiations with Ephron to get a burial place for his wife Sarah in the field of “Machpelah”: “… וַיַּעַן עֶפְרוֹן אֶת-אַבְרָהָם לֵאמֹר לוֹ. אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי אֶרֶץ אַרְבַּע מֵאֹת שֶׁקֶל-כֶּסֶף בֵּינִי וּבֵינְךָ מַה-הִוא וְאֶת-מֵתְךָ קְבֹר. וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָהָם אֶל-עֶפְרוֹן וַיִּשְׁקֹל אַבְרָהָם לְעֶפְרֹן אֶת-הַכֶּסֶף אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר בְּאָזְנֵי בְנֵי-חֵת אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שֶׁקֶל כֶּסֶף עֹבֵר לַסֹּחֵר. “…Ephron answered Abraham “My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.” Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants.” (Genesis 23:14-17) In Hebrew the root of the verb ‘to weight’ is “shekel” ( שקל) and here, in this story of the Bible, we can find the origins of the modern Israeli currency “shekel.”