The Bond of the Cities: the Bond of the People
Thank God the city of Chevron is legal!
I refer, of course, to the Torah’s explicit and detailed description of Avraham’s purchase of the plot of land belonging to Ephon the Chittite, thereby assuring that Me’aras Hamachpelah and the city of Chevron belong to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov and their progeny for ever more.
And this Shabbos, tens of thousands of Jews will descend upon this very legal city, to read about Avraham’s purchase, at the spot that the transaction was effected. According to the Hebron Fund, who run the event for the last 25 years: “Shabbat Hebron brings people to see the hometown of Abraham and Sarah and the towering edifice that serves as a memorial to the founders of the Jewish nation. Last year broke all previous records with 40,000 people in attendance, hosted in huge tents set up by local organizations such as the Jewish Community of Hebron, the Hebron Fund, Hebron Hospitality and Chabad of Hebron.”
Despite this incredible showing, an unacceptable tragedy is taking place on campuses nation-wide, even world-wide. Young people are being indoctrinated to believe that the Jewish people do not have a history in what today is known as the state of Israel. Two weeks ago we read how HASHEM promised Avraham and Sarah that their descendants would inherit the land of Canaan, which became the land and state of Israel. Avraham relocated to the land of Canaan, when he was 75 years old. That took place in the Jewish year 2,023. We are now in the year 5780. That was 3,757 years ago. That is 24 years longer than the unbroken chain of bris milah, which may very well be the longest ritual transmitted from generation to generation in the history of the world.
In the famous akeidah (binding of Isaac) episode, we were introduced, although not explicitly, to the holy city of Jerusalem. Mount Moriah, where Avraham traveled with his son Yitzchak, is the future sight of both Jewish Temples. The Midrash teaches us that the name of the city represents the linkage of two previously used names. After the akeidah episode, Avraham names the location “Hashem YERAeh” (God will be seen). Previously, we saw that Malki Tzedek was the king of a place called SHALEM (Bereshis 14:18), wholeness. The future eternal capital of the people of Israel would become a conglomeration of both words: Yerushalayim, Jerusalem. Jerusalem is firmly associated with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David and his descendants for the last 3,700 years. But those facts are not being taught. Those forces trying to erase those facts seem to have conquered the campus.
Immediately after the akeidah episode, the Torah turns to the death of Sarah and Avraham’s attempt to purchase a crypt for his beloved wife. He bargains with Ephron the Hittite and eventually spends an exorbitant fee to own the land where he buries his wife, and ultimately he, his son and daughter-in-law, and grandson and his wife Leah would all be laid to rest in that hallowed ground.
On Tishah B’av, the kinnos (elegies) written by Rabbi Yehudah Halevi about the beauty of Israel, are included in the morning liturgy. The irony is that his beholding of the beautiful land of Israel went unrequited (although some allege that he died in the Land of Israel, having just reached it.) In the 36th kinnah of Tisha B’av, called Tzion Halo Tish’ali (Zion, surely you will inquire), the great 12th century Spanish sage wrote:
"אפול לאפי עלי ארצך, וארצה אבניך מאד, ואחונן את עפריך. אף כי בעמדי עלי קברות אבותי, ואשתומם בחברון עלי מבחר קבריך. אעבר ביערך וכרמלך ואעמד בגלעדך, ואשתוממה אל הר עבריך..."
“I will fall to my face upon your land and treasure your stones and cherish your soil. I will even stand near the graves of my forefathers and be transfixed in Hebron at the site of your prestigious graves. I will pass through your forest and your Carmel, and I will stand at your Gildead, and I will be awestruck at your Mount Abarim.”
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik commented on this passage (The Lord is Righteous in All His Ways: Reflections on the Tish’ah be-av Kinot, Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter, ed, pp. 310-311). Rabbi Yehudah Halevi alludes to the book of Nechemiah (2:3), which argues that the sanctity of the Land of Israel is also due to the presence of the graves of our ancestors. “Halevi writes that he will be completely confused by Chevron. But why would this be so? After all, he knew what Chevron contained. It means that he will be confused by the magnetic attraction he feels for Chevron. There is not a spot in Eretz Yisrael where the Jewish people are not rooted, where we have no memories. When he arrives, says Halevi, he will scout out every place. For the Jew, history is more than history. It is a living experience.”
There is an inherent connection between Chevron and Jerusalem that is worthy of exploration. After the first allusion to Jerusalem at the akeidah, the Torah describes Avraham’s purchase of Chevron from Ephron the Chitite (Hitite). Jerusalem is purchased by King David from Arnon the Yevusite (Jebusite) (Shmuel II 24:24). Chet and Yevus were both sons of Canaan (Bereshis 10:15 and 16) and, unsurprisingly, they are listed one next to the other. King David began his reign in Chevron, until he moved his capital to Jerualem, where it remains and will remain forever. Rabbi Yair Frank, the Rav of Amona, Israel (which was not purchased by Avraham per se, but is now declared legal by the Trump Administration) suggests that the two holy cities parallel the two components of a Jewish marriage: Chevron represents the kiddushin element of marriage (the betrothal) and Jerusalem epitomizes the nisu’in (full marriage). Rabbi Frank advances that kiddushin, lays the foundation for the marriage; it fills it with sanctity, kedushah. Then the bond between husband and wife takes place. He cites a few examples where we see this nexus. When Moshe sent the scouts to the Land of Canaan, Calev of the tribe of Yehudah, first travels to Chevron. The Midrash relates that he went to pray for a successful mission at the tomb of the patriarchs. Furthermore, writes Rabbi Frank, kiddushin is effected when the groom gives the bride an item of worth which she accepts in front of valid witnesses for the purposes of marriage. From where do the rabbis in the Talmud learn that this is how a marriage takes place? Kicha kicha m’s’dei Ephron (the appearance of the same Hebrew root l.k.ch.) The rabbis observe that the same verb (to take) is used when Avraham acquired the Cave of Machpelah as the Torah utilizes to describe marriage. Since we know that Avraham gave Ephron money to procure the cave, a man giving a woman an item of worth is how marriages take place. (The man does not buy the woman. If that were the case, women would have different prices. All marriages are conducted with an item worth at least the smallest currency, because it’s not about the value, but about the method.Almost everyone uses a basic round ring). Once the kiddushin takes place, the foundational goals and values are established; the couple become husband and wife through the Nissuin (entering their home together).
During the Six Day War, it is widely known that Israeli paratroopers re-took the eastern portions of the Capital and reunited the Holy City. What some do not know is that the very next day, June 8, 1967, one man conquered Chevron, which had been occupied by Jordan between 1948 and 1967. Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the Chief Rabbi of the Israeli Defense Forces - whose 25th yahrzeit is observed today, the 24th day of Cheshvan –had, since 1954, always kept a shofar in his army jeep, fervently awaiting redemption. But that shofar was destroyed on the first day of the Six Day War, when Rav Goren was accompanying soldiers to war in the south. He was able to obtain a smaller shofar, which he famously blew at the Kotel (Western Wall) on the third day of the war. That night, Rav Goren slept with soldiers heading south to Chevron. When he awoke, the troops were gone. Rav Goren and his driver sped in their jeep to Chevron, the city where Rav Goren had studied in yeshiva as a child, without knowing that the soldiers had not been ordered to liberate Chevron. The Jordanians living in Chevron and her environs had seen enough of the Mighty IDF (really the Hand of God) and mounted white flags on their homes. The City of Chevron surrendered to a 49-year old rabbi. May Rav Goren’s memory be a blessing, as he too, bridged the cities of Jerusalem and Chevron.
King David labeled Jerusalem as the City “that is linked together” – k’ir shechubra la yachdav (Tehillim 123:3). Chevron itself bears that Hebrew root (ch.b.r), which means to link. Chevron and Jerusalem are linked, but more importantly, they link all of us with our Father in Heaven.