Cleaving to the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
“ותמת שרה בקרית ארבע היא חברון”
“May it be Your Will our Father, our King, the Light of our spirits and our souls… remember our love and endearment, and return Your Holy Presence to Your Holy Temple… for difficult is Your separation from us like the separation of our souls from our bodies – our innards long, and our souls yearn for the redemption of Your Holy Presence…” (prayer of the Or Hahaim)
When we yearn for a soul, a Godly light, that has left us, we gain a small glimpse of the Great Light from which that soul emanates, the Light of the Holy Presence. In this way, we accentuate our understanding of our title quote to mean that it is through”the passing of Sarah” that Avraham achieved a yet even stronger connection to “Kiryat Arba – Hebron”, the first location our Patriarchs “discovered” the Holy Presence. The Midrash teaches that this “City of Four” (Kiryat Arba) has four names – Eshkol (or “Nahal Eshkol” of the spies in Bamidbar), Mamreh, Kiryat Arba, and Hebron. We may say that these four names describe the spiritual journey in “discovering” the Holy Presence in Hebron and the Land of Israel in large.
One of the 613 commandments is “to cleave to God/God’s Presence”. Our Sages explain that cleaving to God’s Presence is achieved by cleaving to the Godly righteous among man. According to this, we come to the realization that an essential step in connecting to God is connecting to the human soul as mentioned above. This connection is hinted to in the name “Eshkol”, which means both grapes and/or bereavement. Here stands the test of faith of Hebron and the Land of Israel at large. One can center one’s thoughts on Hebron being the Gateway of souls to the World to Come, coined by our Sages as the World where “grapes are united with their wine”, the wine of joyous loftiness, representing this World of Spiritual Loftiness. However, one can, God forbid, center one’s thoughts on the bereavement – “Eshkol – I will bereave”, the sorrow and fear, attached to the elevation of these souls to Heaven.
This is where the spies in Bamidbar fell, turning the death they saw into fear, despair, and ultimately hatred towards God. However, Kaleb realized the truth – that the death he saw was just a grain of the Grand Divine Plan, to distract Israel’s enemies from the spies’ presence by funerals… After passing the test of “Eshkol”, which is also the name of one of Avraham’s colleagues, we reach “Mamreh”, Avraham’s more superior colleague than “Eshkol”, who advised Avraham to commit Brit Mila. At this stage, Hebron instills us with the power and courage to “go despite” – “Mamreh- lamrot – despite” – the opposing forces, to surpass all blockage, foreskin or other, in making covenant with God and His Holy Presence. After “Mamreh”, full covenant and commitment to the Holy Presence, comes “Kiryat Arba- the “City of Four”, representing the cleaving to God through His four letter Name – Adonai.
The Arizal explains that Sarah’s life-span of 127 years represents the numerical value of the spelling of this name, Adonai, letter by letter (א, אד, אדנ, אדנ”י +1(the word itself) = 127). The Arizal goes further to explain that “Hebron” represents the “uniting” (Hebron=hibur=unity) factor in these four steps of spelling this name, namely the beginning aleph. Amazingly, although the Arizal does not tell us of such, this “aleph”, when spelled out, has the identical numerical value as Hebron (=266, אלף למד פא = 266)! Thus, we can say that the next step after Kiryat Arba comes Hebron – uniting these “four” Godly manifestations of the Name to their One Godly source in “Hebron”.
Once we travel all through these four names we come to the “crown” of Hebron – Maaras HaMachpela. Here, according to the Zohar and the Arizal, we enter the depths, as in a “Cave”, of cleaving to God, through the ineffable Tetragammaton – “havaya”, which has “double – Machpela” “heh”‘s. Here we must stop, for the “Glory of God must be concealed…”
Real Stories from the Holy Land #144
On Sukkos my fan stopped working. I tried to connect it to the the socket and different sockets in different ways, but to no avail. I decided to try the socket in the Sukka – perhaps the sanctity of the sukka will “fix” the problem. To my amazement the fan started to work in the sukka and then continued to work in the house. A bit later, the fan stopped working again. I did the same procedure, trying sockets at the house, which did not help. Only when I tried the socket in the sukka once again did the fan start working!” M.G