“How did Avraham discover the Cave of Machpela? He was running after a calf, as it is written, ‘Then Avraham ran to the herd,’ (Genesis 18:7) The calf fled into the cave [and] Avraham followed it …. Also, he used to pray every day and go out into the field, from which wafted sublime fragrances. He saw a light coming from that cave and prayed there and the Holy One Blessed is He spoke to him there. Therefore, he desired that cave….” (Zohar 1:127a)
Tzaddikim (holy people) desire to be in a place of kedusha (purity).
“The Patriarch Avraham entered [the Cave of Machpela]. He smelled the fragrance of the Garden of Eden. He heard the heavenly angels saying, ‘Adam is buried there; Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov are destined for this place.’ And he saw the candle lit…. Before Avraham came, many wanted to be buried there, but angels were guarding the place…. People saw a fire burning in it and could not enter until Avraham came, entered and acquired the place.” (Zohar Chadash, Rus 79b)
We recently davened maariv (the evening prayer) at Ma’aras Hamachpela. I thought it particularly appropriate, because the illumination emanating from this holy place is the only source of light. Here – surrounded by over a hundred thousand hostile inhabitants of Chevron – Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka, Yaakov and Leah rest at the entrance to Gan Eden.
My friends, we are all surrounded by hostile enemies. The light emanating from the Garden of Eden is the only thing we have to hang onto. The perfect fragrance wafting from this place is where our desires should be directed. As Hashem says, “Fear not, Avram, I am a shield for you!” (Genesis 15:1) Similarly, the Novi tells us, “Hashem has redeemed Yaakov and delivered him from a power mightier than he.” (Jeremiah 31:10)
This week my wife and I spoke at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, home of Rabbi Fully Eisenberger’s legendary Jewish Resource Center (JRC). There are almost 45,000 students here and I don’t have to tell you what a field day the Evil Inclination has in this boiling stew of liberalism. It always amazes us that, amidst the challenges, there are still people searching for the pure light and holy aroma. This is the legacy of Avraham Avinu. It is also the legacy of those who survived the Forty-Ninth Level of Impurity in Biblical Egypt, the destruction of the First and Second Temples and the Holocaust. It is the legacy of those who have survived two thousand years of Exile with their souls unblemished.
“Israel, Your people, prepares supplication because they are distressed and need to be helped. Their oppressors prolong the yoke upon them … all this has befallen them, but they bless Your Name.” (Selichos for BEHAB)
One can find the entrance to the Garden of Eden. We can imitate our Father Avraham.
Soon, the day will come when “ohr chadash al Tzion ta’ir … [Hashem] shines a new light on Tzion … and may we all speedily merit its light!” (Morning Prayer)
UPPER PICTURE CAPTION
- Surrounded by enemies: Ma’aras Hamachpela (burial place of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs) viewed from the site of King David’s palace high above the City of Chevron.
- The Evening Prayer at Ma’aras Hamachpela
- Rabbi Fully Eisenberger (left) with the author and a student at the University of Michigan JRC in Ann Arbor