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The Secret Caves of the Patriarchs in Hebron
November 21, 2008, 6:04 am
Filed under: aretz israel, gallery, Hebron-Machpelah, spiritual Gates, Tohu and Vohu

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This is the natural opening of the Cave of Macpelah at Hebron. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives were buried here.

King Herod the built an enormous wall around the cave. And today that wall, called the Tomb of the Patriarchs, is the best preserved Herodian building anywhere in the Holy Land. The walls are massive. At the corners there are stones that are 25 feet long and five feet high and weigh around 200 tons. The stones have a margin around the edges, just like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Herod’s builders covered the area inside the wall with a stone floor, and that floor is still in place today.

Most unfortunately, the keys to MACHPELAH and with them the responsibility, for this site was given to the Waqf, by the then Minister of Defense, Moshe Dayan. They also prevent any possibility of entering the underground tombs.

Moshe Dayan, an amateur archeologist, when realizing the consequences of his action, tried to seek information concerning the underground caverns. (Perhaps he was searching for artifacts to add to his personal collection?!) In any case, any formal or official investigation was impossible. He therefore decided upon an unusual method to quench his curiosity. Within the large hall, called “the Yitzhak Hall” there is a hole in the floor, from which candles are lowered into the cave below. According to prevalent rumors, this was an entrance into the Caves of the Machpelah themselves. However, the diameter of the hole was extremely narrow – 26 centimeters. No adult could possibly fit through this opening, but Dayan found a solution. A 12 year old girl named Michal, young but courageous, agreed to be lowered into the underground room.

One misty night, Dayan ordered the Muslim guards to leave the building. He told them that they must leave for “reasons of security”. They had no idea what was about to take place. Using the dark night as a cover, Michal was brought to the site. The opening was uncovered and Michal was lowered into the underground room. The spectators were filled with suspense and worry when the girl disappeared from sight.

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Michal found herself in a round room, whose floor was covered with coins, candles, and written notes. Looking around, she saw a narrow, dark corridor, to the south. The brave girl entered this hallway and after 17 meters discovered a stairwell. In total darkness she climbed the steps. After 15 steps she found a wall blocking her way. A large stone prevented her from continuing. She tried to move the stone, but to no avail. It wouldn’t budge. Having no other choice, she turned around, descended the stairs, and headed back to the small room via the narrow corridor. There, she was lifted out of the room back into the Yitzhak Hall. She was happily received, and was totally unharmed.

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The surprised Dayan wrote out the findings and sketched the underground caves as described by the 12-year-old Michal: a circular room, a corridor, and the stairs. The caves themselves remained a mystery and were not drawn.

A group of us, from Hebron-Kiryat Arba, and in particular the staff of “Midreshet Hebron” were filled with awe at the thought of entering the underground Caves of the Machpelah. Moshe Dayan’s story piqued our curiosity and determination to find a way into the caves. We could not, of course, enter the same way that Michal entered, via the small circular entrance. However, the other side of the corridor caught our attention. She related that she had climbed stairs that were blocked off by a stone. Where could that stone be?

We measured the distance she had spoken of and revealed that the stone was on the other side of the Yitzhak hall, covered by Arab prayer-rugs. The area was always occupied by Arabs. How could we succeed in moving that stone, thereby allowing us to descend into the caves?

The Arab guards, employed by the Waqf, were not overly alert or awake at that time of night. They left their place of work and went to sleep. When we saw this, we brought with us a big chisel to the midnight prayer service. In the middle of the service, we began to sing and dance. During the dancing, some of us made our way to the Arab pray-rugs, lifted them, and revealed the stone. It was held in place by metal bars, attached to surrounding stones. We began hammering on the rock with the chisel, and after a while it began to move. Finally, the stone opened. It is difficult to describe the emotions we felt when we saw the stone move off the small opening under it. We entered, our hearts pounding with excitement. We found stairs that led down into the darkness. We descended slowly. The stairs led to a narrow, dark corridor. We walked slowly through the corridor, stooping down, using flashlights to guide our way. We reached the circular room and looked around. It was round and dark. On the wall were three stones, but no cave was visible. Where was the cave? Were all our efforts in vain?
Several minutes later an additional mystery presented itself. It seemed to us that we felt a breeze. How could this be? Blowing wind originating from above ground? Looking down at the ground we saw several stones that appeared to be stuck, one to the other. The wind seemed to be originating from between them. Within moments, emotions flying, the stones were uplifted and…. the cave – a cave of rock, leading into the earth.
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We crawled in a very narrow opening into a circular cave, carved in the stone, deep in the earth. The cave was filled with dust, to its very edge. It was impossible to stand or sit, only to crawl. We continued inside until it widened, and then, a second cave. This cave was smaller than the first, but here awaited us another surprise. It was also filled with dust, but among the dust were bone and remnants of pottery scattered around, some of which were in good condition.

Wind blew in the caves, but the sounds of our hearts pounding was audible. No living being had been this close to the Patriarchs in thousands of years. Each one of us spent some time considering the significance of being in the Caves of the Patriarchs, and of prayer here, adjacent to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah, and even to the tombs of Adam and Eve, by the entrance to the Garden of Eden, where souls and prayers ascend. Silent prayer, in the presence of our Forefathers.

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Following this tremendous spiritual experience, we began to examine the cave itself. The bones captured our attention. Were these the bones of the Patriarchs? We knew that it is written that Righteous ones, even in death, are called living, and that the Patriarchs, called the “slumberers of Hebron” wake and pray for mercy. As we investigated, it became clear that the pottery belonged to the First Temple Era, the Era of the Judean Kings. The Jews of Hebron, and the Jews of all of Judea, understanding the importance and significance of the Caves of the Machpelah, were directed to bring both the bones and the pottery into the underground caves themselves.

This discovery closed an information gap concerning the Caves of the Machpelah, continuing from the days of our Patriarch Ya’akov, the last Forefather buried in the Cave, through to the days of Herod, who built the huge structure above the Cave.

After several hours, as dawn approached, we were forced to leave these sacred caverns, so as not to be caught below. We concluded an unforgettable spiritually uplifting experience. We were privileged to reveal the underground Caves of the Machpelah, to pray there, to reveal ancient Jewish pottery from the Era of the Kingdom of Judea within the Caves, and, even if only for a few moments, united, as Sons with their Fathers.

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The Macpelah at Hebron

Ze’ev Yevin of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Stanley Goldfoot were our helpful field guides during our brief 1983 radar and seismic exploration of the tomb of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah Rebecca and Leah at Hebron.

The building over the traditional site of the cave purchased by the Patriarch (Genesis 23, 25:7-10, 49:28-35) is known to the Jews as the Macpelah, and to the Arabs as the Haram el Khalil. The building is Herodian embellished by minarets and roof decorations dating from the time the Moslems overcame the Crusader control of the Holy Land, or later. The subterranean rooms under the building were last opened to the outside area at the time of the Crusaders when the caves or rooms were used for intrusive burials. In 1967 Moshe Dayan lowered a small girl with camera through a small hole in the floor thus gaining some information on the basement rooms, as well as ending a 700 year old ban on non-Moslems entering the Haram. Since 1967 the site has been both a mosque and a synagogue, and it is of course a hallowed spot for Christians since Abraham is not only called “the friend of God” but also “the father of all who believe” in the Bible.

Very little is actually known about the caves or even the rooms under the floor of the Macpelah, so my colleagues and I were exited to probe through all four outside walls of the building on a one-day visit. (We asked for, but could not obtain, permission to make cart radar and seismic soundings vertically downwards through the floor inside the building – that viewing geometry would no doubt give very useful results).

Figure 6: Geophysical crew conducting radar and seismic measurements into the caves beneath the Macpelah. All four outside walls of the building were sounded in the one working day available.

Our one day of radar and seismic data collection brought us far more echoes and reflections than we could expect to interpret in many months of labor! All we had time for was to map and tabulate hundreds of echoes and write our friends in Israel a short letter report. Our conclusions: the subterranean rooms and caves under the floor of the Macpelah are many and complex. We can only hope the entire underground complex will be excavated and explored by the archaeologist in the near future. We would love to be on hand to do more geophysical work, especially if it became possible for us to view downwards through the floor of the building.

Chayah Sarah                                                                                                                                                                                                                   BS”D From this parsha we can learn some of the secrets of  the cave of Machpelah. To do this  lets go back first to parsha Lech Lecha where we find Hashem (God) tells Avraham to “Arise and walk through the land in the length of it and the width of it for I will give it to you.” Then Avraham removed his tent and camped in the plain of Mamre which is in Chevron and there he built a alter to Hashem. After seeing all the land Avraham decided to go to this special place. “The plain of Mamre which is in Chevron and there he built a alter to Hashem.”

In this weeks parsha we find “Avraham Buried Sarah in the cave of Machpelah which is before Mamre. The same is Chevron in the land of Cannan and Avraham was old well stricken in age and Hashem blessed him in all things” We must ask what does it mean “the Same is Chevron in the land of Cannan” ?. And why after telling us of the burial of Sarah in Machpelah does the verse conclude saying “Hashem blessed him in all things” ?.

The name Machpelah means folded. In the Zohar we are told that the field and cave rests on a 2 fold area namely the world above and world below. Thus through this spiritual gate all souls pass when the leave this world. At this place the vail of the physical world wears thin giving one potenial for greater Divine awareness. Machpelah is in Chevron also called Keryat Arba Meaning the city of 4. If one goes to Machpelah they will find in the cave the graves of  Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka and Yaakov and Leah. Yuhuda gathers from the 4 corners of the earth. This is Chevron (Chevron means to join together). There in Chevron Hashem requests to join them as one. As we say in the Amida “gather us together from the 4 corners of the earth”. Every man who occupies in Torah is Chevron. Keriat Arba is also called chevron it is the place the 4 corners of the earth are gathered. There dresses tohu, vohu, choshech, thum in the earth and the 4 chyot haKodesh (angels) are revealed (through them) in the 4 yesodot (elements). In the idea of the green kav.  When You say the Sma with your heart mouth and thought this is Chevron. There goes out a ruach (spirit) during saying of the Sma from the 4 letters of יהו”ה. This is Chevron. It is the joining of the Nashama, Shechina, the 4 letters of יהו”ה and קרית ארבע. Galut is the opposite. The 4 galut correspond to the 4 orlah (unclean husks). Galut is separation. They are not then “one nation in the earth”, as the name יהו”ה no longer rests upon them.  Death is when the Torah doesn’t rest from above, and rises from below away from the 4 yesodot. All who the Torah separates from, their Nashama is destroyed. The Nashama is the precious thrown that Chevron unifies, it is the Shechina.1

We are told that the cave is before Mamre. This place is where earlier Avraham built a alter to Hashem. The word Mamre means rebellious. This refers to the ones that were burried there  first. The first to be rebellious Adam and Chava. Its also interesting to note that Mamre in Hebrew has the same letters as Amran the father of Moshe a man who never sinned. The opposite of the rebellious Adam and Chava. It will be from Amram’s son Moshe who brought down the Torah from mount Sinai that word will be redeemed from its current rebellious state. As we learn from the Oar haChyim that the final redemption will occur in the merit of Moshe. The redemption has been so long delayed becouse Moshe refuses to invoke his merit, his merit being the merit of Torah study that is so lacking in these later generations. So may it be that soon in our days that we will see the realization of the blessing given to Avraham from Hashem to be blessed in all things with the comming of our righteous Mashiach quickly in our days.

1. 1Zohar Chadash Tikunim p.119,139,238



Secret waters

UPDATED DEC 29

The kings of who ruled the land of Edom express the energy of the world of Tohu. The order of creation that preceded the rectified order of Tikun. In that world the sefirot could not interact with each other. They were excessivey severity judgemental and selfcentered. By exhibiting these qualities a individual regresses to this level, before the level of “tikun” (fixing) was brought into the world, which enables humans to attain great levels of Closeness to God.

According to judgements of the left light is concealed. From The stones in the Thum (depth) goes out water which is Chassadim (force of Hashem’s giving). Concerning this water King Salomon writes “many waters will not satisfy love (song of songs 8:7). One can never give enough for this love.1 This water goes out through holes in the “mesach” (screen-filter) of “tzizum” (contraction) to sustain the world. It states ” Ruach Elokim moves on the face of the waters” (the sages say this “ruach” is Machiach). ” Ruach Elokim moves on the face of the waters” The magid of Koznitz says the waters referred to here are Torah. The stones within “Tohu” of “bohu” are Nh’y (quantity quality and way of revelation) of Binna (Divine Understanding). They put out water into the “thum” which is the Yesod (gate way of energy). Placed upon “kav tohu” is stones of “Bohu”. The הוא of תהו is the “klipa” (force of concealment)  of the אגוז (nut), this is the outer klippah, it is green. Within this “klipa” is “Bohu” it is stones of מפולמות (wonder). From which goes out water. Ruach is the voice resting on bohu. It grasps and guides it as is needed. This is “The voice of יהו”ה is on hte waters” (Psalm 24:3). “Ruach אלהי”ם is on the face of the waters”. “Face of the waters” is these stones sunk in the “thum”. It is called this as waters go out of these stones. Tohu is under שד”י , Bohu צבאות and is called רעש, darkness אלהי”ם, Ruach is יהו”ה.1 יהו”ה spoke to you face to face out of the midst of fire” which was sent forth by wind and water. The fire, wind and water all came from the shofar. It contained them all.1 It is Noga that surrounds the crown (Yesod) within which is מל which is essence of “chasmal” (parzuf בשר -flesh of atzilut). This is the aspect of “atz Dat tov” of Atzilut. “This Chasmal” is “chayot” of consuming fire. 2 “makiffim” on the head of Z’a called למ of   צל”ם (Netzauch and Hod, Yesod is penimi). There are 7 “makiffim” to Z’a. These are drawn with great force. The 7 “makiffim of Z’a are the aspect of מל of צל”ם (6 corners of Imma). מ”ל Of  חשמל is gematria 70 being 70 names. It is the ע of  ערפל (cloud of thick darkness). This cloud is the energy of fire and the angel גבריא”ל. It is source of Chasmal. ערפל also siezes in the yesod of water which is מיכא”ל. ׂערפל is Givurot of Atik. (Botzina Kardanita)1

In the Pre Atz Chyim we are told that the Ar’i and Chyim Vital took a boat to myriam’s well and drank the water there and received “Ruach ha Kodesh”.

If the ה (malchut) is not in its proper place (behavior not a vessel for blessing), then blessings only spill over. As a cut sideways cannot hold water. Rabbi Nuchunyah ben Hakana in safer HaKanah says that as a poor man can always ask for water, you can ask Hashem for אין which is “Keter Elyon”. This is asking for blessing from the Ayn sof which is the atribute of Ketter called אין . One seeking this blessing will never be turned away.1