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Shabbat Parashat Vayishlach 5778

Parashat Hashavua: Chevron Holy but Still Secondary

Harav Yosef Carmel

The Torah tells us in our parasha that Yaakov, upon returning to Eretz Yisrael, lived in Kiryat Arba/Chevron, and described it as the place where Avraham and Yitzchak lived before him (Bereishit 35:27). The first formal acquisition of land by our forefathers was there some 4,000 years ago. In contrast, Yerushalayim is a Jewish city for only 3,000 years.

These points were behind the steps taken by the Jewish leadership of Chevron a little more than a hundred years ago. They declared that they did not need to be under the guidance of the general Jewish administration that was seated in Yerushalayim. This found most practical ramifications in their desire to raise money for the needy in their community independent of the Va’ad Hakelali (which was on the street that is now called Rav Kook Street), which raised and distributed the “chaluka” money. The Va’ad Hakelali sued the community to cease its independent, competitive activities, and Rav Avraham Y. Hakohen, then Chief Rabbi of Yafo, adjudicated (see Igrot Hareiyah 39).

Let us view some of the claims of the Chevron community. 1. Yehoshua bin Nun killed Adoni Tzedek, King of Yerushalayim and then burned the city (Shoftim 1:8), yet Jews did not inhabit the city until David captured it from the Yevusim. 2. According to Kabbalistic sources, the entrance to the Garden of Eden is at the Me’arat Hamachpela in Chevron, which is the reason that Adam buried Chava there (Zohar Chadash to Megillat Ruth). In contrast, the opening to Gehinom is, according to several sources, in Yerushalayim (see Eruvin 19a). Thus, the forefathers and Adam and Chava before them, had good reason to choose Chevron as their burial place. 3. Chevron was the first place purchased by our forefathers and therefore maintains a status as the key to the acquisition of the Land. 4. David chose Chevron for his capital before he chose Yerushalayim.

Rav Kook rejected the claims to giving Chevron prominence when compared to Yerushalayim. He said that anyone who minimized the greatness of Yerushalayim in comparison to anywhere else even in Eretz Yisrael is tantamount to one who sacrifices on an altar outside of the city. Any choice of the forefathers relating to Chevron had special reasons, but these do not preclude the special status of Yerushalayim. Me’arat Hamachpela’s presence in Chevron does not take away from Yerushlayim, as the special level of Chevron is included in the special status of Yerushalayim. (I will further develop this topic in Tzofnat Shmuel, which will hopefully be published soon.)

Let us pray that the connection of our entire nation to the Holy Land will be strengthened and all will rally around Yerushalayim as the unified and unifying city.

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