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Shabbat Parashat Toldot 5780

Parashat Hashavua: Chevron or Yerushalayim? Part II

Harav Yosef Carmel

Last week, we cited the claims of the people of Chevron, who claimed that Chevron is greater than Yerushalayim: the forefathers chose to live in Chevron; Yehoshua occupied Chevron and not Yerushalayim; the opening to Gan Eden is in Chevron; it contains the first place bought by a forefather; David started his kingdom there.

Rav Kook (Letters, vol. I:39) strongly criticized the people of Chevron. He argued that according to kabbalistic sources, after the Beit Hamikdash was built in Yerushalayim, Me’arat Hamachpela moved to the Temple Mount. Thus, the sanctity of Yerushalayim includes the special quantities of Chevron. Rav Kook warned that preferring any other place to Yerushalayim is tantamount to sacrificing on an unauthorized altar, which is a sin that is related to idol worship.

Why was Chevron special, especially to start with? According to many commentaries, Avraham came to Eretz Yisrael twice (not including his return from Egypt). The first time, mentioned in the end of Parashat Noach, Avraham and family left Ur Kasdim to move to Eretz Yisrael and stayed there for several years. The high point of this stay occurred in Chevron: the Brit Bein Hebetarim was made there when Avraham was 70 years old. Because of a combination of factors, the family had to leave the country, and they went to Charan, which is not far from Ur Kasdim, near the present [volatile] border of Syria and Turkey.

The second move to the Land, described in the beginning of Lech Lecha, was when Avraham was 75 years old. The high point of this stay in the Land was the Akeidat Yitzchak, the great test of Avraham’s fortitude, which took place on Mt. Moriah, later to become Yerushalayim.

There are two spiritual pillars of the Jewish People’s connection to Eretz Yisrael – the covenant of the forefathers, and the merit of the forefathers. The covenant gives expression to the innate, automatic connection (segula) of every Jew, wherever he is, to Eretz Yisrael. The merit is based on the free choice (bechira) and the performance of mitzvot, which creates a connection.  

Segula precedes bechira. It is the strong basis that does not depend on actions or merit. Chevron represents this segula. Bechira is the “second floor” of the building of spiritual levels and is represented by Yerushalayim, which is the city of choice upon which the Beit Habechira (the Temple) was built. Therefore, Chevron came before Yerushalayim. Now we know why the opening of Gan Eden is in Chevron, as Adam was put there not because he chose it but because it was the naturally appointed place. Gehinom is a place that one gets based on his choices, and thus belongs near Yerushalayim, the place of choice.

When Avraham came twice, he paved the way for his offspring, both those who are connected based on segula and those who are connected based on bechira. We can refer to the first group as those who go to Eretz Yisrael, and the latter as those who go to the Holy Land, based on its innate level. It is best when one can come due to both elements.
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