Tens of thousands gathered at the Cave of the Patriarchs [Image Source: חברון – מערת המכפלה]

The weekly bible portion of Chayei Sarah (Life of Sarah) was read in synagogues across the world this past Saturday afternoon. The weekly portion begins by telling us of the passing of the matriarch Sarah – who lived a full and righteous life – and of the journey of Abraham to Hebron to purchase the burial plot for his dear, departed wife. Upon his arrival in Hebron, Abraham asks the Hittites to intercede for him with Ephron son of Zohar, so that he be able to purchase from him the Me’arat Hamachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs). Abraham pays Ephron 400 shekels of silver for the land, and later buries Sarah in the cave. Later on in the portion, Abraham too is laid to rest near his departed wife Sarah. The Jewish commentators note that with regard to the stories contained in the book of Genesis that one day in the future the nations of the world would dispute the Jewish people’s right to the land of Israel and that is why the bible records incidences such as Abraham’s purchase of the Me’arat Hamachpela. Earlier this year, the UN’s world heritage body (UNESCO) recognized the old city of Hebron (which contains the Cave of Patriarchs, where all of the Jewish patriarchs are buried) as “a Palestinian world heritage site in danger”.

It has been a beautiful custom among Israelis for many years to travel to the the communities of Hebron and Kiryat Arba for the Sabbath in which the portion of the bible called Chayei Sarah is read. This pilgrimage is called Shabbat Chevron in Hebrew which means the Hebron Sabbath. This past Friday and Saturday, tens of thousands of Israelis and Jews from around the world came to Hebron to honor the life and passing of our holy matriarch Sarah.

In a Facebook post last night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted the following statement (translated from Hebrew):

I bless the tens of thousands of people who participated in the Hebron Sabbath in honor of the reading of the weekly portion of “Chayei Sarah,” in which we read about the purchase of the Cave of Machpelah by Abraham our forefather. Hebron is a tangible expression of the ability of the eternal people not to be afraid of a long way, to overcome difficulties and obstacles – and to return home. Have a good week ahead!”

How fortunate are we to be able to travel to Hebron to visit the burial place of our patriarchs and matriarchs!

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