"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Proudly Promoting Exclusively Jewish Ownership of the Tomb of the Patriarchs

Proudly Promoting Exclusively Jewish
Ownership of the Tomb of the Patriarchs

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

This week’s Parsha discusses Avraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpelah, a.k.a. the Tomb of the Patriarchs. How does one respond to Arabs who claim rights over it? The Rebbe explains:
When the descendants of Yishmael approach us with the claim that the Cave of Machpelah belongs to them, for they trace their lineage to Avraham[1], this week’s Torah portion[2] provides us with a clear response:

1) It is well known that the vast majority of the Arabs now living in the countries neighboring the Land of Israel do not descend from Yishmael.[3]

2) Moreover, Yishmael himself has no connection to the Cave of Machpelah, for Avraham bought it in order to bury Sarah.[4] Yishmael was not Avraham’s heir, and certainly not Sarah’s heir. Thus, it belongs only to Sarah’s son Yitzchok, and to Yitzchok’s descendants, who are traced only through Yaakov.[5]

The conclusion of this week’s Torah portion teaches us another point:

When a time comes that [the descendants of] Yishmael becomes wild, and approaches us with wild claims and demands, the Jewish people should not become afraid, G–d forbid, or discouraged. We must merely remind Yishmael of the truth: His existence is defined by his being “born of Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s maidservant, for Avraham.”[6] However, if he begins to hold himself as an independent entity, and not as the son of Sarah’s maidservant, he will “fall amongst all his brothers.”[7]

Non-Jews also believe in the Written Law. Thus, when the Jew is sufficiently confident of the above, and explains it to the 
non-Jew using appropriate language, but in a clear, open manner (and there is certainly no need to become dejected, G–d forbid, before the non-Jews, and certainly not before those who consider themselves descendants of Yishmael), they will stop applying pressure upon the Jewish people.

They too will sense (especially by “their mazal seeing”[8]) that for their own welfare, the Cave of Machpelah, and the entire land of Israel with all its borders, should be openly, even during the era of exile, completely in the possession of the Jewish people.

Likutei Sichos, Vol. 15, pp. 153-154.

[1] Avraham is buried in this cave.
[2] This Torah portion is known as Chayei Sarah. See Bereshis 23-25:18.
[3] See Ibn Ezra on
Bereshis 27:40.
Bereshis ch. 23.
[5] See
Likutei Sichos, ibid., p. 149.
Nedarim 31a explains the extra “in” in Bereshis 21:12, “For in Yitzchak your seed will be called” as meaning that not all of Yitzchak’s seed is to be considered Avraham’s—only Yitzchok’s son Yaakov, and not Esav.
Bereshis 25:12.
[8] ibid. 25:18.
[9] I.e., the spiritual source of their souls senses the spiritual reality without the person being consciously aware; this then affects the level of the non-Jews’ soul vested in a body. See
Megillah 3a.
The Rebbe states clearly: The Jewish people should declare and publicize unapologetically that according to the “Bible,” even if the Arabs are descended from Yishmael, they have no claim to the Cave of Machpelah, and thus the Jewish people must be allowed to hold exclusive control over it. When we say this confidently but respectfully, non-Jews will surely accept it.

Practically speaking, most of the Cave of Machpelah is currently under the control of the Arab “Wakf,” the Islamic trust. By far the largest section of the Cave of Machpelah, known as Isaac’s Hall, is maintained as a mosque for the entire year except for ten days (click on the red dots here to see what’s what), with Jews forbidden from entry, while an area over three times smaller, known as the Hall of Yaakov and Leah, is maintained as a shul for the entire year, with Muslims forbidden from entry, except for 10 days, in which Muslims are allowed in and Jews are not.

Why, you may ask, when the Cave of Machpelah is under Jewish military control, have the Jews ceded control of the vast majority of their second most holy site to the Muslims? My understanding of the reason for this situation is that when the holy city of Chevron was liberated after the Six-Day War (after it being forbidden for Jews to enter there for over seven hundred years), the Jewish people, and in particular the politicians responsible for the Holy Land, did not enthusiastically declare the entire 
Cave of Machpelah a Jewish synagogue. In fact, they barely allowed any entry, and it was only through great wrangling against those politicians that Jews have even the degree of access that they do today.

Jews must campaign to have the entire area transformed into a

(Although this would have meant transforming it from a mosque, this would have been no different from the way it became a mosque in the first place—when the Muslims conquered it from from the Christians, who had turned it into a church, which happened twice.)

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