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The Double Cave - חיי שרה

Friday, 13 November, 2020 - 1:31 pm

The Double Cave 

Mearat Hamachpela, “the double cave”, was the place Abraham chose to purchase for the burial of his wife Sarah. The Torah describes how Abraham negotiated and ultimately purchased the cave, yet the Torah does not explain why Abraham chose that particular spot, which ultimately became the burial spot of our patriarchs and matriarchs (excluding Rachel). 

In order to discover the mystical and spiritual significance of the cave we must first explore why the cave was called “the double cave”. The Talmud relates:  

With regard to the Machpelah Cave, in which the patriarchs and matriarchs are buried, Rav and Shmuel disagreed. One said: The cave consists of two rooms, one further in than the other. And one said: It consists of a room and a second story above it.

The Chassidic masters explain that the configuration of the cave explained in the Talmud is a physical representation of a spiritual reality. The patriarchs and matriarchs embodied the concept of “the double cave” in their lifetime, they therefore merited to be buried in that holy spot, which, as explained in the Zohar, is the “opening of Eden”, it is the place on earth that represents the entrance to heaven. This is the meaning of “the double cave”, the space of the cave is “double”, it possesses a dual reality, it is the place where dimensions of both earth and heaven, of physical and spiritual, are present. 

The Chassidic masters elaborate: one opinion in the Talmud is that the word “double” refers to the cave consisting of two stories, one above the other. This represents the awareness that every person possesses two dimensions, one above the other; the first level represents ordinary material life, in which we are preoccupied primarily with the needs of our body, and “above” the physical reality is the domain of the soul, the higher more spiritual side of self. The patriarchs and matriarchs teach us to live in both these dimensions simultaneously, not to be satisfied with a materialistic definition of self, but rather to seek and experience our heavenly dimension, to feel the yearning of our soul to ascend to its source within G-d himself. 

Once we are in touch with the “higher story” dimension of life we can appreciate the other interpretation in the Talmud, which is that the cave was called “double” because it consisted of an outer chamber and an inner chamber. The symbolism of “two rooms, one further in than the other” is that in every person we meet, and every experience we encounter, we have a choice to focus exclusively on the externality of the person or experience, or we can look deeper and see the “inner room”, the inner soul and spark of G-d that  lies hidden within every person we meet and every experience we encounter. 

The double cave represents the legacy our patriarchs and matriarchs pass on to us. We should live to its fullest, not being satisfied with the shallow and superficial dimension of existence. We must seek to experience both the “room and a second story above it”, both our physical awareness as well as the heavenly source of our soul. The awareness of both dimensions of self will allow us to see, not only the outer chamber, the external, but also the inner chamber, the deepest holy core of every person and of every experience. 

(Adapted from the Sfas Emes)


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