Chevron: Connecting Heaven and Earth
Chevron: Connecting Heaven and Earth
Rebbetzin Holly Pavlov
Chevron, city of our fathers. The city in which our patriarchs and matriarchs are buried, a city where King David was anointed, a city that was the first capital of Israel before the conquest of Jerusalem. A city of spirituality, a city that bridges Heaven and earth.
Every city in the Land of Israel is connected to a Heavenly sphere and the name of the city indicates the spiritual essence of that city. Chevron comes from the Hebrew word chibur, connection. Chevron, then, is a place of connection.
But what does it connect? The Zohar tells us an interesting story about the visit of the angels to Avraham’s tent. When these three messengers of Hashem came to visit Avraham, he did not know they were angels, but thought they were pagan nomads. He welcomed them into his tent, and began to prepare a sumptuous meal for them. Avraham ran to the cattle and chose a tender young animal from which to prepare the meal, but the calf ran away.
Avraham tried to catch the animal, but the calf ran quickly into a cave. Chasing it, Avraham followed it. In the cave, he witnessed the most amazing sight: Adam and Chava, sleeping on funeral biers, candles lit all around them. The smell of sweet incense filled the cave. It was from this encounter that Avraham knew that he wanted to acquire this cave for a family burial plot.
What was this vision? Ancestors, departed from this world, yet not dead, merely sleeping. Lit candles, burning bright, like the menora in the Temple, the sweet smell of incense like the incense brought daily in the Temple. Avraham understood that this cave was not an ordinary cave, but one that connected worlds, the world of physicality and the world of spirituality, this world and the next world. Chevron is a place where worlds connect.
There is another name for Chevron, the Cave of Machpelah. Machpelah derives from the Hebrew world kaful, double. Our Rabbis ask why this cave is called “The Cave of Doubles”. On a simple level, it is named this since couples are buried there: Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka, Yakov and Leah.
On a deeper level, we learn that couples who build their marriages properly are connected in two ways: physically and spiritually. Our Rabbis teach that in marriage, “A man and a woman merit the Divine Presence between them.” The Hebrew word for man is ish, and for woman ish. The words contain two common letters that together spell, aish, fire. Part of marriage is the physical connection, the fire and passion.
But as well, the words for man and woman contain two different letters. Ish, man contains the letter yod, while isha, woman contains the letter heh. Together yod and heh spell one of the names of Hashem. This signifies the spiritual aspect of marriage through giving, love and stretching to meet the other person’s needs.
As well, marriage brings the couple a great potential for spiritual growth, with both husband and wife contributing to each other. In Kabbalah, the letter yod in the word ish, man, indicates connection to the Spiritual Source, to Hashem. On the page, the letter yod hangs in the air, without touching the ground, so a yod stands for spirituality without grounding. On the other hand, the heh in Kabbalah is spirituality in the physical world. It is practical spirituality, with two feet on the ground.
When husband and wife live a life of harmony, they each share their ability with the other. A husband is connected to Heaven, the spiritual source. This often expresses itself as ideas and theories, a vision of the bigger picture, but not in practical application. A wife, on the other hand, knows how to translate vision into practical reality. A conversation between them might go something like this: He: “I have an idea” She: “How are you going to do that?”
The woman is practical, knowing how to create spirituality in the physical world, how to translate the ideas of Torah into facts on the ground. Yet, she can often get stuck in the practical and lose sight of the bigger picture. In a marriage of sharing, he holds on to the vision while she creates the reality.
Of course, stereotypes don’t work all the time, and all people and marriages are built differently. But the essential idea remains: Marriage should be a union of mutual help and giving, and when it is built on this premise, Hashem – the yod and heh – dwells within the relationship.
This is why the Cave of Machpelah is called by its name. It is a burial place of four couples who were partners, doubles. They were each helpers to their mate, creating union, harmony and connection. And since they lived a life of connection, they are buried in a place of connection, Chevron.
Chevron represents the Jewish idea that the physical world and the spiritual world are not two mutually exclusive realms. In fact, they are connected. The Torah teaches us how to use the material world to achieve spiritual aims. And Chevron contains that energy that fuels the process.
Chevron is a city of doubles. Chevron is a city of connection. It is a city that bridges Heaven and Earth.