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Jul 20, 2007

Adventures in Eretz Yisrael: Hebron: Cave of the Patriarchs (M'aras Ha'Machpela)

It was not really much of an adventure, but I guess it qualifies for my "adventures in Eretz Yisrael" series...

I have not been to Hebron in a long time, probably close to a year, so I decided I really wanted to go. I tried to a few weeks ago but was not successful.

Today was going to be the day. To go for "vasikin" nowdays in the Mearat Hamachpela means getting up at 4 am or so, as davening begins about 5:15. Any later than the vasikin minyan is difficult for me because of the timing, so it was either 4 am or bust.

I asked a few of my friends who like to go there if they wanted to join me. I figured if I had people waiting for me it would increase the chances of my waking up on time. None of them could make it today, so I was on my own. As I got home late last night someone called me up that he heard I was going and he would like to join me, as he is here on a short visit. So we set the schedule for me to pick him up at 4:30 am.

And off we go. I have not driven to Hebron in many years, so I was a bit wary. All these years when I have gone, I have gone with groups on arranged buses. Now I was driving in the early morning darkness, through what is considered some fairly dangerous areas, and I am not totally familiar with the way, especially once I get into the immediate area.
So off we go. As I said, it was pretty uneventful. We drove down to Kiryat Arba and went through Kiryat Arba to get to the Mearat Hamachpela. After parking we went in, joined the minyan that was just beginning and davened.
After davening the congregation gathered around the bima and performed Hataras Nedarim (annulment of vows). I asked the gabbai why they did so and his response was that it is an ancient custom of the Ari Hakadosh to do Hataras Nedarim every Friday morning, and so they do.
Afterwards, we checked out the various rooms and davened a bit in each one.

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On the way out of the Meara, on the side of the building there is a set of blackened stones. History has it that the Jews were not allowed past the 7th step (stone set) for many hundreds of years during the Crusaders, the Mamluk rule, and beyond. Just beyond the 7th step there is a hole in the wall. The tradition says that that hole is directly opposite the set of graves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in the internal cave. The tradition is to pray beside that stone, as it is the closest and most direct point connecting us to the Patriarchs. So we stopped there for a bit and prayed some more.

And then we headed back to Bet Shemesh.

6 comments:

  1. NICE! but I won jameel's waffle contest where the candle dispensor is ;)

    Yesterday or today was the ari's yahrtzeit.

    Zohar says that when a neshama is nistalek, the soul goes to mearat hamachpela and the avot decide if they should let himin because "mearat hamachpela pesach l'gan eden"

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  2. I love going there but never know which places are open to visit, great pics.

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  3. Just because it ended up being uneventful doesn't mean it wasn't an adventure.

    The photos are lovely and it sounds like it was a pretty special experience.

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  4. The one adventure I miss...

    Wish I could have joined you.

    We'll have to have more adventures of our own when we see each other next time.

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  5. Very nice. I haven't been back to Hebron in more than 20 years. I am going to have to rectify that.

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