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Ch. 5: Parashat ḤAYE SARAH (“Lives of Sarah”)

Yiẓḥaq Ḥayut-Man & Tirẓah Arzi 29.06.2010 04:39
Ch. 5: Parashat ḤAYE SARAH (“Lives of Sarah”) - Bible study - Book of Genesis - Future Bible


The Feminine-Matriarchal aspect of Genesis and the Onset of the Eternal Life of Knesset Yisrael



Re Genesis Now, Chapter 5:

Parashat aye Sarah (“Lives of Sarah”)

Onset of the Eternal Life of Kenesset Yisrael

Contents:

Introduction: Why was the Parasha called aye Sarah?

Part I: Sarah as an inspiration for Israel.

The Purchase of the Grave and the fixing to the Land

Sarah, the goddess and Knesset Yisrael

Yisrael” – a boy or a Girl?

Conversation 1 – the structure of negotiation by Abraham to buy his estate from the sons of et

“The Field of the Cave of the Makhpelah” as the Gate of the Garden of Eden

The Architecture and Geomancy of the Cave of the Makhpelah

Cave of the Makhpelah as the pedigree כספר היוחסין of the Nation of Israel

The Parallel between the Garden of Eden story and “the Field which is in the Makhpelah

Part II: MaN - the Raising of the Feminine Waters

Finding a wife for Yiẓḥaq and his consolation of the death of his mother Sarah.

Abraham and his slave (apparently Eli’zer)

Conversation 2 – Negotiations between Abraham and his Slave and Eli’zers Mission

Conduct of the Negotiations by Eli’zer

The Raising of the Feminine Waters – M.N.

Conversation 3 – Conversation between the Slave and Rivqah

Conversation 4 – The Negotiation between Eli’zer with Betuel’s Clanutual move

Conversation 5 – The Meeting between Yiẓḥaq and Rivqah.

The mutual moves between the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs of Israel

Sarah as the image of the Mother of the Nation

“Lives of Sarah” and the Downpour of Divine Vitality - ayut

III - Life of Abraham after Sarah’s death and the generations of Yishma’el.

The earthly Abraham, the Sons of Qeturah, birth of Ashur and driving out the sons of the concubines

The Return of Ishmael to the Cave of Makhpelah, to Mount Moriah and to the Israel Union.

The Generations of Ishma’el – about Ishmaelites (Ismaili) and Sufis.

Return of Isaac and Ishmael to the Cave of Makhpelah

The encounter of Isaac and Ishmael as step in the rectification of the Conflict of Qayin and Hevel.

From the Tree of Knowledge to the building of the Temple.



Introduction: Why was the Parasha called aye Sarah?

The name “aye Sarah” – “Lives (or Life) of Sarah” that was given to this parashah is, ostensibly, quite strange. For the parashah starts with the death and burial of Sarah, and not with her life, and for the most part it deals with other matters: with the negotiations over the burial estate, with the mission of Abraham’s slave to aran to find a match for Yiẓḥak, with the encounter of Yiẓḥak with Rivkah and with the death of Abraham. But – as we shall see – it was expressly after her death, that the influence of Sarah over the charting of the fate of the nation grew and became decisive, so much so that we can see in her post-mortal influence as amounting to the planting of a Tree of Life for Yisra’el-Israel, and therefore she merited to have the parashah called after her. The inside message of the parashah is The Foundation of Kenesset Yisra’el – a collective entity with eternal life and feminine-matriarchal character, which is a part of the God of Israel.

Even though centuries of traditional-patriarchal Jewish (and Christian and also Moslem) interpretations gave us as a convention that the Torah is “a patriarchal document”, yet with a close look things appear quite different. For those who adopt the approach of “Bible Criticism” it is only a small step to proceed and claim that the author(s) of some very sections of the book of Genesis and the Pentateuch – what these Bible scholars call “version J” in which is prevalent the use of the Name of YHWH (which they call “Jehovah), was written by a woman (or women) as claims the famous literary critic Harold Bloom. (See, for example the first custom which is related in the second chapter of Genesis, right after the story of the Garden of Eden: “That is why a man leaves his father and his mother, and cleaves to his wife…” (2:24), it is not she who joins his family, but he joins her family). Also if we check the matter scientific-genetically, we shall find that the family of Tera, Abraham and Naor, from which issue the people of Israel, is more of a matriarchal than a patriarchal family: Sarah, as was found in the land of Gerar, was the sister of Abraham from a father, not from her mother. Therefore the marriage between them was not considered as incest, namely, sibling relationship was determined by a common mother. When Sarah offered her maid to Abraham, she did it “to be built from her”. That is: the child would be legally the son of Sarah, a phenomenon that would return with the case of the maids of Le’ah and Raḥel (Rachel). When, in this parashah, the slave came to aran and asked about her father’s house, she turned him in fact to her mother’s house.

We have already seen in the case of the casting away of Yishma’el the command to Abraham “In all that Sarah said to thee, hearken to her voice (Gen. 21:13) could this be more plain? But it is in this parashah that we see the dominance – srarah – of the will of Sarah for generations to come. The pastoral Abraham, the type of Hevel-Ebal, becomes through her to the like of Qayin, to the owner of qinyan-landed property, owner of a burial estate.

There is a major difference between wide “The Estate of Abraham”, and the narrower “Estate of Sarah” – which is the Land of Israel. Sarah was the native of a large city, that also when she came to the land of Kena’n hardly wandered. The place of her tent was at evron-Hebron, there she gave birth to her only child, and there she died thirty-seven years later, whereas Abraham as a wandering shepherd, as a contemporary Bedouin Sheik, who wandered to the desert of Be’er Sheva, and his progeny (children of Hagar, Sarah and Qeturah) filled all the desert regions of the whole Middle East. The heritage land of all the Children of Abraham spreads much beyond the boundaries of the Land of Israel, and reaches apparently until India.

In the Biblical narrative, Sarah is the representative of the material world. She is the woman, she is the body, the flesh: “This is now a bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called Woman… That is why a man leaves his father and his mother, and cleaves to his wife… (2:23-24). Therefore it is Sarah who cared for an earthly inheritance (for her son), and who brought Abraham to the acquisition of the first earthly property. Ostensibly – a burial estate, in fact – a womb that would beget all the possession of the land.

According to the Midrash of the Zohar, the word ELoHIM (אלהים) – God – is made of the two words MI (מי) and ELeH (אלה), which are mentioned in the verse from Isaiah (40:26): “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who (Mi) created these things (Eleh)”. Mi – the word of question – relates to the hidden, to the spirit world and the transcendent divinity, and is of a male nature, whereas Eleh – “these things” – the overt, has to do with the earthly world, the immanent (also immanent divinity), and of feminine nature.

Let us now check what is derived from the combination of the two words” “Sarah” and “Eleh” what emerges is YiSRaEL (Israel), as the two H’eh return and become one Y’od. From the loins of Abraham there issued a whole group of nations, these are “The Children of Abraham” through them would the blessing of “and thou shalt be a father of many nations” (17:4), but the Biblical narrative focuses on “Yisra’el”, the Children of Sarah. It seems therefore that the name of Yisra’el is derived from that of Sarah, two generations before the appearance of Jacob who won this name officially.

Sarah represents the jealous, zealous part. Abraham did not return from the Land of the Philistines until Sarah’s death. He went for the qedah, and also returned from it, to Be’er Sheva, whereas Sarah lived and died at Hebron. She cleaved to the mountain. She represents the people of the mountainous area, who throughout history would be more zealous, more insular, and more entrenched in their traditions compared with the Philistines, residents of the open (Mefulash) land, near the sea and busy in trade and connections with the rest of the world. If it was not for Sarah’s death, Abraham might have stayed among the Philistines (Palestinians). Sara is Israel. At the return of Jacob to Kena’an, after twenty years of absence, he encountered an angel who examined him, and found in him the quality of his grandmother “Thy name shall be called no more Ya’akov, but Yisra’el - Ki sarita im Elohim ve’im anashim vatukhal” – “for thou hast contended with Go and with men, and hast prevailed (32:28). Only then he received the name Yisra’el, as a proper son to the family of Sarah.

 

Va’yihyu aye Sara… shne aye Sarah: The structure of “Makhpelah” (literally, "doubling" or “multiplication”), that is, of something that is multiplied and doubled, fits the Parashah of “Ḥaye Sara”, that is dominated by a double cave, and which contains two chapters and two stories – the Story of Sarah and the Story of Rivqah-Rebecca. In each one of these stories there is a difficult negotiation between two suave parties. Also at the end of the Parashah, which relates the death of Abraham, he is buried by two – his two sons, Yiẓḥaq and Yishma’el.

The Koren (and other) translations do not give the repetition, but in the Hebrew, the expression “aye Sarah” – “Lives of Sara” – is repeated twice right at the first sentence, without any grammatical need. The structure of Makhpelah – “doubling” – which is the name of the burial cave to be discussed is very appropriate for parashat Sarah, which has two chapters and two stories – the story of Sarah and the story of Rivkah. In each of the two stories there is a hard bargaining between two crafty sides. Also the concluding part, the death and burial of Abraham, is performed by two – Yiẓḥaq and Yishma’el.

The strange expression aye Sarah – “Lives of Sarah” – appears, as noted, not once but twice in the first verse, denoting two ways by which Sarah gained immortality after her death, as we shall see in the sequel: one through the establishment of the burial estate at Qiryat Arba, and the second when she kind of resurrected in Rivkah, that only with whom Yitzhaq fell in love and was consoled over the death of his mother. The two stories are different, but there is much common in the way they took place, and we can claim that they themselves form a kind of Makhpelah – doubling.

And the Lives of Sarah were a hundred years and twenty years and seven years”. There is a specific number introduced by this opening sentence, and there are a few significant numbers hidden in it. The Gematria value of the first word – vayihyu – is 37, the star (hexagram) number that accompanies us to the entire length of the Book of Genesis; whereas “aye” has Gematria value of 28, the perfect number that is hinted by the number of letters of the first verse of Genesis; the Gematria value of aye Sarah (“Lives of Sara”) is 533, which is a multiple of the first “star number” – 13 (13 x 41 = 533); whereas the specified number – 127 – is a hexagonal number.

The specific number of 127, and its unusual form of counting, seemingly cumbersome or over-verbose,[1] brought the interpreters to seek various explanations for this number and to show that it was not random but symbolic. But even those interpretations (e.g. Rashi’s and in the Zohar) do not manage to connect the meaning of this number with another appearance of it in the Bible, in the Book of Esther (1:1): “This is Aashverosh who reigned, from Hodu (India) as far as Kush (“Black”), a hundred and twenty seven provinces”.[2] The semantic meaning of connecting the mention of Sarah’s years and Aḥashverosh’s provinces may indicate a connection of the number with governance and rule – in Hebrew Serarah – hinted by the name “Sarah”.

Recently it was shown by Meir Bar-Ilan,[3] that it is possible to explain the number 127 as the combination of two numbers: a hundred, which is ten squared, and denotes a doubling of the full score; and of 27, which is 3 to the 3rd power (3x3x3=27), which is an amplification of the Principle of Three - which is a central principle of the Book of Genesis: three creation stories, three stories of the establishment of humankind (Adam, Noah and Abraham) and three stories of patriarchs and matriarchs of Israel. In this, Sarah stands for the essence of all the triads of these three stories.

In our generation, when we are used to the binary arithmetic of computers, we may sense additional meaning in this number. It is quite evident that the number 127 is actually the binary version of 128, namely 2 to the 7th power, when the value of 0 too represents one of the possibilities of the counting. Changing the place of the same digits, we can express the number mathematically thus: 127=27-1. For theoretically, Aashverosh might have ruled over 0 countries (then he would not be a king) or Sarah might have lived 0 years, and there is a point in comparing this initial possibility with that of who attained the 127th country or her 127th year. At the end of the Books of Chronicles (II 36:23) Koresh-Cyrus, the emperor of Persia says about the same kingdom: “The Lord God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth”. The number 127 thus represents a complete blessing, because things repeat being doubled seven times. It is as if Aashverosh’s forefathers have doubled their kingdom seven times, and Sarah was granted seven times to double her years. In other words, his number is the sum of seven consecutive binary decisions, of “yes” or “no”. Both Sarah and Aashverosh answer consecutive “yes” to the question of dominion.

The number 127 is, as noted, 2**7 – 1, which is the seventh “Mersenne number”[4] and the fourth Mersenne Prime. Thus it is also a component of the fourth Perfect Number 8128 = 64 X 127, which is the largest Perfect number that was known in the time of the Bible and of Greek science. As we have seen, the Bible starts with the first two Prime Numbers: 6 (number of letters in the first word and Days of Creation) and also 28 (letters in the first verse). The Gematria value of “Abraham” (248) is half of the third perfect number – 496, whereas the number of years of Sarah’s life is 1/64 of the fourth perfect number (note that there are generally counted 3 Patriarchs and four Matriarchs).

Vayihyu aye Sarah – “And the Lives of Sarah were”: The word “Vayihyu” - “and they were” (or “and they would be”) – has the Gematria value of 37, which is the age of Yiẓḥak-Isaac at the qedah, according to the calculation of the sages, as Rashi claims: “the death of Sarah was joined to the qedah of Yiẓḥak, because through the rumor of the qedah, that her son was taken to slaughter and was almost slaughtered, her soul flew away and she died”. The 90 years that Sarah was barren were not considered as years of real living, but 37 years of motherhood redeemed also the 90 barren years, and made all the 127 years to count as full and fulfilled.[5]

 

Part I: Sarah as Inspiration to Israel, buying the Cave and getting set in the Land

Sarah, the Goddess, and Knesset Yisrael

The Biblical narrative opens with a turning point in human history. As we have shown at the introduction to the Book of Genesis, it is possible to match the scriptural events with feminist-archeologist claims, that about 6000 years ago, there came a turn from a matriarchal (or nowadays more likely to be called “participatory”) society to patriarchal society. Among the other cultural changes, there changed the religious rituals, including the passage from the cult of “The Great Goddess” of fertility to the cult of a masculine God of heaven. In the arena of the Biblical events, which is the Land of Israel (on both sides of the Jordan river), the echoes of this transition and contention can be found in the contention between native cultures of agriculturists and the nomadic-fighting shepherds.

We may sum ten important differences between these two inimical cultures:[6]

          Attribute                 Agriculturalists                   shepherds-fighters

          Supreme value        land                                     fighting

          Model                      nature                                   chivalry

          Admired figure       woman, mother                      male

          World-view             cycles, destiny, passivity        victory, activism

          Regime                    partnership                              control

          Luminary                sun, day                                  moon, night

          God figures             animal-gods                            anthropomorphic gods

          Habitation               permanent settlement             wandering

          Symbol                    ring, the oroborus                   weapons

          Treatment of dead           burial                           cremation of bodies

Parashat aye Sarah is strongly connected with the conflict between settled-agrarians and nomadic-shepherds, and points to the Biblical synthesis, which makes it a very important model for our times and for future conduct. It is no accident that our parashah begins with the tenth attribute that we brought above, with the burial of Sarah. By Abraham the Hebrew-vri, the passer and wanderer, accepted for himself to establish the family burial estate for the parent-figures of the Israelite nation, he accepted to a large extent the rule of his wife “In all that Sarah said to thee, hearken to her voice (Gen. 21:12). The wandering people of the Hebrews-vrim (passers by) came to a process of settling in the land and confrontation with the gods of the land – and with the question of the cult of the goddess.

The assumption that the Bible is the basis of a manifestly patriarchal religion is simplistic and the answer found in the scriptures is more complex. As we saw, “Sarah” herself is - in fact or as a symbol - a/the goddess of Israel. With her interment at evron-Hebron, there started a process of assimilation that proceeded for thousands of years. The first step was the interment of the old goddess in the ground, a burial that is in conversation with the ancient fertility cults, where the god was killed and buried in the earth as a seed in the ground, in order to resurrect with the sprouting of the corn (let us recall the possibility we raised at parashat Bereshit, that the “Tree of Knowledge” was wheat). The Biblical narrative turns around the idolatrous cult as known then: not the son-god was the dead buried in the ground, but actually the mother-goddess, and she is the one who takes care that also the father-god figure will be brought by his sons to be buried beside her.

We know today that the cult of the goddess was quite common in the ancient Israel.[7] The Bible admits - even if with reservation - that King Shelomoh-Solomon built an altar for the Ashtoret-Ashera goddess and that the people continued to sacrifice at the altars – that altar and many others – for still hundreds of years after the building of the First Temple in Jerusalem. It seems that there was prevalent then a popular syncretistic religion of many faces/facets in the divinity, which is testified by archeological finds, including votive clay tablets for “YHWH and His Ashera”.[8] The sages admit that only with the return from the exile (Shivat Ẓion) “the taste for idolatry was removed from Israel”. In fact, if we check this closely, this taste was not removed from “Israel”, but only from Judah, since the state that the Shave ion established was the province of “Judea-Yehudah” and not the Kingdom of “Yisra’el-Israel”.

Is it possible that the story of Saray-Sarah is that of the Asherah, or of “The Hebrew Goddess” (as the language and title of Patai’s book), who was already removed doctrinally, but was still dwelling underground, influencing her children and may perhaps return at the Resurrection of the Dead? We shall follow this story, as we ponder over the appearance of the figure of the Shekhinah and of Knesset Yisra’el through the continuation of the development of Jewish religion and folklore.

The archetype of the goddess and of “The Great Mother” actually exists and is potentially operative in every woman, but the figures in the scriptures are readily available models for enacting these archetypes.

We have noted that in the old matriarchal culture, the gods were represented by figures of animals. The Egyptian goddess Isis was marked by a cow head, and the Roman goddess Juno was characterized by having “cow’s eyes”. It is worth noting that the names of all the Biblical matriarchs are connected with animals, especially in a way that stresses nature and femininity. The (feminine) name “Sarah” is connected to the (masculine) word “Shor-bull”, and we know that the figure of the bull figures much as a symbol of Israelite divinity, such as with the Golden Calf (and perhaps with the mysteries of the Red Heifer), the calves that King Yorov’am placed at Dan and at Beyt El as representing the God Of Israel (I Kings 12:28-33), and with the figure with “the bull’s face” that helps to carry the Divine throne-Merkavah in Ezekiel’s vision (1:10; 10:14). The name “Rivkah-Rebbeca” means “Cow” or “harnessed”, one of a bovine pair harnessed together (we also know the expression “Ẹgel marbek” – “fattening calv”), whereas “Rael-Rachel” means an ewe. The Hebrew name “Le’AH” in a different letter order gives “ELaH” – “Goddess”.

As noted above, one of the interpretations to the name “Rivkah is (according to the Arabic root) a means of harnessing and tying together. Let us then substitute her name with the mathematical symbol that is used by convention for the action of tying an adding – the plus sign “+”, and place it in its chronological order, between Sarah and Le’ah. The system of the three matriarchs is then summed in Hebrew by the expression:

          SaRaH – Rivkah – LeAH = SaRaH + Le’AH = YiSRa’EL

The expression is also exact mathematically-gematrically. If we give the Gematric value of the addition of the Hebrew letters of these two names we get:

          SaRaH (505) + Le’AH (36) = YiSRa’EL (541)[9]

In the myths of the ancient East, the godess (e.g. the Babilonean Inana) as the one who planted the Tree of Life. This task was also appointed for the Hebrew Goddess, in her secret enactment, in the figure of our Mother Sarah.

As the figure of the Hebrew goddess, Sarah is engaged in the labor of a new creation, called “Yisra’el-Israel”, an entity that gets gradually perfected through the subsequent generations that get gathered at the Cave of the Makhpela – Sarah with Abraham, Rivkah with Yiẓḥak, and Le’ah with Ya’qov-Yisra’el.

 

Yisra’el-Israel – A Boy or a Girl?

The Book of Genesis is the description of the creation of the entity of “Yisra’el-Israel”, an entity that may bring blessing for the whole of humankind, that is, “a Messianic Entity”. Is it possible to characterize this entity as male or female? Or is this entity both male and female?

It seems that the male form of this entity is “m Yisra’el” – the Nation of Israel – whereas the feminine form of this entity is “Knesset Yisra’el” – “The Assembly of Israel”. There is a possibility and a tendency to perceive in these entities something divine, or much connected with the divinity. The divinization of m Yisra’el – the People of Israel – is likely to lead to Fascism, but Knesset Yisrael is a more delicate matter. The way in which this figure was developed among our Sages of blessed memory and in the Qabbalah made it into an acceptable matter, because it is based on the sayings of the prophets, namely expressed from God’s viewpoint. From the prophets of Israel and to the interpretations of the sages and the Qabbalah to the Song of Songs (Canticles), there is an image of a love relationship (which does not lack also frustrations and anger) between “the Holy One blessed be He” and Kenesset Yisra’el, and in the language of the mequbalim (Kabbalists), “between ha’QB”H ve’Nuqbato” – “The Holy One and His Female”.

This feminine and created entity of Kenesset Yisra’el is engaged in complex relationship, which continually develops and evolves, with the Holy One blessed be He, as is summed at Midrash Raba for Exodus (tract 52): “It is allegorical to a king, who had an only daughter and he was loving her exceedingly. And He use to call her “my Daughter”, and he did not desist from loving her until he called her “my Sister”, and he did not desist from loving her until he called her “my Mother”. Likewise is the Holy One Blessed be He to Yisra’el…”.

The masculine Yisra’el-Israel is of the figure of “The divine Son”, supported by the verse “Yisra’el is my son, my firstborn (Exodus 4:22). In her book “The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah”,[10] Leonora Leat asserts that the priests of the Jerusalem Temple had secrets that allowed them to become “Sons of God”. The expression  Ben-Adam - “Son of Man” – in the Book of Ezekiel and Bar-Inash in the Book of Daniel, and even more so Ben-Adam in the apocryphal Book of Enoch-anokh which is the closest to the time of Jesus of Nazareth (the author of the Book of Enoch lived, apparently, at the times of the Ḥashmonean revolt) are buttressing the claim that the figure of the “Son” – Ben – in the Qabbalah is derived from ancient secrets of the Temple worship that were geared to the formation of “Son of God” – Ben Elohim[11] (something akin to the famous Christian concept, which was probably the reason that this concept was hidden and withdrawn in the Torah of the Jews).

The prophets thus relate to Yisra’el both as to a male and to a female, though the feminine regard is always accompanied by an additional name, which is inherently feminine: Betulat Yisra’el (the virgin Israel), She’erit Yisra’el (the remnant of Israel) etc. The sages added the expression Kenesset Yisra’el (the assembly of Israel), which became such a major concept of the Qabbalah, until it became regarded as the most essential and manifest part of the very divinity.

Already in parashat Lekh-Lekha we learn that “Saray your wife… Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her; and I will bless her, and she will be a mother of nations; kings of people shall issue from her (Gen. 17:15-16). This is in contrast to Hagar and the wandering Yishma’el, who thus resembles Abraham and not Sarah. From Ishmael would issue twelve princes – Nesi’im – but not kings. The kingship is for Yisra’el, and Yisra’el issues from Sarah.

Nowadays we regard the State of Israel and “Yisrael” generally in the feminine mode.

 

And Sarah died in Qiryat-Arb; that is evron, in the land of Kena’an”. Rashi gives two explanations to the name Qiryat Arb – “the City of Four”: “because of four giants that lived there… another thing, because of the four couples that were buried there, husband and wife: Adam and avah, Abraham and Sarah, Yiẓḥak and Rivqah, Ya’ạqov and Le’ah” (Rashi for Gen. 23:2). There are three insights her that are relevant to our study: a) if also Adam and Eve-avah were buried at the Makhpelah cave – then it figures that the cave is situated by a gate of the garden of Eden; b) if “Qiryat-Arb is named for the four couples that were buried there, then it is the very burial estate, the Makhpelah Cave itself, is the real “Qiryat Arba”, and it is the facility that has the future objective of “evron” – of ibur (connection and socialization) together; c) if Qiryat Arb was called so because of the four couples that would be buried there in the future – then this is a kind of a prophetic name, that hints at prophetic qualities. Since Sarah is the cause of tying the family of the patriarchs with Qiryat Arb – we shall undertake in the sequel to check whether she can be attributed with prophetic qualities. Or according to the verse “from my flesh.. I would see God” (Job 19:26), it needs examining whether Sarah, who is likened to flesh, the material, was blessed with a capacity to behold God.

 

And Avraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her”. It was Sarah who took care that Abraham would have the capital to buy the field in Hebron. It is because Abraham’s wife was bartered to the king of Egypt and to the king of the land of the Philistines that Abraham acquired such great capital, and now – after Sarah’s death – the humiliation has at last been justified: she received the most expensive and fabulous burial grounds in the future “Land of Sarah” – that is, “Land of Israel”.

If one examines the scriptural text, it becomes evident that Abraham and Sarah lived separately. Abraham lived at Be’er Shevah, at the place from where his beloved son Ishmael was sent out, far from the authority – Serarah – of Sarah, who resided at her tent in Hebron-evron (some 30 miles away, over a day’s journey). With all his wealth, Abraham did not have the technological means that Joseph would eventually have – to mummify the corpse of his father (and later his own), so that it would be preserved and it would be possible to bring it to burial with his fathers. He was forced to bury Sarah at the place that she planned, at evron-Hebron, and through this there was determined the place where he, and his offspring after him, would be buried. During her life, Sarah did not succeed to keep her husband by her side, but at last, with her death, she managed to ground Abraham and to bring him to invest in real-estate, in the field of the Cave of the Makhpelah, from where there would sprout the genealogical tree of her children.[12]

Through the death of Sarah, Abraham – the “Hevel-Ebal” side of the couple – the man of spirit-wind (same word in Hebrew), the wandering shepherd who does not cling to the soil, became forced to take the part of his mate, the “side of Qayin-Cain. Abraham made the first practical step of settling in the land. He conducted negotiations with the native people of the land. The terms that he used – would then become the inalienable properties of residents of the land, and we shall return to discuss them. In the sequel, we shall see also a parallel between the “structure” of the negotiation of Abraham with the sons of et to that of the negotiation of Eli’ẹzer with the family of Naor.

In fact, the parashah brings not just two but four procedures of negotiations - in themselves a Makhpelah-multiplication. We shall hence bring them chronologically, as they took place. The first negotiations proceed at this stage between Abraham and Efron.

 

1st Conversation – the structure of Abraham’s negotiations with the sons of et to buy his Burial Estate

Abraham, who rose from mourning his dead, has now become a new person. He is rid of that compromising attitude of the one who twice gave his wife for the rulers of the land, who did not take any from the property of those he saved, and who yielded to Lot and to Abimelekh over the land promised him by God. Now he was negotiating with determination, in order to acquire for himself and for his progeny a piece of the land, an estate that would not be contested for generations.

In the negotiations with the greedy Efron, Abraham was driving the transaction to become a public auction, where he was buying the property for a price that could have no competitors, and out of conviction that the investment would pay. The conduct of the negotiations, the building of the family burial estate and the organization of the burial were the last trial that Abraham had to stand to. (According to our calculation, this was the thirteenth trial, the number 13 is connected with the Shekhinah – the feminine aspect of the divinity, and we shall discuss this number in Prashat vaYei).

The course of Abraham’s negotiations with the sons of et over the field of the Cave of the Makhpelah delineates the future course of David, in purchasing the threshing ground of Arawna the Yevusite as the site for the building of the temple.

And Abraham stood up from before his dead, and spoke to the sons of et, saying, I am a stranger and sojourner with you; give me a possession of a burying place with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight”. Abraham knew the exact place that he desired, and that he needed to get the agreement of Efron. But at first he had to receive the right of possession in principle. It appears that the sons of Ḥet were not ready to allow strangers to acquire burying place among them, evidently because it is specifically a burying place that gives title and possession. That is why Abraham presented himself as Ger ve’Toshav - “stranger and sojourner”. If he had not the rights as stranger, he merited the right of sojourner. In this started a process, dance-like, of seven steps, in the course of which Abraham stooped again and again to the ground, and kept raising the obligations, both his and of the sons of Ḥet.

And the children of et answered Avraham, saying to him, Hear us, my lord; thou art a prince of God among us; in the choice of our sepulchers bury thy dead; none of us shall withhold from thee his tomb, but that thou mayest bury thy dead.” This was a most polite and hospitable answer, but also the way in which the sons of et refused in effect to give to Abraham an exclusive burying place for his family for generations. Instead, they offered him any one of their own tombs. The meaning of this was that the tomb of Sarah would become one of their own tombs, and probably also the tomb of Abraham would become a local “Sheikh’s Tomb”, a remembrance of “a prince of God” – Nesi Elohim - who dwelled among them, and in effect the assimilation of his memory in their own history. The facts demonstrate that this is what actually happened in effect: the Arabs of the contemporary Ḥebron regard the tomb of Sarah as the tomb of one of their own sacred mothers, without recalling the sending away of Yishma’el against her.

Abraham’s next step was made upon the respect that the sons of Ḥet gave him as a “prince of God”: “And Abraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land, to the children of et” (a behavior which we shall see later with Jacob-Ya’qov who was trying to appease Esau). When a prince of God bowed down, how could they refuse his plea: “If it be your mind that I should bury my dead out of my sight; hear me, and entreat for me to ‘Efron the son of oar, that he may give me the cave of Makhpelah, which he has, which is in the end of his field; for the full price he shall give it me for a possession of a burying place among you”, he asked. Abraham knew well that ‘Efron was present among the audience, but by addressing, “the people of the land”m ha’Are – he has put ‘Efron in a situation where it would be difficult to refuse, and it will also become impossible to decline his request because of the local custom, because as conducted, the transaction would be made with the agreement of all the notables. He asked for only a small thing, only the cave at the end of the field; and on the other hand he insisted on paying for it in full cash, so that it would become his estate for eternity.

At this stage it becomes evident that ‘Efron has indeed been sitting all along among the children of Ḥet, and he rose and answered Abraham in front of all the people by the gate of his city, and offered him both the cave and the whole field in which the cave was situated, ostensibly as a gift. Abraham suspected that he would be permitted to bury his dead there, but the place would remain the property of the family of ‘Efron the Ḥittite, and the tomb of Sarah and Abraham would remain there as a guest.

So when ‘Efron came, Abraham again bowed down, to him and to all the people of the land – the same Abraham who would not be ready to marry his son to one of the daughters of the land – and his answer after this further bowing down to “the people of the land” was: “but But if thou wilt give it, I pray thee, hear me: I will give thee the price of the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there”. He understood that he had to buy the whole field, for the full the price, in front of all the people, and only then he would have the full rights over it, whether for sowing and reaping, or for a burying place, and that way he would no longer be “a stranger and a sojourner”.

‘Efron’s answer (the sixth step of the process) took full advantage of all the tokens of respect that were shown there so far. “My lord, hearken to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver; what is that between me and thee? Bury therefore thy dead”. What was raised was actually a huge, almost imaginary, sum – eight hundred years later, when David came to acquire the threshing floor of Arawna, he would pay only 30 shekels of silver, one thirteenth of the sum. (But in the manner that the declaration was made, ‘Efron left Abraham no room for bargaining over the sum.)

And then, during the concluding seventh step, the transaction was realized: Abraham did not hesitate, in spite of the huge sum: “And Avraham hearkened to ‘Efron; and Avraham weighed to ‘Efrn (here the name is written without the W’aw, the “O” vowel, in the form of far or Efer, namely dust of the earth) the silver, which he had named in the hearing of the sons of et, four hundred shekels of silver, currency money with the merchant”. After the payment of such an imaginary sum in sight of all the sons of Ḥet, it would have become inconceivable to evict him or his sons from there, and Abraham was left with this piece of land and dust, to fulfill what was said “for dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return (Gen. 3:19).

We may add, for this matter, that the number 400 is certainly meaningful: at the beyn ha’Betarim covenant, Abraham was notified that his children would have to be exiled for 400 years; Esau came to face his brother who returned from his exile, along with 400 men with him. It should be noted that the number 400 is definitely “square”, the symbol of the four, of building, a full count of ten times ten, and itself a squared number of 20 X 20 = 400.

(According to the Qabbalah, 400 represent the four lower Sefirot of lam ha’Beri’ah: Malkhut (Kingdom), Yesod (Foundation), Nea (Eternity/overcoming), Hod (splendor/recursive). The numerical value n each Sefirot of lam ha’Beri’ah is one hundred. The Malkhut represents the earth itself, the Yesod the connection with it; the Nea and Hod represent the earthly places of dstinction, as the saying of Rabbi Akivah (Bab. Talmud, Berakhot 58a): “The Nea is Jerusalem, and the Hod is the Temple (Beit ha’Mikdash)”.

With these 400 shekels did Abraham then connected with the land, and acquired therein an eternal earthly possession. Only then he rose and buried his dead as one who sows the seed into the soil. Only then really: “And the field of ‘Efron which was in Makhpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made over to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of et, before all that went in at the gate of his city”.

The entire negotiations were characterized by a direction of descent to the earth:
1. “
and Abraham stood up from before his dead… (23:3); 2. “And Avraham stood up, and bowed himself to the people of the land (23:7); 3. “And Avraham bowed himself down before the people of the land (23:12). And the process was not complete (Shalem) until all the money was paid (Shalem). Only then came the descent under the ground, the burial of the wife and her interment in the cave, to which Abraham would also come when his time came. The consequence is a return upwards – “And the field and the cave that is in it, were made over/stood up (Hebrew va’Yaqom for a possession of a burying place by the sons of et (23:20).


“The Field of the Cave of Makhpelah” as an Entrance of Eden

In Midrash Bereshit Raba 58 are brought four assertions for the source of the name “Qiryat Arb”. Among them is brought the assertion (which we quoted above from Rashi), that eventually was also accepted in Moslem traditions: about Adam and Eve-avah being among the four couples buried at the cave, on whose name is Qiryat Arb called, and by association about the closeness of the cave to the opening of the Garden of Eden.

Corresponding with “And a river went out of ‘Eden to water the garden: and from thence it was parted, and branched into four streams (Gen. 2:10), there is “Qiryat Arb” with the four tombs of the ancestors in it: tomb of Adam and Eve, tomb of Abraham and Sarah, tomb of Yiẓḥaq and Rivqah, and tomb of Ya’qov and Le’ah. But those that were important, we assert, for the great creation for which the cave of Makhpelah was chosen – the creation envisioned by Sarah – were not the four couples as much as the four mothers. Just as for the birth of the Children of Israel Jacob-Ya’qov needed four mothers, for the birth of the entire people there was a need for four mothers. The Makhpelah cave (namely “duplication cave”) was the tribal womb, the hollow in the ground to which are returned the seeds, in order to sprout the pedigree tree of the Tribes of Israel, in order to grow the Tree of their Common Life, as a covenant of brothers with common fathers and mothers. In another way, it gains eternity (or at least synchrony) by fixing three or four generations into simultaneity.

The tribal memories echo between the four paired tombs that are arrayed, it becomes evident, in the pattern of the Tree of Life. The Makhpelah-multiplication that the cave represents is the multiplication of the qualities of each one of the three parent couples in the others. Abraham and Sarah, multiplied by Yiẓḥaq and Rivkah, multiplied by Ya’ạqov and Le’ah equal the cubical womb in which the nation is due to be born. The seed that is sowed within the earth are the bones (Ạẓamot) of the parents, their unique self (Ạẓmiyut) attributes. From this seed they are destined to become the parents of the nation, the roots of its Tree of Life. The image is erotic: the cave penetrates to the opening of the Garden of Eden. But it is worth recalling that “also God made this opposite this" (Ecc. 7:14) – “between the Garden of Eden and hell there is only a handbreadth” (Psikta 2). The Cave of Makhpelah could lead to either.

The system of tombs of the four couples at the Cave of Makhpelah is a system for channeling the relationship of longing between heaven and earth, a well for raising “The Feminine Waters” (or Ma’N, in the language of the Qabbalah).

The raising of that Ma’N is attributed for the Mothers, as we shall presently see below, in the discussion about Rivqah-Rebbeca. The Alter Rebbe (the Old Rabbi) of abad (Chabad), Rabbi Shene’ur Zalman of Liadi, conceived of the Mothers as being generally on a higher level than the Fathers, because they are the Mashpi’ot (influencers, givers of divine plenitude-Shefa, raisers of the Ma’N). The Fathers do draw from above to below (deal with spiritual affairs), but the women influence from below to above (as we have already explained about Sarah. A woman’s being material, earthly, is of the quality of derekh ere qadmah la’Torah – “The Way of the Earth is prior to the Torah”).

Woman is, has to do with, the living earth-Adamah. In the Beginning-Bereshit – “in the day that the Lord-YHWH made the earth and the heavens (2:4) – Adam knew to give names to all the animals, but did not know – or did not find necessary – to give a name to his wife, and just called her “woman, because she was taken out of man (2:23), until after they were both expelled from the Garden of Eden and became cursed. Only then “And the man called his wife’s name avah; because she was “the mother of all living (ay)” (3:20), but “the mother of all living” was the earth, and in contemporary Hebrew the word “avvah”, means “homestead”: a piece of land that is owned exclusively by a particular person. (In Hebrew, “ownership” is ba’lut and “to own” is liv’l which is the same as “to take sexual possession”). After they were expelled from the original avvah-Estate of Eden, Adam found some consolation in his wife avah, a token of the taste of the Garden of Eden. Eventually, Sarah would turn into a avah, and so her daughter in law, and her daughter in law. Each woman, in turn, would become the opening of paradise for her man, and thus also their tomb would be an entrance to paradise.

The Father of humankind, Adam and the parents of the Israelite nation have never died, in a certain sense. They are still alive to this very day, and influence our beliefs and our self-identities as their progeny. Their mythical union and multiplication in a single memorial-site, make their different memories, as well as their opposite characters, into an integral part of our values and cultural heritage. No less so – also of the values and cultural heritage of the Moslem inhabitants of this land. With all the religious fanaticism between Moslems and Jews in Hebron, which is centered around the present burial place, it is remarkable that the Moslems regard Sarah – the one who, according to the Bible, expelled their father Ishmael to the desert – their own righteous mother that merits their prayers at her tomb. Four thousand years after her death, Sarah may still bring to a measure of reconciliation among the children of her husband, of whom she is considered mythologically as the cause of their distance.[13]

The identification of the Cave of Makhpelah at the heart of the city of Hebron is accepted since the middle Ages. But it is possible – and perhaps necessary – to doubt the reliability if the identification of the present site, which has become a place of contention and strife. According to the research of the architect Tuviah Sagiv, the place that the tradition regards as the Cave of Makhpelah, is an ancient Edomite idol shrine, whereas the locus of the original cave in less known and is now – as in the time of the Patriarchs – still a field. Perhaps we may still be able to walk in that original field, “the cave of the field of Makhpelah before Mamre”, which would serve as an integration- and reconciliation-ground for the memories of the people of this land.

 

The Architecture and Geomancy of the Makhpelah Cave

The sacred tombs within the cave form between them a system of relationships that define the domain of “The Tree of Life” of the Qabbalah. Also beyond Ḥebron – towards Jerusalem – there was added the tomb of Rael-Rachel, in Bethleḥem, on the Efrat Road. This feature has much meaning, where eventually Bethleḥem would become the birth place of David, who would establish his kingdom at Ḥebron, but would return and turn northward – to his birthplace and further north, to establish his new capital at Jerusalem.

This system of tombs create the seed and the root stem for the growth of Yisra’el-Israel, an entity that is regarded in the Qabbalah as “Ze’r Anpin” (Microscopus), the “Small Face” of the Godhead that appears in our world. The Makhpelah Cave integrates the Sefirot Ze’r Anpin, which are the the Sefirot of the Midot (emotions) – there is the known triangle of Abraham at the side of the esed-Mercy, Yiẓḥak-Isaac at the side of Gevurah-rigor and Ya’qov-Jacob at Tif’eret-Beauty; and in correspondence with them the triangle of the Mothers: Sarah – to whose authority Abraham yielded – at Netsa-victoy/eternity; Rivqah-Rebbeca – who stooped to watered the camels – at Hod-Yielding; and Le’ah – the “Mother of the Sons” (Em haBanim) the Tribes of Israel – at Yesod-Foundation. This triangle of the Mothers serves to ground the conceptual triangle of the Fathers in the social matrix of the People of Israel and their collective memories. In addition, the hidden to these six Sefirot Binayn (the “Sefirot of Construction”, which also parallel the Six Days of Creation). The hidden tombs of Adam and Eve-avvah – parallel the Sefirot of okhmah-Wisdom and Binah-Understanding; whereas the tomb of Rael-Rachel – the one that rests outside – and points at the direction of the development of the Kingdom of Israel – onward from Ḥebron in the direction of Jerusalem – paralleling the Sefirah of Malkhut-Kingdom.

By her choosing Ḥebron, contrary to Abraham’s choice, Sarah showed her grasp of Geomancy – the wisdom of the Earth. The business of Geomancy is the planning of the estate and the building upon it, in agreement with the covert forces within the earth, forces that affect the human subconscious, as well as the behavior of animals and the fertility of the soil. Those who deal with this science in our times (usually relating to the ancient Chinese Feng-Shui practices of earth energies) speak about straight “Ley Lines” that fix associated flow lines of earth energies, which themselves tend to move in curves. Places of worship and sacred tombs were always fixed – by all ancient cultures – at peaks, which were aligned by straight lines for the whole length and breadth of the country of dwelling. In this way it might have become possible to fix the lines of energy, and with them the unconscious, collective drives of the dwellers of the land and their archaic fidelity to her; namely, the directions that orientate the collective spirit, in our case – that of Israel.

Ḥebron, Bethleḥem and Jerusalem indeed delineate the main axis of the land. The Land of Israel, both west and east of the Jordan River, is characterized geologically by the Syrian-African Fault rift – the Jordan valley – and with mountain ranges going in a north-south direction with a little turn to the North-East. The Ḥebron Mountain is the most southerly peak in that range within the settled land. It marks a clear dwelling domain for a tribe or a small kingdom. At the northward continuation of this range, the natural consolidation points are at Beth-El – the dwelling place of the Tribe of Benjamin (and nowadays Ramallah) – and at the Shomron (Nablus-Shekhem, Tirah, Shomron) – the traditional dwelling place of the Tribe of Ephraim and the center of the old Kingdom of Israel. In these distinct areas there may develop fairly different character of the local people. The residents of the Mount Hebron are tough hardy people. The hardness (the side of rigor-Gevurah) connects at Ḥebron with religion for fanaticism. Here live people who would not forget the traditions hallowed by their forefathers.

Sarah, whose prophetic ability we’ve already mentioned, could foresee that when the tribes of Israel would settle in the land, they may go after the charms of “the daughters of the land” and cling to their idolatrous worship, and that the Kingdom of Israel would be likely to disintegrate. Therefore the seniority should go to the dwellers of the (eventual) Land of Judea, which would be more likely to enforce the monotheistic tradition upon all of Israel. Those put in charge of the inheritance of Jerusalem are therefore not the children of Ephraim at Shomron, but the children of Judah at Ḥebron, and they should have in their domain the tombs of the patriarchs – with their mythical influence – for all generations till our days.

Even in our time Ḥebron designates the direction in the contemporary struggle over the division of the land, a struggle whose symbolic-emotional pinnacle is at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The axis that the ancient Mothers have drawn still orientates and directs the collective emotions, and the religious fanaticism is likely to direct the historical moves. But there is also an alternative. It is possible that, by renewed contact with the roots, those entombed at the Cave of Makhpelah, we may reform (in the language of Qabbalah “sweeten”) the branches that issue from them. Through renewed descent to the roots it is possible to renounce the harness, the severity, the xenophobia, and to reach the Tree of Life anew. For this is the gate for the Garden of Eden, not just bones and burial caskets, but also the river that issues forth from Eden and the seed of the Tree of Life that is within the Garden.

 

The Makhpelah Cave as Genealogy Book of the People of Israel

Our forefathers were shepherds, people with no fixed property, without books and without burial estate, and thus both free to roam and lacking in historical memory. There might have been story-tellers who knew to recount the generations and the lineage of the tribe, but this must have been a weak memory that could easily be severed.

Through Sarah’s insistence to cling to the land, which brought to the acquisition of the Makhpelah Cave as the burial estate for Abraham, there formed the historical connection that could serve also a nation destined to become agricultural and become able to inherit the land. It was the existence of the estate of the tombs of the patriarchs of the nation that would give their offspring the justification to inherit the land and see it as theirs, even if they endured a long exile. As the system of the three couples of the ancestors’ caves got established, a whole assembly of national memory was formed, which gave identity definition and multi-faceted national mythos, which we may regard as the lineage record of the nation, of the People of Israel.

Over time, when the people became “The People of the Book”, there were already genealogy books that could maintain the historical identity even through centuries of exile. But “the material scripture” of the burial estate in “Qiryat Arb which is Hebron” served also as an ownership deed over the land.

 

The parallel of the Garden of Eden and the Field in the Makhpelah

The story of the Garden of Eden in parashat Bereshit came to describe the turning point in the relationship of Adam-humankind and Adamah-Living Earth. “Adam” is an individual, but also the whole of humankind, and in order to have “help to match him – zer ke’Negdo – there was formed for him a human mate – Eve-avah. But avah or avvah is also a homestead, a piece of land owned by that person “to cultivate it and to keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Through avvah-homestead a man becomes a “husbandman” of the land, to the extent that he can cultivate and keep it (or through the work of his wife). The essential choice between wandering and settling, which is exemplified by the two sons of Qayin-Cain and Hevel-Ebal, is decided by the avvah, the homestead, the grasping of the land through the toil of the woman.

Parashat aye Sarah repeats the same story: “Abraham” is an individual, but he is also the whole People of Israel, and “Sarah” is the Israelite goddess, the feminine principle at the foundation of the nation. Sarah’s assiduousness brings Abraham to invest a great portion of his capital in acquiring a piece of land, “the field, and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about (23:17). And in this cave, which according to the Midrash is at the entrance of the Garden of Eden, there starts the gathering of the investments for the formation of the nation – the very bones of the ancestors that are guarded in one place.

We saw three creation stories, which lead to an explanation for the disintegration of humankind. From this pattern, there are extended three discrete stories about the commencement of the divine experiment to create the appropriate human culture, starting with Adam, with Noah and with Abraham. But in contrast to avah-Eve who came and separated, Sarah came to gather and to unify. The three stories of the fore fathers, of Abraham, of Isaac-Yiẓḥaq and of Jacob-Yisra’el, get gathered together through the estate-avvah of the family burial site, and become components of one story. They become three interlacing cords, from which there is formed an “Estate Rope” – evel Naalah – (a Hebrew word for domain) and even “Rope of the Messiah” (evel Mashiah – Hebrew for messianic preparation and thus a Hebrew word pun), into a coherent redemptive story. The story of the Field of Makhpelah joins in its base the story of Edam and Eve with the story of Noah-“No’a ish ha’Adamah” (The husband of the Living Earth) to the redemptive story of the foundation of the People of Israel.

 


 

Part II: The Raising of the “Feminine Waters” (Ma’N)

Finding a Wife for Yiẓḥaq and his Consolation over his Mother

In spite of his joining with the land – in the presence of the native people and their testimony – Abraham did not seek to join with the native people of the land. On the contrary: he sought to keep the estate promised him by God only to himself and his family. Had Yiẓḥaq married with the daughters of the land – then all the issue of the inheritance of the land would have been so much simpler. He would have inherited as other heirs do. But Abraham stayed loyal to his own people, and therefore his confident servant had to return to aran, to the family of Tera. There was only one stipulation that Abraham made for his servant: whatever may transpire – “only bring not my son back there (24:8).

And Avraham was old, advanced in age”. After having mourned for his wife, “And Avraham stood up from before his dead (23:3) as a new and determined man. “Advanced in age”, but also young. Only 137 years old – exactly the whole life span of Yishma’el – Abraham rose up for a new life, without the yoke of Sarah. He had “baKol mi’Kol Kol – in all and everything – and with another 38 years to enjoy a new wife, and to beget six additional children. In addition, Abraham was relieved of Sarah’s fanaticism against Ishma’el. The Qur’an tells that Abraham met Ishmael at Mecca, and there they together built the temple of the Ka’aba for God-Allah. It is reasonable to assume that such a visit (which is taken for fact by any Moslem) took place only after the death of Sarah. With Sarah’s death, there was fixed the legacy for her children, but there was also opened a door for the return of the children of Ishmael to play with the children of Yiẓḥaq.

But from the perspective of the Biblical narrative, Abraham seems to have lost his significance after the qedah, and he had only three things to complete, which were all dictated by his dead wife: 
1. To acquire the family burial estate; 2. To bring to her son Yiẓḥaq a wife from her parents house (namely, not to allow the native daughters and sons of the land a part in the future inheritance); 
3. To assure that Yiẓḥaq would receive the whole inheritance – “And Avraham gave all that he had to Yiẓḥaq. But to the sons of the concubines, which Avraham had, Avraham gave gifts, and sent them away from his son, while he lived, eastward, to the east country (25:5-6).

The aging Abraham, advanced in years, started to get worried about his son. Even though he himself was ordered to go away from his country, and his kindred, and his father’s house, still when things came to decision, Abraham did not want to severe the connection with them, but to strengthen it: “but thou shalt go to my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife to my son Yiẓḥaq (24:4), with one provision: “beware lest thou bring my son back there”, because “The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and who… swore to me, saying, To thy seed will I give this land; … Only bring not my son back there”. It seems that also behind this desire – to find for Yiẓḥaq a wife from the house of Abram and Saray at aran – there stand the dead Sarah, so concerned about the inheritance. “As mothers so daughters”: Rivqah would eventually behave as if she were Sarah’s daughter, when she would bring Yiẓḥaq to command her younger son Jacob to go to aran, to find him a wife from there.

For no less than this is the story of the Life of Sarah, this is also the story of the Life of Rivqah, and the way in which she replaced Sarah. The narrative discloses how Rivqah became a “Sarah clone” in the way that Yiẓḥaq became consoled over his mother: “And Yiẓḥaq brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent”, and only then “took Rivqah, and she became his wife”, and only then “and he loved her; and Yiẓḥaq was comforted after his mother’s death (24:67).

With the completion of the act of buying the estate and the swearing of the servant for his mission, both Sarah and Abraham disappear from the stage, and the story is entrusted to the hand of the messenger, Abraham’s servant, and to the legs of the ten camels, carrying the treasures which he took, who had the role of convincing Lavan in the way he best understood.

 

Abraham and his Servant (Eliẹzer apparently)

The narrative expounds and recounts about the mission of Eli’ẹzer, out of any proportion to the scarcity of information about the great and hidden acts of the patriarchs. Three days of journeying for the awesome act at Mount Moriah contributed to us no details at all, but the chattering of the servant about the miraculous journey he had (according to Rashi, his saying “and I came this day to the well (24:42) – he meant ‘I have left today and arrived today’, which means that he had the miracle of Qfiat ha’Derekh”), he repeats and doubles and compounds details.

It seems that the Mothers were barren and the Fathers taciturn. Abraham probably knew that Yiẓḥaq, had he been sent to Haran alone and would have arrived at the well (as would eventually arrive his sun Jacob) might not have known what to say and how to chat with Rivqah, as closed as he probably had been within himself. But the tongue of the servant was loose. So there was only the question of trust left: “put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh; and I will make thee swear by the Lord…”. Thus Abraham swore in his servant in the manner of those days, to fulfill the mission in full loyalty, without any personal interests.

We have already shown that the midrash regards the two “young men” of Abraham who accompanied the journey to Mount Moriah (22:3) as Ishmael and Eli’ẹzer. We have also noted that tradition associates Ishmael with Islam, and hinted that it is possible to interpret Eli’ẹzer as an early representative of (future) Christianity, the religion of the apostles, the messengers of the Messiah.

Also Jesus, who must have regarded himself as a Messiah, appointed twelve apostles to propagate his message about the kingdom of heaven upon earth. Their role was to talk as much as possible and to tell stories about their master (the Messiah, according to their creed). It may be easy for a learned Jew nurtured on much study to slight those messengers, but the scriptures come to tell us, as the sages noted that “The Holy One likes the chat of the servants of the Fathers more than the learnings of the sons”. As adds the Rabbi of Gur, these chats are of the status of derekh Ere qadma la’Torah – “gentility preceded the Torah”.

 

 

2nd Conversation – Abraham, the Servant, and his Mission.

In this short conversation there are only four moves: 1) Abraham seeks to swear the servant for his mission; 2) the servant raises an important question, perhaps the woman would not desire to follow him back to Kena’an; 3) Abraham clarifies his position (“Only bring not my son back there”); 4) the servant swears to fulfill the mission, and from here the initiative passes to him.

As we shall later see, the servant was better than his master for the conduct of practical negotiations. He did take with him ten camels with all the goods of his master, but instead of spending all this treasure, he returned with a doubled treasure: the gifts, which were predominantly given to Rivqah-Rebbeca, returned with her, and the treasure got multiplied by bringing Rivqah to grow the new nation.

 

The Conduct of the Negotiations by Eli’zer

The conversation of the servant is longwinded and repetitive – but it was the most effective. What happened to the servant by the well forms a clear sign for coming generations, about what is worth repeating twice and thrice. Rivqah was placed – without her awareness – in a divine test in which her inner quality was assessed. The watering of the servant and of the animals was the examination, it we must understand its meaning:

And he made his camels kneel down outside the city by a well of water at the time of evening, at the time that the women go out to draw water”. The servant, who was well familiar with the habits of the region, knew also the meeting by the well. At that stage he did not expect specifically a woman from the family of Abraham, and Abraham did not even make such a stipulation. Eli’ẹzer expected, by all probability, for a girl from a poor family, who would draw water by herself and that the goods upon the camels would impress her and her family, and he might have been content with that. The arrival of Rivqah, of all women, was already like a sign from heaven.

And he said, O Lord-YHWH God of my master Avraham, I pray thee, send the good speed this day, and show kindness (esed) to my master Avraham. Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water (24:12-13)

There are three points that the servant makes in his speaking before God, and on account of which he expects divine grace – esed
1) the esed is “to my master, Abraham”; 2) “I stand here by the well of water”, this is the most appropriate place for the appearance of esed is the place of water coming out of the earth; 3) “the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water – even though the natural inclination is to reserve the precious water for the use of the local people, the very drawing of water out of the well, by lifting the water up for the use of humans and animals, a built-in act of esed.

And let it come to pass, that the girl to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also; let her be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Yiẓḥaq; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shown kindness to my master”. The activities that serve as indications and signs from God are the drawing of the water from the womb of the earth and the watering of the wanderers who thirsted in the desert.


About the Raising of the Feminine Waters – Ma’N

With the appearance of Rivqah and of love to her, the narrative starts to elucidate the secret of the operation of the feminine side of every human, the operation that the Mequbalim call “the Raising of the Feminine Waters” – ha’la’at haMa’N. This is parallel to the natural human inclination for sexual union.[14] The action of drawing up water from the well characterizes “the theurgical action” of humans – how a man returns and influences his Maker through “the Raising of Ma’N”. For the kabbalistic theurgical act of “the raising of Ma’N” there is demanded much effort, in controlling the natural inclination as well as its complete release, in order to enable the experience of the supreme joy.

All of Israel, the collective entity of “Knesset Yisra’el”, the carrier of Messiahship, the craving for the perfection of the world, are all aggregated and joined into one collective entity of a feminine nature: a woman craving for her man, who is the image of the Lord of heaven and of earth and the Maker of the world.

The appearance of Rivqah by the well and her drawing up of the reviving waters, to bring them up to water man and animal, is the Biblical revelation of the cosmic feminine principle. What we have not found with Sarah, who may appear as dry and calculating, we find in the juicy Rivqah. The attitude of this girl to the camels is – in the eyes of the servant – the sign and testimony of her becoming to be the wife of the son of his master. From the perspective of the Mequbalim, this is extended to the whole of Israel: every performance of a divine commandment by an Israelite has to do with “the raising of the Ma’N”, and this is precisely what Rivqah was doing, in the most natural manner. She raises water from the well to revive the thirsty soul of man and beast.

Sarah had set the stage, and Rivqah, when her time came, raised the waters in reality, and her son Ya’qov-Jacob – saw Rael-Rachel, fell in love with her, and did for her and for her animals just the same act that his mother did, and more. He drew immense strength and opened the cover of the well, in order to draw from her water for all the flocks. In this the raising of the Ma’N took root in Israel, and the seal of the Mothers was embossed over the Israelite Tree of Life.

 

3rd Conversation – the Servant with Rivqah

This conversation proceeded in several steps. It started as a short exchange, fast and direct as if without any sophistications: “And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I beg you, drink a little water from your water jar. He asked only a little water for himself. The answer came in two stages of “saying and doing”. First came a very short direct response, only for the expressed request: “And she said, Drink, my lord;” and then “she hurried, and let down her water jar upon her hand, and gave him drink” without wasting any words. Rivqah was not talkative. Only “when she had finished giving him drink,”, when the immediate request was well fulfilled, without any verbal attempt to make an impression, “she said, I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking”. She again performed her offer without waiting for a reply or for thanks. “And she hurried, and emptied her water jar into the trough, and ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. Also Eli’ezer did not say a thing “And the man wondering at her held his peace, to see whether the Lord had made his journey successful or not (24:15-21).

Now that the servant received the sign which he was expecting, he made an impressive step and took “a golden ear ring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold”, and only then he started talking to the girl and asked two questions together – 1) “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, I beg you.” And 2) “Is there room in your father's house for us to lodge in?” The answer of Rivqah was again short, matter-of-fact and generous: 1) “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milkah, whom she bore to Naor”. Here she innocently revealed to the man that not only did the good Lord bring him a good and proper girl for a wife for his master’s son, but that she was precisely the ideal woman as far as lineage was concerned, as close to Abraham and Sarah as possible. 2) “And she said to him, We have both straw and provender enough, and room to lodge in.

The next utterance was not directed only to her directly, but also to the Lord of the universe: “And the man bowed down his head, and worshipped the Lord. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not left destitute my master of his mercy and his truth; As for me, the Lord has guided me in the way to the house of my master's brothers. In spite of the amazing discovery and the opportunity to chat over all the family stories, Rivqah did not utter any additional word, but did most promptly what she saw as her task: “And the girl ran, and told those of her mother's house these things. It is interesting that even though the servant asked her about her father, she answered about her father and mother together, and when she went to arrange the practicalities, “told those of her mother's house” specifically, and not “her father’s house”.

 

4th Conversation: the Negotiating Conversation of Eli’ezer with the people of Bethuel’s House

Unlike with the other conversations, the one who opened the negotiations was not Eli’ẹzer but Laban son of Bethuel. “And Rivqah had a brother, and his name was Laban; and Laban ran out to the man, to the well. One might think that he was as prompt in doing a favor as his sister, or even as Abraham when he received his angelic guests (Gen. 18:7). Laban ran, indeed, but the scripture hints about his motivation: “And it came to pass, when he saw the ear ring and bracelets upon his sister's hands,” this was the first reason, the ear ring and bracelets, of ten and a half shekels weight, and only second came his interest in the family stories that the man told his sister. It is evident that Laban coveted the precious gifts that the camels were carrying, and insisted to bring the treasure-carrying camels into his house. “And he said, Come in, you blessed of the Lord; why do you stand outside? For I have prepared the house, and room for the camels. The servant thus met with good hospitality, but now came his opportunity to speak: “but he said, I will not eat, until I have told my errand”. And the hosts had to agree to this.

Here Eli’ẹzer meandered, expanded and related and compounded his words and repeated all that the readers already know, through fourteen long sentences. If we examine those sentences, we find that he changed a few details and the order of other things. Thus he told that Abraham commanded him to come specifically to the house of Bethu’el “But you shall go to my father's house, and to my family, and take a wife for my son. As a matter of fact, this was not as it had been said, but the way that Eli’ẹzer related it, the conclusion is unavoidable: “The matter proceeds from the Lord; we can not speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rivqah is in your presence, take her, and go, and let her be your master's son's wife, as the Lord has spoken.” Eli’ẹzer’s response was somewhat similar to that of Abraham in his negotiations with the sons of et – bowing down – but this was actually bowing to the Lord, amplification to their saying that it all proceeded from the Lord. He immediately brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and garments - but these he gave only to Rivqah, whereas to her brother and to her mother he gave just condiments – migdanot. It seems that to the father of Rivqah, Bethu’el, he did not give anything (This thing, and the counting of Laban as belonging to the mother’s house, strengthen our claim that there was a matriarchal rule at the house of Teraḥ in those days. Whereas Abraham’s servant, who was already used to the habits of Kena’ạn, was asking about the father’s house).

The answer of Bethu’el and Laban was quite akin to the answer of the sons of Ḥet: you can have all you want, but this was said in a non-committal manner. It was still possible, that they would agree for the marriage, but not agree that the girl would leave her father’s home, and then Yiẓḥaq would be obliged to come over to Haran. This was the possibility and the worry that Eli’ẹzer raised already while talking with Abraham, and this was precisely what happened eventually to Jacob, who married the daughters of Laban, and was obligated to stay and live with Laban and to work for him.

Therefore Eli’ẹzer took the next step already as all rose up in the morning, and he hurried to perform his mission: “Send me away to my master. Here came a hesitant answer. Bethu’el, who had already given his consent, could not go back on his word and kept quiet, but Rivqah’s brother and her mother said, “Let the girl stay with us a few days, at least ten; after that she shall go. Bethu’el’s silence still would allow him to come, after this period, with further conditions. But as the hosts expressed willingness to see in this case the will of God, Eli’ẹzer would not quit and did not go with the customary politeness: “And he said to them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord has prospered my way; send me away that I may go to my master.

At this point the mother and brother used another delaying tactic: “And they said, We will call the girl, and inquire at her mouth. Eli’ẹzer had no way to object to that. “And they called Rivqah, and said to her, Will you go with this man?” in a style of address that gives no encouragement. Rivqah’s answer was again short, in one word “And she said, I will go – elekh.

 

5th Conversation – the Meeting of Yiẓḥaq and Rivqah.

The setting for the meeting of Yiẓḥaq and Rivqah was, significantly, that Yiẓḥaq “came from the way of the well Laai-roi”. The well and its name are connected with the message to Hagar about the birth of Ishmael: “Sarai tormented her, and she fled from her. And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur… Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael; … And she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, Ata ay Ro’I (You, Living God see me); for she said, Have I also here looked after him who sees me? Therefore the well was called Beer laai-roi; behold, it is between Qadesh and Bered (Gen 16:7-14). This place, between Qadesh and Bered, is quite far from the camp of Abraham at Be’er Sheva. It is possible to learn from this that Yiẓḥaq did not live with his father. In fact, the Ạqedah was the last occasion in which it is mentioned that they were together. It is not even mentioned that Abraham untied Yiẓḥaq after he was bound. It is only told that “So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beer-Sheva (Gen. 22:19). Only Abraham and his young men are mentioned, but Yiẓḥaq is not mentioned among those who came back to Be’er Sheva, and it is given to us to understand.

The Bible chose to tell about the meeting of Yiẓḥaq and Rivqah specifically by the well of Ishma’el, and this calls for comment. Yiẓḥaq went “lasu’a ba’Sadeh”, literally “to walk in the field”, but also (as the traditional interpreters stressed) “to meditate in the field” and literally “to converse in the field”, and he did it specifically by the domain of Ishma’el. At Midrash Raba (60:14) there is an attempt to contend with this affair: “Said Rabbi Levi… “and Yiẓḥaq came from the way” – he came from ממיתא. And where did he go? “well of laay-Ro’i” – he went to bring back Hagar, the one who had set by the well and told ay lamim (“The Ever Living” – an appellation of God) please look at my misery. “And Yiẓḥaq went to walk/meditate – lasu’ah – in the field at the evening time” – a siah (conversation) can only mean prayer, as it is said (Psalms 102:1) A Prayer of the afflicted, when he faints, and pours out his siah before the Lord”, and it is also said there (Psalm 55:18) Evening, and morning, and at noon, I pray – asiah - and cry aloud; and he hears my voice”. According to this Midrash, immediately upon the death of his mother, Yiẓḥaq went to try and restitute the issue of Hagar’s deportation. And even if he did not meet her there, it seems that matter of his prayer to God was the restitution of this injustice. And precisely there and then, when he proceeded to restitute for the deportation of Hagar and Ishmael, that Yiẓḥaq found his own mate, Rivqah, with whom he could be consoled of his mother Sarah.

And Yiẓḥaq went out to meditate in the field at the evening time”. The Bible abounds with words about the journey of the servant to Haran and of his meeting with Rivqah, but does stop for any dialogue between Yiẓḥaq and Rivqah as they met. The impression of the servant at the sign he received from God is in the realm of the manifest and spoken, whereas Yiẓḥaq’s falling in love – just as his feelings at the qedah – are in the realm of the hidden and sublime.

There are two fields which are mentioned in the parashah, a veritable Makhpelah-doubling of fields: the field at the Makhpelah at Qiryat-Arb which is in evron, and the field by the well where Yiẓḥaq went to stroll at twilight time, on the day that Rivqah arrived from Ḥaran.

The siah ba’Sadeh – “conversation in the field” – reminds of what is written at the second Creation Story “And every plant of the field – si’a haSadeh - before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man - Adam - to till the ground” (Gen. 2:5). It is Adam-humankind that raises the waters up from the earth, as complement for the rain from the heavens, and thus brings growth and fertility. In parashat aye Sarah we are witnessing the very moment when the reconstructed “New Man-Adam”, the progeny of the wandering Avraham ha’vri, gets connected to the Adamah – the Living Earth – of Kena’an.

We have already mentioned that the subject of this parashah are conversations, fruitful negotiations. The concept of the “Makhpelah-Doubling is of the secret of dialoguedu-Si’a (literally “twine plants”). The conversations that are recounted in this parashah are therefore of the nature of “Si’a ha’Sadeh” (literally “the plants/conversation of the fields”), conversations that lead to the fertility of the earth – and this last conversation, between Yiẓḥaq and Rivqah, is silent, like the silence of the Adamah (“Demamat ha’Adamah”, a clear phonetic connection).

And he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the camels were coming. And Rivqah lifted up her eyes, and when she saYiẓḥaq, she fell off the camel”. While there were no talks and no words in this meeting, it is evident that something big transpired there. The falling off the camel can be compared with the Midrash according to which Sarah allowed Abraham to visit Yishma’el, on condition that he would not alight off the camel, or in other words, that Abraham would not be able to sit-settle in Arabia. Whereas here Rivqah, who fell off the camel as soon as she saw Yiẓḥaq nearby, started the settlement of the land and completed her leaving of her “land and kindred and her father’s house”.

And Yiẓḥaq brought her to his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rivqah, and she became his wife”. Yiẓḥaq did not want, or was not able, to take him Rivqah for a wife, without first coming into the tent and the presence of his mother, as if to ask for her permission. In Midrash Raba (60:17) and Yiẓḥaq brought her to his mother Sarah’s tent” – all the days that Sarah was alive, there was a cloud tied to the entrance of her tent. When she died this cloud disappeared, when Rivqah came, that same cloud returned….”, and likewise it is told there that Rivqah appeared to Yiẓḥaq in the very likeness of his mother. Such an event is likely, and has obvious psychological explanations. But from the perspective of the epic narrative (or mythos) of the Torah, this means that Sarah sort of resurrected and became embodied in Rivqah, and the appropriate place for that was the tent.

It should be noticed and understood that Sarah’s tent at Qiryat Arbạ that is Ḥevron was already mentioned no less than five times, all of them around the visit of the angels that herald the destruction of Sodom and the building of the House of Abraham. This was the tent that Abraham sat its entrance when his miraculous visitors appeared, the tent inside which Sarah was staying at that moment and heard their words. This tent was a part of the sacred precinct of the grove of the Terebinths of Mamre, the dwelling place of Sarah even while Abraham was leading a nomad’s life in the region of Be’er Sheva, and it seems that it was a place of religious significance. We see that the Makhpelah Cave was bought because it was facing the sacred grove of Mamre: “And the field of `Efron, which – asher – was in Makhpelah, which – asher – in front of Mamre and the cave which – asher – was in it, and all the trees that – asher – were in the field, that - asher  - were in all the borders around, were made over to Avraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of et (23:17-18). Sarah’s tent stood as a religious shrine in its place even after her death, and waited for the next woman who would come to it from the land and kindred and father’s house of Sarah, in all probability one who was well versed in all the cult of that tradition (see later the affair of the idols – Traphim – of Rael-Rachel and Laban), in effect a priestess to the cult of the fertility goddess, who was associated with the grove of the Terebinths of Mamre and “all the trees that – asher – were in the field, that - asher  - were in all the borders around”. The Hebrew auxiliary word “asher” – “which” – which appears no less than five times in that one sentence (even though ostensibly it is not at all needed grammatically for understanding the sentence) discloses the type of cult implied, which is mentioned in other places by the names of “Asherim” and especially “Asherah” – the goddess of love and fertility.[15]

And he loved her”. Up to that instance, there was not a single mention in the scriptures of any love of a man to a woman. There were impulses (Yeer) and desire, but not the subtlety of love. In the second story of the Creation it is written: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh… Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall be one flesh (Gen. 2:23-24). In the third story of the Creation it is told that: “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were pretty; and they took as wives all those whom they chose (6:2). There is lust, but there is nothing mentioned about love.

The Mequbalim categorized Abraham as representing the esed, namely Love, even though the scriptures attributed love to him only once – love of son and not love of the woman. It was actually Yiẓḥaq, who was categorized as belonging to “the side of Din-Judgment”, which is opposite to the side of esed-Mercy/Love, he was the one who brought marital love in the Bible. Yet the complex process of “hitkalelut - integration – of Yiẓḥaq with the quality of esed through the qedah remained in the realm of the hidden. Only after the two stages of “And Yiẓḥaq brought her to his mother Sarah's tent”, and then “and took Rivqah, that the love developed. This love was quite different from the immediate falling in love of Jacob with Rachel over the fountain. Yiẓḥaq first needed his mother’s approval, and as she was no longer alive, the approval of her tent. He did not take for a wife the beautiful girl whom he met in the field, but the one who came into his mother’s tent. This love still grew after Yiẓḥaq took Rivqah for a wife. There are cases of loves that lead to marriage, and they often get gradually extinguished as marriage becomes established. Yiẓḥaq’s love to Rivqah was a love that started with marriage and grew with it as a continuing conjugal process.

 

The Mutual Moves of the Fathers and Mothers of the Nation of Israel

Abraham and Sarah came together from Ḥaran, where they left brothers who continued the traditions of the original family, with its marked matriarchal conduct, and this character did not disappear but strengthened over time. Abram obeyed the command of “get thy out of thy country, of thy kindred and of thy father’s house”, and Saray obeyed and followed (presumably without expressed objection). Eventually Abraham was instructed: “in all that Sarah has said to you, listen (obey) to her voice”. We are not told that Sarah ordered to bring for her son a woman from Ḥaran and her father’s house, but Abraham’s insistence to do so immediately after he had buried Sarah, shows that he felt obliged to do her will and fulfill her last wish, whether it had been spoken or he figured it. The fact is that the family that he raised repeatedly brought her women from the original family at Haran. It is not written that Sarah commanded to bring for Yiẓḥaq a wife from Haran, but Abraham’s determination to do so right after he buried his wife, shows that he felt obliged to fulfill her wish and to fulfill her last request, whether it was expressly said or that he surmised it. The fact is that Rivqah, her daughter in law, already expressed this explicitly: “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of et; if Ya’qov takes a wife of the daughters of et, such as these who are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life be to me? (Gen. 27:46). The sequel is known, Ya’ạqov-Jacob took him for wives the daughters of Laban son of Milkah from Ḥaran.

It is interesting to follow the travels of the Fathers for these matches. Avram must have known Saray still at Haran, and traveled with her to the Land of Kena’ạn, as well as to Egypt and to the Land of the Philistines. Yiẓḥaq did not leave the land, and it was the servant who went and met Rivqah by the well at Ḥaran, and invited her, and she personally decided of her own will to make the liyah, the immigration, to the Land. Ya’ạqov went himself back to Haran, and there, probably by that same well, he met Raḥel and immediately fell in love with her, until he got bound for twenty years of labor for her sake, and then he repeated the journey of Abram to the Land of Kena’an, he and his four wives, two of whom from the house of Laban, his mother’s brother.

Such zigzag course set a pattern for the zigzag courses in the moves of “Knesset Yisrael”, between the exile and the Land of Israel, and between clinging to “the separate intelligences” and the reality of connecting with the land and her inhabitants. The carriers of the feminine archetype of the nation of Israel change, and they would show in the following different aspects of the same archetypal constellation.

 

Em-Mother and m-Nation: Sarah as the Mother of the Nation.

The aim of the Creation of the world, according to the Qabbalah, was that the creator wanted to be a king and “there is no king without a people-m” and thus He had to create, in Hebrew Baro (literally, “get outside of Himself”), the world. In the Hassidic interpretation, m-nation is explained from the quality of mimut-obscurity. The relation of a king to the people is a relation that is not directly experienced by his subjects. This explanation of the creation of the world ties well with the phonetic meaning of lam-world as a place of Ne’lam-hidden and Ta’lumah-mystery – the place where the divine is hidden. The reason for the creation of the world, therefore, is the divine Will to become manifest in the material, which seems so opposite to His own nature, and that it would be from matter that the enlightenment and the recognition of the creator  issue. The transcendental, masculine, deity, creates His mate, the immanent feminine Malkhut-Kingdom, and through their mating all becomes divinity.

In this process of forming a nation - a people - to establish the Kingdom of Heaven, the main responsibility falls in the part of the Mothers. There is, indeed, a certain linguistic association between “m” – nation, and “Em” – Mother (in today’s diction, there is by now hardly any distinction between the pronunciation of the letter A’lef {as in Em-mother} and the letter ’yin {as in m-people}). Sarah is the primordial Mother, the one who put the seed in the ground as a womb for the nation, and from her name derives the name “Yisra’el”. Rivqah demonstrates the action of Knesset Yisra’el – the raising of the Ma’N; whereas the division between the two Mothers, Rahel and Le’ah, would show the distinction between two types of Shekhinah, corresponding to two levels in the divinity – a lower Shekhinah, which is also the Sefirah of Malkhut; and higher Shekhinah, which is also the Sefirah of Binah, and in them take place the circuits of higher and lower union (yiuda Ila’ and Yiuda Tata’a), and then –

                                           Sarah (gematria 505) + Le’ah (36) = Yisra’el (541).

 

aye Sarah and the Drawing of ayut Energy

We have treated above the activity called in the Qabbalah “raising the Ma’N” from below upwards. The parallel and complementary activity is the “drawing the Ma’D”, the “Mayim Dukrin”, that is, “Masculine Waters”. A principle of the Qabbalah and Hassidut  that arousal-of-the-above and the descent of the “masculine waters”, such as the falling of the reviving rain upon the parched land, is connected with the prior “arousal-from-below”, and when a drop rises from below, then the upper waters are awakened and descent in plenitude. When the people of Israel “raise the Ma’N through the fulfillment of God’s commandments, then they draw downwards divine blessing of Ma’D.

But whereas the name “Ma’N” (which, as shown, is quite meaningful by itself) is very common in the Qabbalah and Hassidic literature, this is not so with “Mayim Dukrin” or Ma’D. The common terms for describing the divine blessing that descends from on high is “Shefa” (in the older Qabbalah) and “ayut” – “vitality” – (in the later Kabbalah and Hassidut). The full course of the connection of earth and heaven, the human and the divine, is that of “Raising the Ma’N” and then “Drawing down the ayut”.

So the very name of “aye Sarah” enfolds within it the whole practical essence of the Qabbalah and represents the full course of relationships between humanity and divinity.

 

 

Part III – the Lives of Abraham after Sarah’s Death and the Issues of Ishmael

The Earthly Abraham, Sons of Qeturah Sent Away, Birth of Ashur.

With the ending of the mourning time over Sarah, Abraham took him a new concubine, Qeturah, and begot six further children.[16] This means something rarely noticed – that Abraham had not two, but eight sons, a number with much significance.[17] The most interesting name is perhaps that of his grandchildren Ashurim (Assyrians). The Kingdom of Ashur-Assyria was on the upper Euphrates, near Ḥaran, from where Abraham’s family derived. The Assyrians, progeny of Abraham, are those who eventually brought the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel; one could speculate that had they not been sent away still in the life of Abraham, they might have been included within the covenant of Abraham. The insistence of Sarah about the exclusivity of Yiẓḥaq in Abraham’s inheritance eventually exacted a very heavy price.

 

The Return-Teshuvah of Yishma’el to the Makhpelah, Mount Moriah and to Inclusion within the Union of Israel.

At the end of the parashah we reach another chapter in the relationship of Yiẓḥaq and Yishma’ẹl. They both came to bury their father Abraham at the Cave of the Makhpelah (which implies that it is inheritance for both). Yiẓḥaq settled by the well of Laay Ro’i (as mentioned, the well where Hagar was announced the birth of Yishma’ẹl), whereas Yishma’ẹl returned to the expanses of the desert. There Yishma’ẹl received his fortune of begetting twelve sons who were destined to inherit a huge territory, the whole area east of the Land of Kena’ạn, from Egypt onto Ashur. Yishma’ẹl, the firstborn, was thus the first of the children of Abraham who succeeded to reach the coveted sacred pattern of the Twelve.

The Cave of Makhpelah was a natural continuation for the life of Sarah, and for her dwelling at Qiryat Arbạ by Mamre. But the burial of Abraham at that cave was more meaningful: Abraham, the wandering pastoralist also found there his resting place, at the place where the kingdom of David would start. Only with the interment of Abraham did the sacred cave really become a “Makhpelah” – a balanced place that includes both the feminine and the masculine sides. The mention of the visit of Yishma’l-Ishmael at the site for the purpose of the burial of Abraham has a great symbolic significance. It completes – and perhaps upturns – the meaning of the relationship of Sarah and Yishma’ẹl, and with it the relationship of Yisra’el and Yishma’ẹl.

It should be noticed that Yishma’ẹl was born from Sarah’s Egyptian maid. From where did Sarah, who came from Ur of the Qaldees, have an Egyptian maid? The maid must have been a part of the presents that Sarah received following her stay in Egypt, at the court of the Pharaoh. It seems as if the stay of Sarah at the court of the Egyptian king had an intimate-cultic character,[18] but Sarah repeated and participated in a similar affair at the court of another king, that time at the Land of Kena’ạn – at the house of Abimelekh king of the Land of the Philistines, as described at parashaat vaYera.

We know that, at first, Hagar the Egyptian seemed to Sarah suitable to be built through her - the son she would bear would be considered Sarah’s, and not Hagar’s. That way, Sarah sort of gained a son through her being handed to the Egyptian king. But after Sarah repeated that same strange (and shameful?) cultic affair at the court of Avimelekh King of the Philistines, she became blessed with her own born son, and then she preferred to cast Yishma’el out, to be built through Yiẓḥaq and to insist that only he would inherit her.[19]

Yishma’el, when returning to the domain of Sarah, his mother by law, at her burial estate, in order to join to her his biological father Abraham, re-connects with the House of Israel. While the majority of the People of Yishma’el remain among the dwellers of the desert, through the length and breadth of the immense realm promised to Abraham (but not to Sarah), but there is a part of them who tied their destiny with Ḥebron and with Philistea-Palestine.

 

The Generations of Yishma’el: About Ismailis, Sufis and Assassins.

We have noted that it was Mohammed who revealed to the Arabs their being the Children of Abraham and Ishmael. A fascinating but little known chapter in the history of the Children of Abraham is the growth of the “Ismaili” (namely Ishmaelite) sect of Islam, an important sect of the Shiite Islam, which claims direct inheritance of the religious and prophetic authority from Mohammed. The sect derived its name from Isma’il ibn Ja’afar al-Tsadek, of the ninth century CE, from the lineage of Ali, Mohammad’s son-in-law. Obviously this name would not have been the name of an important Islamic sage if it was not for the “rehabilitation” of Ishmael through Mohammed and the Qur’an. An important sect of Shiite Islam is of “Twelver Shiites”, whose members believe in a spiritual hierarchy of twelve Imams, the first of whom was Mohammad, but he is not considered the exclusive spiritual authority and not “the seal of prophecy”. The last Imam, the twelfth one, is the hidden Imam who is still alive but is hidden and is destined to become revealed. This is actually a whole Islamic messianic teaching, which contains much of the religious intensity of the Shi’ah, and feeds the fundamentalist Islamic arousal (which is largely Shiite) in Iran and other Moslem countries. It seems that the sanctification of the twelve-fold pattern derives from the bible, in the divine promise to Yishma'ẹl, who would merit to establish a union of twelve nesi'im (Emirs) of his seed. And thus we find among the Shiites, and especially the among the Ismailis, the feeling about their leaders being the heirs of the (almost divine) prophet, in an inheritance both biological and spiritual, and the emergence of the pattern of the Twelve through that inheritance.

Western scholars of Islam (such as Henry Korbin) speak of “Isma’ili Gnosis”, because this sect much developed the theological and mystical speculation, and very likely assimilated into it from the best of the secret traditions that still existed in the Middle-East. As shown by scholar Shlomoh Pines, many of the apparently-Islamic mystical traditions derived much from Jewish and Gnostic-Christian secret traditions, including the remnants of the original Christian Church of Jerusalem, which did not accept the divinization of Jesus (and was eventually persecuted as heretic). It is likely that remnants of the mysteries of the Jewish Temple that had been destroyed reappeared eventually in places such as the Qabbalah and these sects. The outcome of this process was the formation of the Sufi spiritual movements, in Islam and in the world at large. As the late Sufi leader Idris Shah showed, some Sufi sects had an orientation to Jerusalem and admiration for King Solomon, the builder of the Temple, and members of a Sufi brotherhood were among the builders of the Dome of the Rock as an alternative shrine and orientation for the Ka’aba of Mecca.

 

The return of Yiẓḥaq and Yishmael to the Cave of Makhpelah

The Makhpelah Cave in Ḥebron has become in our times the place for a forced encounter of Jews and Moslems. There is perhaps something of the fire element in the city of Ḥebron that kindles the religious fanaticism. But it is also possible to treat the word “evron” as it was explained by interpreters as “the place that makes all of Yisra’el friends-averim. In the religious history which we have surveyed briefly above, there is perhaps a key for the foundation of a new Israel, in which there is also a respectable place for sons of Yishma’el. At the end of parashat “aye Sarah” the narrative moves to “The Lives of Abraham”, and at the Makhpelah Cave, both become intertwined:

 

Yiẓḥaq and Yishma’el’s Meeting as Corrective for Qayin and Hevel’s Conflict

In the story of Adam, a mortal conflict appears right from the first generation. The one, Hevel-Abel, represents the shepherds who wander freely from place to place, and the second, Qayin-Cain, represents agriculture and property – Qinyan. This contrast was the essence of conflict in much of the ancient world, and especially at the region we now call “the Middle East”. Abraham had two sons, who were divided by this same distinction, and they too had the same conflict inherited from their parents: Abraham was the shepherd, the nomad, whereas Sarah insisted on matters of property, inheritance and estate. Yishma’el was born to first be “a wild man” – Pere Adam – the word Pere is associated with the desert (Isaiah 32:14; Job 24:5; 39:5-6), who was sent to the desert – where he managed to survive and to prosper, through the grace of God and his own toughness and daring. As tragic as the sending of Hagar might seem, this was not a mortal conflict as there was between Qayin-Cain and Hevel-Abel.

What is the nature of that “Wild Man” – Pere Adam, and is this quality a permanent “sign of Qayin”? Even though the Biblical narrative treats from here onwards only with Yiẓḥaq and his children, the Bible takes care to show that Yishmael grew and matured and reached a very respectable status. The scriptures have much appreciation of “the noble savage” of the shepherds of the desert, and deep suspicion of the process of settlement and enslavement of the agriculturists who are represented mainly by the people of the Land of Kena’ạn. The God of the Bible is the God of the nomads, who rules equally throughout the world, without regard to national borders, and the period He loves in the history of Knesset Yisrael is “Thus said the Lord; I remember you, the devotion of your youth, your love like a bride, when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown (Jeremiah 2:2). Also in the figure of Yishma’el – the “Pere Adam” – there is a dimension of glory and nobility. The quality of Grace – esed – of Abraham, famous for his hospitality, is of the respected qualities of the Arabs of the desert, who are associated with Yishma’el, who are commanded to be hospitable even to their bitter enemy. Among the two sons, Yishma’el is decidedly “the child of Abraham”, whereas Yiẓḥaq is, firstly, Sarah’s child.

Through his visit to Ḥevron he did not dispute the rights of Yiẓḥaq over the place. Nonetheless, his act of participation in the burial puts him in a certain connection to the Land of Israel, and apart from his own big and complete domain at the fringes of the settled land, he has a certain hold at Ḥevron and the Cave of the Makhpelah, and thus also a hold in the line that leads to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, which is Mount Moriah, which became sanctified through the qedah of Yiẓḥaq, and both Yishma’el and Yiẓḥaq are bound together to each other, until this day.

 

From the Tree of Knowledge to the Building of the Temple

The first Adam was appointed over the trees of the Garden of Eden, was warned over the Tree of Knowledge and failed through it. No’aḥ failed through a Tree of Knowledge of his own – the vine that he planted upon exiting from the Ark. Assuming that Abraham is their successor – we may look at his story for the motive of the Tree of Knowledge.

It seems that Abraham was engaged in a search for the Tree. The course of his wanderings in the land is strongly connected with various trees. God was revealed to him by the Terebinth of Moreh and the Terebinths of Mamre, at Be’er Sheva he planted a tamarisk tree - whereas the total salvation of him and his seed at the qedah occurred when “a ram caught in a thicket by his horns”. Not a specific tree, bearing a name, but some typical Israeli thick grove.

The last tree that is mentioned at the stories of Abraham is that at the Cave of the Makhpelah: “And the field of Efron, which was in Makhpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders around (Gen. 23:17). This is the closing of the circle that was started when Abraham came to the Terebinths of Mamre, after his separation from Lot, and the covenant which was made at that place. That is why the Midrash sees the Makhpelah Cave as the entry to the Garden of Eden. So that the first estate that Abraham acquired in the Land of Kena’an was a scale model of the Garden of Eden, and actually is also an early model for the Temple, and at the same time, an entrance to the original Garden.

 

Notes:

[1] the Koren translation writes simply “And Sara was a hundred and twenty seven years old, these were the years of Sara’s life”, omitting both the repetition of the word “year” and of “Sara’s life”

[2]  The extent of the 127 states of Aḥashverosh is greater than all the domain that was promised to Abraham, and it includes all the Bible lands, including those to where “the Ten Tribes” got exiled. This is perhaps th domain of all the 8 children of Abraham.

[3] Me'ir bar Ilan “numerologiah bereshitit” (Genesis numerology), in Hebrew _____________

[4]  David Wells: “The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting numbers”, see item “127”.

[5] The ARI’zl explains that 37 also explains that 37 is the “filling” of the name of 63 – SaG (Y’od H’y W’aw, H’y) over its base of 26, the “filling” being “the backside of the name of YHWH”, or the neck, and that Sarah’s vitality came from the quality of sternness-Gevurot and stiff-necked.

[6]  According to Rianne Eisler: The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, S.F. Harper & Row, 1987.

[7]  E.g. Raphael Patai: “The Hebrew Goddess”. Wayne State University Press; 3 edition 1990 .

[8]   Examples can be found in the (Hebrew) book of Shmuel Aituv: “Collection of Hebrew Texts”, the Biblical Encyclopedia series of The Bialik Institute and the Society for Research of the Land of Israel and its antiquities. In the section on Kuntilat Ajrud, in the Sinaiare examples of dedications to “YHWH Shomron va’Asherato” and “YHWH Teiman va’Asherato”. These are attributed to the 8th century BCE.

[9] If we recall that the ensemble of memories embodied at the Makhpela Cave includes also the burial places of Eve-avah and Adam, the ensemble of the matriarchs at “Qiryat Arb” – “The City of the Four” – would be:

             avah-Sarah-Rivkah-Le’ah  =  avah-Yisra’el

And in other language, the Makhpela Cave and the field and all trees at the Field of Makhpela comprise “avat-Yisra’el” – namely “Estate of Israel”, and a part of the Garden of Eden.

[10]  Leonora Leet: “The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah". Inner Traditions, Rochester VT, 1999.

[11] It is probably for a reason that the divine “son” is derived in the Qabbalah not only from the Holy name of BeN (which is derived from the combination of the letters in the “filling” of the Name of YHWH as Y’od H’h W’aw H’h, which has the Gemtric value of 52 - which is the value of the word BeHeMaH-animal), but also from the Holy Name of MaH (the “filling” of the Name of YHWH as Y’od H’e W’aw H’e, whose gematria value is 45 – which is also the value of the word “AdaM”). This way, the name of “Ben Adam” – Son of Man - can be interpreted as relating to the combination of the two Names of Being-HaWaYaH – the Name of BeN (Son) and the Name of MaH (Adam-Man).

[12] We shall hence see why was the burial site so dear in the eyes of Abraham, who acquired it for Sarah as the one compensation gift that was appropriate for his cruelty towards here. For according to the Midrash, Abraham killed Sarah, in his haste to enact the qedah.

[13]  This would include the sons who usually prefer to identify themselves actually with the Philistines.

[14]  A basic principle of the Qabbalah is learned from the verse “from my flesh I shall behold God” (Job 19:26) – for “in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:27) – and the phenomena of the human body are a examples and allegories to what also takes place in the higher worlds, within the divinity. In this case, it is evidenced by the raising of “the feminine waters”, the vaginal fluids, as the natural preparation for union and for satisfaction.

[15] See previuos note, as well as note __ in parashat va’year for the prevalence of the cult of the Asherah

[16] The list of the sons’ names puts in doubt the traditional explanation that Qeturah could be Hagar. This is a list of other peoples, “Bnei Qedem” (peoples of the Orient) and not Arabs.

[17] Abraham’s number (by gematria) is 248, half of the “perfect number”, 496 and the traditional count of the positive commandments. This number divides by 8 (8 x 31 = 248), a number associated with the supernatural (see MaHaRaL). At the existing Makhpela edifice at Ḥebron, Abraham’s chamber is octagonal, a form that is also connected with the plan of the Dome of the Rock.

[18]  This subject is treated extensively in Savina Teubal’s book “Sara the Priestess”.

[19] This parashah ties Sarah and Abraham in an intimate-cultic connection with the Philistines too, a connection that gets soon confirmed in the covenant that Abraham made with Avimelekh. This relationship receives much meaning in our times, when the biggest problem of modern Israel is how to relate to the Palestinians, the nation of the native people – m ha’Aretz – whose main center is at the Gaza region, which is the heart of the Land of the Philistines.


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