Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Battle For Burial

Do you know who is buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs (Meh'arat Ha'machpelah) in Hebron? Actually, 8 ½ people are interred there. They are: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, and Esau’s head.

According to the Midrash, here’s what happened:

There were eight burial plots in the cave, and Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca and Leah were already buried there, leaving only a single available grave.

After Jacob’s death in Egypt, his sons brought him back to the land of Canaan for burial in the Cave of the Patriarchs. Esau awaited them, accompanied by a well armed retinue. It was Esau’s contention that Jacob had already given his allotted plot to Leah and that the only remaining plot belonged to him, Esau. While acknowledging that he had sold his birthright to Jacob, he maintained that he had not given up his right to be buried in the Cave. He therefore used his armed men to prevent Jacob's burial.

While waiting for Naphtali to bring the proof of ownership, the brothers continued to argue with Esau. Chushim, Dan ben Jacob's deaf son who was unable to hear the discussion with Esau, was mystified by the delay. From his perspective, Esau was not only dishonoring Jacob, but threatening the family as well. Incensed Chushim took matters into his own hands and beheaded Esau.

It thus came to pass that Jacob was buried in his rightful place in the Cave of the Patriarchs, as was the head of Esau, which rolled into the cave.

No comments: