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The Cave of the Machpelah

One of the most famous pieces of real estate on earth is the Cave of Machpelah (Me’arat HaMachpelah, also known as the “Cave of the Patriarchs”). “Machpelah” means “doubled” in Hebrew and alludes to the four prominent couples who were buried there. (The couples are Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah.)

The Zohar says the Cave of Machpelah is the gateway to the Garden of Eden. Adam recognized the uniqueness of the location when he saw a ray of light emanating from the area.

Years later, Abraham again uncovered the uniqueness of the cave when he mistakenly stumbled upon it. As recounted in Genesis 23, Abraham purchased the cave and the surrounding field in 1677 BCE as a burial place for his wife, Sarah (1803-1676 BCE), making it the first plot of land in the Holy Land to become the legal possession of the Jewish people. When Abraham died, he was buried there, as well. When Jacob (1653-1506 BCE) died in Egypt, his son Joseph fulfilled his promise to carry Jacob out of Egypt and bury him with his ancestors in the Cave of Machpelah.

The large imposing stone building that stands above the cave today was built by Herod in the 1st-century BCE. (In fact, this building, with six-foot-thick stone walls, is the only fully intact Herodian structure.) The cave wherein lie our Patriarchs and Matriarchs is beneath this structure. Around the 1490s, access to the cave was closed, and remains closed to this very day.