This week's parasha tells how Abraham bought the Machpela Cave, for the burial of Sarah. "Machpelah" comes from the Hebrew word "caful", meaning "double". According to one opinion, the cave acquired this name because it was composed of two stories, "a dwelling with an upper level". Ultimately, Abraham wanted the cave because it had room for the burial of the future forefathers and their wives; but there is another deeper reason: Sarah symbolizes the soul which descends into this physical world…

According to esoteric teachings on the verse "And Sarah died in Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron, in the land of Canaan" (Gen. 23:2), Sarah symbolizes the soul which descends into this physical world from a lofty supernal one. This world is called the "land of Canaan" - meaning the "business world" - since in Hebrew, the word "canaan" means "merchant". Our purpose in life is to do business, not in the "Wall Street" sense, but rather to gain spiritual revenues and raise our soul's status. Through serving G‑d, our "stock" increases and we climb the spiritual ladder.

In Hebrew, a living person is called "hevron", which comes from the word "chibur", meaning "connected" or "unified". The body is composed of the four elements (fire, air, water, and dust), which unite in the purpose of allowing the body to exist. Once the person passes away, these elements separate from each other. The alternative name of the town of Hebron, "Kiryat Arba", which literally means the "town of four", hints to the separation of the four elements.

When a person finishes his or her work in this world, he or she reaches "HaMachpelah", the place for burial. This word has two letters hei - one in the beginning and one at the end of the word. This is like G‑d's four letter name Havayah, which also has two letters hei. This double hei also corresponds to the cave being composed of two chambers, upper and lower. As wonderful as it was for the soul to be an elevated tzadik, the level of baal teshuva is even higher…

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that before the soul makes the aforementioned descent into this world, it is on the level of "tzadik" - truly righteous - completely surrounded by G‑dliness, just as a righteous living human being is. Upon the soul's descent it is faced with many spiritual challenges, even battling real evil. Yet through these struggles the soul is elevated, attaining the status of a "baal t'shuva"- a "master of returning to G‑d". As wonderful as it was for the soul to be an elevated tzadik, the level of baal teshuva is even higher, as it says "in the place where baalei teshuva stand, complete tzadikim cannot stand". For this reason, a soul's descent from Heaven is worthwhile - so that it can reach an even higher level as a baal teshuva.

Again we find the concept of double - HaMachpelah: Within teshuva are two levels: higher and lower teshuva. These two levels correspond to the two letters hei in G‑d's Name. The final hei corresponds to the lower teshuva; the first hei relates to the higher teshuva . A soul comes down to the world with the ultimate intent of attaining not only the lower teshuva, but the higher one, as well.

May each of us merit to serve G‑d fully, acquiring as much spiritual merchandise as possible, and succeed in doing even the higher level of teshuva. May all this bring us to the immediate revelation of Mashiach, when we will learn Torah with our forefathers and mothers.

Shabbat Shalom!, Shaul

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