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    The Scottish Machpelah – Vayyechi

    The Cave of Machpelah today

    A passage in this week’s reading, Chapter 49 of B’reshit, spells out the funeral arrangements at the burial place of the patriarchs, a holy site in or near Hebron named Machpelah. We have already (in B’reshit Chapter 23) read the story of how the family acquired the site after the death of Sarah.

    Colloquially some people tend to use the phrase “Morris and MacPelah” as if it were a Scottish or Irish phrase, but the correct words are “Me’arat Machpelah”, the Machpelah cave.

    The name Machpelah means “double” (from the root k-p-l) – perhaps because the cave had two sections (Ibn Ezra), or perhaps because the patriarchs and their wives (maybe also Adam and Eve) are buried there (Rashi on Gen. 23:2). Rachel was not interred there since she died on a journey, but Leah was (verse 31).

    Esau was not regarded as having any claim to the site (Nachmanides) though according to mystical lore his head rolled into the cave.

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