By Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Every year beginning with Chayei Sara, on Shabbat Hebron, we take a new topic to focus on. This year, God willing, we will focus on connections – “hibur=Hebron” – between Torah/Kabbalah and science. We may also touch on Rabbi Baruch Nachshon’s art from time to time, as well as other topics.
In the description of the purchase of Maarat Hamachpela at the beginning of this parsha we see several numbers that reappear. First, there is Kiryat Arba which means the City of Four. There are also the four hundred silver pieces with which Maarat Hamachpela was bought. This Cave is called the “Double Cave,” and our Sages explain that this signifies the number four – again corresponding to the “four theme” of the couples, or “doubles,” buried in the Cave. Thus, altogether there are eight lofty figures buried within this cave. We also see that this Cave was bought from the children of “Het,” which may also stand for the letter Het, which also has the numerical value of eight. What meaning can we gather from all these numbers?
The Kabbalists discuss a secret associated with three Tetragrammatons or combinations of the letters of HaShem’s four-letter name. These combinations are called Havayot, with each grouping Havaya having four letters. The total number of letters with the four letters in three combinations gives a total of twelve letters. The Kabbalists say that two of these three groupings, comprising eight letters, are associated with a higher “front” aspect, whereas the third name corresponds to a lower “back” aspect.
The Zohar and the Arizal indeed make a connection between the “four back letters” and the four hundred silver pieces. The Kabbalists associate the body’s anatomical orientation with the front and back. The front is related to the upper part of the human body, and the back is to the lower part of the body. If we were to make a proportional ratio between the eight aspects associated with the front/top aspect [eight] versus those associated with the back/bottom aspect [four], we would notice a fraction of two-thirds for the top versus a third for the bottom.
We now turn to another example of the relevance of this ratio to the concept of burial. Burial, by definition, is the care of the body after the soul has left. The Torah teaches that the body of Adam, the prototype of all men, was made from the dust, into which Hashem “blew” a soul.
The only story in the Torah about the purchase of a burial ground is mentioned in the context of Efron, which is a name similar to the Hebrew word afar, dust. Therefore, there seems to be a connection between the ideas mentioned in this parsha of Chayei Sara and the human body, in general. We now return to the front and back ratio we have described to see how it applies to the human body.
It is known that the vital organs are found in the upper two-thirds of the body, while the bottom third, beginning from the navel area, is less crucial for the vitality of the organism itself and its basic homeostasis. Obviously, this doesn’t pertain to the ability to bear offspring. The majority of the intestinal area is above the navel. The bladder, below the navel, is an extension of the urinary system, and the kidneys, which are above the navel. And from the Torah perspective, the “majority is like the whole.”
These concepts may further be supported by the hint contained in the letter Het, which has the numerical value of eight. Het, which may also be spelled “Hayut,” meaning vitality, hints that the main vitality of the body is in the top two-thirds of the body. However, “Arba – four” can also hint at “revia” which means to crouch in Aramaic, hinting to the lower third of the body that “couches to the earth/dust,” i.e., that is more associated with the physical basis and less with the vitality of the spiritual soul within the body. The idea of the two-thirds ratio in the body till the navel is well grounded in Kabbalistic texts, and here we have just extended the idea also to describe the position of the organism’s vitality in anatomical terms.
Hebron, the City of Connection, embodies these ideas we have discussed and brings together the deep connection of our People’s souls to the very dust of our Holy Land, as it says, “for your servants have desired its [the Holy Land’s] stones and its dust they shall favor.” (Tehilim 105, 15)