Friday, 21 November 2008

Yahrtzeit 24 MarCheshvan - Rav Avraham Azulai (Kabbalist) - Secrets about Eretz Yisrael and the Caves of Machpela

Rabbi Avraham Azulai
(Secrets about the Land of Israel & the Holy Caves of Machpela)
Born: Fez, Morocco, 1570
Died: Hevron, Eretz Yisrael, 1643(/4?)
Rabbi Avraham Azulai was born in the same year that Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (Kabbalist in Tzefat) died. Rabbi Avraham Azulai, a master Kabbalist of both the Ari and Cordovero systems of Kabbalah, wrote an extraordinary book entitled Chesed L'Avraham. This text is one of the all time compendium of Kabbalistic teachings. Rabbi Azulai arranged a text of almost encyclopaedic proportion and covers many topics other Kabbalists never discuss. He is also one of the few Kabbalists that have put into writing many teachings that were only passed down orally.

On his way from Morocco to Israel, R' Avraham Azulai's boat was sunk while being anchored in Greece, by a fierce storm. Most of his holy manuscripts at that time were in the boat and were not recovered. R' Azulai was very thankful to God for not being on the boat at the time. From that time and on, his signature resembled the shape of a boat.

He wrote a commentary on the Zohar called Ohr HaChama (Light of the Sun). In his book Ohr HaLevana (Light of the Moon), he wrote corrections (Hagahot) regarding the Zohar text. One of his books Ohr HaGanuz, a commentary on profound passages from the Zohar was lost. Knaff Renanim was a book he wrote, summarizing the Kavanot (mystical intentions) of the prayers according to the Ari. In Ma'ase Choshev, he summarizes the Kavanot of the Mitzvot according to the Ari. He also wrote a commentary on the Tanach: Baalei Brit Avraham. His books Perush Yakar Al Shisha Sidrei Mishna andPerush Yakar Al HaLevush are his commentaries on the Mishna and Halacha.

One of the most important achievements of R' Azulai was excavating R' Chaim Vital's manuscripts (later known as Etz Chaim) from his tomb in Damascus (Syria). Together with another Kabbalist of the time
Rabbi Yaacov Tzemach, Rabbi Avraham Azulai dealt with Yichudim (special Kabbalistic meditations) and She'alot Chalom (dream requests) until permission was granted to them by R' Chaim Vital to dig at his grave. (Some say this story is not correct and that the manuscripts were obtained from elsewhere and not by means of Yichudim and excavating R’ Chaim Vital’s manuscripts.)

Rabbi Avraham's great grandson was the famous Tzaddik, Rabbi Yosef Chaim David Azulai (HaChidah).

One of the most well known stories about Rav Avraham tells about the Sultan of his day losing his sword in the Cave of Machpela – where the Forefathers and Foremothers (except for Rachel) are buried together with Adam and Eve.

For more about the Caves of Machpela see: and to hear more about this fascinating story with video see: Click on “The Secret of Maarat HaMachpela” to hear this amazing story. Do click on the other links as well, to learn more about this holy and special place .
Rabbi Avraham's Departure "The Sultan's Sword and the Cave of Machpelah"
The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire made a journey from his seat of government in far off Turkey to places of importance in his domains. He made his way to the Cave of the Machpelah in Hevron. Adorned in the traditional ruling garb, the Sultan's gold sword, studded with diamonds and precious stones hung at his side. The Sultan wondered from room to room, finally entering the huge hall named after the Patriarch Yitzchak.
The centre of attraction in the Yitzchak Hall is a small circular hole in the floor, near the wall shared by the smaller Avraham Hall. The hole is perhaps the most sacred spot in the entire illustrious structure above the burial caves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, for it leads down into the caves themselves. Pilgrims from all over the world journey for weeks and months, only to have the opportunity to stand by this small dark circular opening, leading into the cave, which according to tradition, was excavated by Adam, the first man. The Sultan leaned over the revered aperture, peering down into it. As he bent over, his precious sword fell from his side, down into the cavity in the ground. The Sultan called the officer of the guard and ordered him to lower a soldier through the hole into the caves below, to retrieve his sword. Quick to respond to the Sultan's order, the officer selected a soldier nearby. Another soldier wrapped a rope around his waist and lowered the soldier into the underground cavern.
No sooner had they done so when, without warning, piercing screams penetrated from inside the hole below. Quickly they pulled up the soldier but he was dead. The Sultan ordered that another soldier be lowered into the caves. So it was, and his fate was precisely as was his predecessor. The Sultan continued to send soldiers into the caves until it became apparent that all who enter the caves do not exit alive. The Sultan turned to his hosts and exclaimed, "Who will return to me my sword?" The Arabs, looking at one another, answered without hesitating. "Why not send down a Jew? If he dies, none of us would care, and if not, you will have your precious saber back".
So the Jews were ordered, on pain of death, to supply a volunteer to be lowered into the caves to return the Sultan's sword to him. The Jews of Hevron had heard what happened to the Sultan's soldiers. How could they send one of their own to his death? They prayed and fasted, hoping to avert the decree. Realizing that they had no choice, they looked one to the other. Who would dare to enter the sacred Caves of the Patriarchs? The elderly Rabbi of the community, Rabbi Avraham Azulai, solved the dilemma. "I will enter the Holy Caves. Have no fear". And so it was. After praying and pleading before G-d, R' Azulai immersed himself in the Mikvah and dressed in white garments, the traditional dress of the dead. He set forth to the Cave of the Machpelah. With a rope tied around his waist, R' Avraham was lowered into the cave.
When his feet hit the ground, Rav Azulai looked around him and found a man standing by his side. Who are you? asked Rav Azulai. "I am Eliezer the servant of Avraham Avinu", the man replied. "How did you get here?" Eliezer asked. Rav Azulai told him the whole story. "Wait here until I ask the Holy Fathers, if you can come inside". The Fathers agreed, and Rav Azulai fainted upon seeing them. They gave something to smell, and he regained his consciousness. Finally he said to them, "Why should I leave here and go back above. I am elderly, and here I have found my Forefathers. I desire only to stay here with you." The Patriarchs insisted, "You must return the sword to the Sultan. If not, the entire Jewish community of Hevron is liable to be wiped out. But have no fear. In another seven days you will return here, to be with us."
So the saintly Rabbi returned to the Yitzchak Hall, above the cave of the Patriarchs, and with him, the Sultan's sword. The Sultan was pleased. Upon seeing their beloved Rabbi return alive, the Jews of Hevron declared the day a holiday. Rav Azulai spent the next week with his students, teaching them all he knew, all the esoteric teachings of Torah. Day and night he learned with them, instructing them, imparting to them all that he knew. Seven days after being lowered into the Cave of the Machpelah, Rabbi Avraham Azulai died peacefully. He was brought to rest in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hevron, overlooking the final resting place of his beloved Forefathers.
Secret of The Mikveh
You should know that the amount of [undrawn water necessary for] a Mikvah [to be kosher] is [a volume equal to the displacement of] 5,760 eggs. The secret regarding this is that, at the end of the five thousandth, seven-hundred and sixtieth year from the creation, the verse, “I G-d will remove the impure spirit from the land ...” (Zechariah 13:2) will become fulfilled, as well as the verse, “I will give peace in the land, and you will lie down, and no one will make you tremble; and I will remove the evil beasts from the land ...” (Vayikra 26:6); that is, the forces of spiritual impurity, as is mentioned in the Zohar. The mystery of the matter is that there are three periods of resurrection of the dead in the future at three different times. The first resurrection will be of the dead of Eretz Yisrael; the second resurrection of the dead will be of Chutz L’Aretz (outside the Land of Israel), and the third resurrection will be that of the seventy nations and the entire world; it will be a time of great judgment. The third resurrection will be at the END of the 5,760th year from creation (the solar year of 2000). (Maayan 2, Nahar 59, B’Sod HaMikvah, Chesed L’Avraham)
Maayan 3, Nahar 9, Cheseh L’Avraham
To explain the difference between Divine Providence upon the Jewish people when they dwell in the land of Israel and when they do not.
The matter is this, when Israel is in possession of their land, this [itself] becomes the defence of every single Jew. For the essence of the Shechina's holiness is below with the Jewish people, as it is written (in Deut. 23:15), "for HaShem your G-d walks within the midst of your camp." The reason for this is that the air of the Land of Israel is the holy domain of the Shechina. Surrounding the borders of Israel, lie the Kelipot (the unclean husks). They (the Kelipot) surround the Holy Land and actually protect it so that the outside forces of evil should not enter in. They surround the land like a stretched out tent so that no stranger shall violate the boundaries. The walls and boundaries of this spiritual tent spreads out over the entire air space of the land of Israel reaching up to the opening to the spiritual Palace of Livnat Sapir (i.e., the passageway between the physical and spiritual dimensions), which is always open. We thus find that in the atmosphere of the Land of Israel resides the gateway to Heaven wherein which the angels of G-d ascend and descend, from the spiritual palaces to the atmosphere and from the atmosphere to the Land of Israel. The Shechina is also below (i.e., descends from Heaven) to watch over her children. She descends and hovers over them all day long with a spiritual divider (Masach) separating them. This spiritual divider (Masach) is the secret of the [Kelipot, which are referred to in Ezekiel's vision as the] storm wind, thick cloud and flashing fire. This is the secret of the atmosphere that is outside the land of Israel.
However, one Kelipah (husk) is not unclean which safeguards everything so that the unclean [forces] will not be able to derive benefit from the holy Light. It is recorded in Ezekiel 1:4, "and a Nogah (brilliance) surrounded it". It [the Nogah] protected them (the children of Israel) on all sides, as has been explained.

Everything outside of the [holy] land [is under the dominion of] the storm wind, thick cloud and flashing fire. These are the "outside" (i.e., the dark) forces, the atmosphere of the lands of the "outside" nations.
This is the secret [why] the Shechina guards over Israel all by Herself, [but] only in the land of Israel. This is not the case outside the land, Heaven help us. When the Kelipot seek to dominate the land of Israel, to destroy it, then does the Shechina depart from the land and ascends above to the [spiritual] palaces and, then afterwards the entry to the palace is sealed and closed. Then is permission given to breach the walls of Jerusalem, which are the "Kelipah Nogah" (the brilliant husk) which separates [the good from the evil]. Then the nations who contaminate [everything] enter, who send forth their hands upon the children of Israel and destroys all the physical chariots and exiles them. The Shechina runs after her children to see what is to be with them outside of [their] land . . . For being that her children are cast away, it is impossible for Her to let go of them. Therefore, [does the Shechina] dwell in the lowest of chariots . . .
[And now] Her spark [of holiness that enlivens souls] and Her Divine guidance are cloaked within the angelic prince who is in charge of the land to which Israel has been exiled. For the ten [holy letters of God's Name] become enclosed within the ten unclean Kelipot, in order to reverse them [somewhat], so that they will not be completely evil to Israel and not contaminate Her children. This can be compared to the [radiance] of the sun. Only a small element of its light reaches the earth. This is (symbolically speaking) how it is with the Shechina. Her essence is in Heaven and only a small element of Her light goes outside the land of Israel along with the [children of] Israel, as it is written in Ezekiel 1:1, "I am among the exiles." It is not Her essence God forbid, but only the sparks of Her light, thus "did the Heavens open and I saw visions of G-d" (Ez. 1:1) . . .
Maayan 3, Nahar 12, Chesed L’Avraham
Explaining the difference between those Jewish souls that dwell in the land of Israel and those who dwell outside of the Holy Land.
Know then that the Jewish (Neshamot) souls that dwell in the Land of Israel come forth from the ten Sefirot of [the realm of] Yetzirah. [Thus, these souls] are called the "House of Israel". They are also called "children". For when a Jewish person dwells outside the Holy Land then [all he/she] has is a (Nefesh) soul from the [level of] the Ofanim (angels). When one merits to enter the Land of Israel there comes upon him/her a new (Nefesh level) soul from Yetzirah and cloaks itself within his older (Nefesh) soul.
The first night that one sleeps in the Land of Israel both souls leave [the body] and ascend above [to visit the Heavenly realms during the allotted sleep time]. Upon returning only the new soul returns. Therefore, such a person is not fit to receive any punishments [for any sins committed outside of the Holy Land], for this, the new soul [which now inhabits the body] is not the one who sinned. Thus, our blessed Rabbis have taught (Ketubot 111A) that such a one (i.e., one that lives in the holy Land) is forgiven all his sins. [Thus] every Jewish person who lives in the Land of Israel is called a Tzaddik (righteous person), even if to all appearances one is not such. For if the person was not a Tzaddik the Land [itself] would vomit out such a person, as it is written, "And the land shall vomit out those who dwell upon her" (Lev. 18:25). Being that the Land does not vomit out such a person, we must accept that he/she is a Tzaddik (righteous person) even if the person is considered a Rasha (criminal person).

Also, know that for one to live in the Land of Israel and then go to live outside the land is considered a sin. In addition, this sin causes the angelic prince [of whatever land one goes to] to have dominance over him/her. The one who takes upon him/herself to live all their days in the Land of Israel and not to leave to go outside the land is considered to have proclaimed the unity of the Holy One, blessed be He, all of one's days.
In addition, know that the Land of Israel only atones for those sins that were performed by accident (without knowledge or intent). Yet, those sins performed intentionally (where one knows that what is being done is in violation of Torah law), these are not forgiven other than by personal sufferings. For those [in the Holy Land] who perform intentional sins in a spirit of arrogance, these have no forgiveness other than through repentance and the study of Torah.
Maayan 3, Nahar 13, Chesed L’Avraham
Explaining the secret of Jerusalem and the other holy places in the Land of Israel.

Know that the minor numerical value of [the word] Jerusalem is nineteen (19). Also, the minor numerical value of [the word] Malchut (kingdom) is nineteen.
[The city of] Shechem, is the secret of Yosef, who corresponds to the Sefirah Yesod. This is why Shechem was given to Yosef [and his descendants] for his attribute is Yesod. The minor numerical value of [the name of the city] Tveria is nineteen. The Sefirah Hod, along with the number of its three letters, plus one for the word also equals the minor numerical value nineteen (19). The apparent meaning of the name Tveria is "the center of the land", (ref. Megilah 6A), for the land hints to [the Sefirah] Malchut, and Tveria refers to [the Sefirah] Hod. Also, [if the word Tveria is broken into two we find] the minor numerical value of Tver is thirteen (13), because it receives power from the thirteen (13) supernal attributes [of mercy]. Tzfat refers to [the Sefirah] Netzach, whose minor numerical value is twenty-two (22, adding the value of one for the word itself). Now, the minor numerical value of [the word] Tzfat is equal [to the numerical value] of [the holy Name] Ekyeh (EKYH).

This is a reference to [the fact] that those who dwell there [in Tzfat] are dealt with [by G-d] with the thirteen attributes [of mercy] which come forth from [the Sefirah] Keter. [The Name] Ekyeh corresponds to Keter, therefore Tzfat is one of the cities of refuge to safeguard souls. Tzfat's [minor numerical value] is 21. Adding [the value of] one [to include the word itself] is 22. This corresponds to the 22 letters in the Torah. This is a hint that Tzfat is ready and prepared to be [that place] where the deep secrets of the Torah are perceived. For there is no better and more pure air in all Israel like there is in Tzfat. The numerical value [of the word] Netzah (the sefirah) is [148, which is also the numerical value of the word] "Kemach" (flour). This then is the secret behind the words of the Sages, "if there is no flour, there is no Torah." (Avot 3:17).

Meron corresponds to [the sefirah Tiferet]. Now the Aramaic translation of the word "sheep" is "Meroni". This is a similar term [to the word] "Maran" (L-rd), as in "L-rd of Heaven", which is an appellation to Tiferet. This is also the meaning of the verse in Ezekiel 34:31, [G-d says to Israel], "you are my sheep, the sheep that I shepherd, mankind you are." Now, "Maran", which is the attribute of Tiferet, in minor numerical value is equal to [the minor numerical value of the word] "Emet" (truth) which is 9. Add the value of three, one for each of the letters and an additional one for the value of the word itself and we have 13, a reference to the 13 attributes of mercy, as explained above.
It is already well known that the cave of Machpelah in Hebron, which is the burial site of the Patriarchs, is the entranceway to the subterranean Garden of Eden. [This is hinted to in the Biblical account of Avraham's purchase of the cave (Gen. 23:16), when he paid an amount of money that was] "o'vair l'so'chehr" (negotiable currency). These words are numerically equal to the phrase, "orach l'gan" (the path to the Garden). It is also the numerical value of the word "chatzer" (courtyard), to suggest that the cave is to the Garden of Eden as a courtyard is to a home. [The words] "o'vair l'so'chehr" (negotiable currency) have the numerical value of 570, to hint to us that everyone who lives in Hebron is certain that when he/she dies and is buried, their soul will merit to enter directly into the subterranean Garden of Eden without delay, without any trouble or difficulty.
Now the word, "teka" (to insert) is referred to twice in the Torah. The first time is Gen. 31:25, "and Yaacov had pitched (teka) his tent on the mount." The second [continues the verse], "and Lavan along with his brethren, pitched his tent on the mount of Gil'ad". [This verse] "Yaacov had pitched (teka) his tent" refers to his wife. "On the mount" refers to the cave of Machpelah, which are two mountains one on top of another and the two caves are under the lower mountain and there are two caves in the upper mountain. The word "teka" is numerically equal to the phrase "o'vair l'so'chehr", meaning that the cave of Machpelah is the pathway to the Garden of Eden. With regards to this did our father Yaacov, upon him be peace, pray to blessed G-d with all his heart that he should merit to be buried with them in the cave of Machpelah, he and his wife together. For thus has it been ordained since the six days of creation.

"And Lavan along with his brethren, pitched his tent." The meaning of this is that Lavan intended, through the powers of black magic, to tear out Yaakov from [the world] so that he would not be buried in the cave of Machpelah. [Lavan] wanted to kill [Yaakov],"along with his brethren," who are Esau and Yishmael. For they would then take the burial site [for themselves], and control the passageway through the cave to the Garden of Eden. For Yishmael and his sons and the children of Keturah already knew that they had a portion in our father Avraham, upon him be peace. Esau and his minions had their portion in our father Yitzchak, upon him be peace.
If, G-d forbid, our father Yaakov, upon him be peace, would not be buried in the cave of Machpelah, then absolutely no Jew would be able to go through that passage into the Garden of Eden. [The path would be blocked by the] idolatrous nations who cling to Yishmael and Esau, who would enter therein and control the passageway due to their connections to Avraham and Yitzchak who are already buried there in Machpelah cave.
This is what our Sages of blessed memory were referring to in the Passover Hagadah when they said that Lavan attempted to uproot everything, as it is written in Deut. 26:5, "an Aramean nomad was our father." For this same [reason] when [the dark angel] Sam..l fought with Jacob that he "touched (teka) the hollow of his thigh" (Gen. 32:26). Now, Sam..l's intent was to blemish Yaakov so that he would not be buried in the cave along side of Avraham and Yitzchak. Instead [he wanted that] Esau and his wife should be buried there.
[Thank G-d] this did not happen, for [our] blessed G-d immediately healed [Yaakov] as our holy Sages have said (ref. Shab. 33b), that Yaakov came complete [i.e. returned to his father Yitzchak]; complete meaning, complete in his body (i.e., not blemished). Blessed G-d in His grace and abundant mercy thwarted Sam..l's [evil] intentions and placed Yaakov in a place of faith, the cave to which we are referring. Now his descendants can travel the path to the Garden of Eden.
Tzfat also has the numerical value of 570 (same as 'teka'). This is to hint that those who dwell in Tzfat have a [special] benefit more than any other city in the Land of Israel. Because [Tzfat] is of such a high elevation and the air there is more pure and refined than any other city in the land of Israel, therefore, one who dies there and is buried there his soul will immediately travel [directly] to the Machpelah cave in order to travel from there to the subterranean Garden of Eden. There is no reason to expand on this more.
Maayan 3, Nahar 13, Chesed L’Avraham
Explaining the blemish that occurs to one who leaves the land of Israel to outside the land.
Know that the one who leaves the land of Israel to outside the land, on the condition to return quickly, so much so that he leaves behind his wife and children in Israel, this type of person will not lose his Yetziratic soul. However, his is cloaked in another Nefesh [level soul] from [the] Asiyatic [realm]. Therefore, such a person is required to observe [Jewish] holidays outside the land in the same way as he would inside the land; [all this] because his intent is [clearly] to return.
All this [reception of the lower Asiyatic soul] is for his own good. For if he were not cloaked in an Asiyatic soul, the Kelipot (forces of darkness) would come to cling to his Yetziratic soul and immediately it would become unclean [because of them]. Therefore, what did God, the Merciful and Compassionate do? He cloaks the Yetziratic soul in an Asiyatic soul so that the Kelipot (forces of darkness) will not defile it. In addition, all Kelipot attach themselves [to us] according [to the level of uncleanness] of each individual place.
Now, all this [which I have just said] refers [only] to the one whom is born in the land of Israel. However, one who is born outside the land and comes to live in the land permanently, immediately when he comes close to the ladder, the Kelipot are removed from him and he enters into the [holy] Land only with the Asiyatic soul. Then the Yetziratic soul enters within his Asiyatic soul, like a knife in a sheath. When such a person later returns to live outside of the land of Israel, his new soul from Yetzirah remains in Israel and only the old Asiyatic soul goes with him to become enwrapped within the Kelipot (dark forces).
Know that one who comes to the land of Israel for only a temporary period, immediately when such a one approaches the ladder, his Kelipot are removed and all that enters into the land of Israel is his Asiyatic soul. However, such a one does not receive a Yetziratic soul, because he does not intend to remain in the land of Israel in any permanent fashion. Therefore, such a person must observe [the Jewish] holidays as they do outside the land.
Maayan 3, Nahar 13, Chesed L’Avraham
The secret of the one who lives in the land of Israel, during the coming of the Mashiach.
Know, that it is an accepted tradition in our hands, that on the day that the King Mashiach will come with the ingathering of the exiles to the Land of Israel, there will be found in the Land 7000 of the children of Israel. On this same day, the dead of the Land of Israel shall be restored to life. On that same day also, the walls of Jerusalem shall be removed, and rebuilt from precious stones and pearls. Then, at the time, the dead of the Land of Israel shall be restored to life, they shall be new spiritual creations. Also, the 7000 who shall be left alive at that time, they too shall be new creations, all of them with spiritual bodies, similar to the body of Adam prior to his sin, and the body of Chanoch, Moshe Rabeinu and Eliyahu [HaNavi]. They shall all float in the air, soaring like eagles. This shall be seen by all the people ingathered from the exile.
When these, their brothers, are made a new creation, soaring through the air, going to dwell in the (lower) Gan Eden to learn Torah from the Mouth of the Holy One, Blessed be He, then all together the children of the ingathered exiles, with worry in their hearts and anguish in their souls cry out to King Mashiach. They ask, we also are the nation of the Children of Israel, like them. Why have they merited to be spiritual beings in body and soul, and not us? Why are we less? The Mashiach shall answer them saying, "The character of the Holy One, Blessed be He is already known and famous; He gives to each one 'measure for measure'. These also dwelled outside of the Land, and after great effort they succeeded to come to the Land of Israel, in order to merit a purified soul. They cared not for their physical or material well being. They came by sea and by land, and were not dissuaded by the dangers of the sea or of being robbed along their journey. They suffered under cruel regimes, all for the sake of the essence of their spirit and soul. Therefore, have they become complete spiritual beings, measure for measure.
However all of you, who had the ability to come to the Land of Israel, as they did, were discouraged over concern for your finances. You were worried about your physical safety and your money. These, you made to be the principle things in your lives, and not your spirit and soul. Therefore have you remained physical beings"

The Torah and the land of Israel share a single connection (i.e., are from the same source). Similarly, the Jewish people, without a doubt, share a single connection with the Holy Land, because of the [holy] connection of their souls.(Maayan 3, Nahar 7, Chesed L’Avraham) 

Light a candle for the Tzaddik Rabbi Avraham Azulai (and pray to G-d asking Him to answer your requests in the great merit of this Tzaddik and that we all merit to be in the Land of Israel immediately together with the King Moshiach and that we all merit to experience the redemption together on the highest of levels possible.)

May the merit of the Tzaddik Rabbi Avraham Azulai protect us all, Amen.

If you’re inspired by the stories told about the Caves of Machpela, why not purchase a stunning fridge magnet showing the Caves with a beautiful verse from the Torah: 

These magnets can be purchased as full sized posters as well. Be in touch to find out more – or have one custom designed for you.

If there are any terms in the above article you do not understand properly, why not set up a private Torah lesson together with Rav Eliyahu to discuss all these teachings. Contact Rav Eliyahu at and arrange a Shiur together on Skype – now!

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