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    Three or four couples? – Chayyei Sarah

    MachpelahThe death of Sarah recalls the tradition that three couples – Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah, were buried in the Cave of Machpelah. This name is from k-f-l, “double”.

    Why Abraham chose this as a burial place is explained in Pir’kei d’Rabbi Eliezer, which says that when Abraham bought the site from the local inhabitants he was visited by three angels.

    He wanted to give them a feast but the calf he chose ran into the cave of Machpelah and he went after it. In the cave he found the grave of Adam and Eve, and decided that the family would have their last resting place there.

    Hence there are two traditions about Machpelah – one that says that three couples were buried there, and another that says there were four.

    The site was holy both to the monotheistic faiths who all revere the Biblical patriarchs, and (in theory at least) to all mankind, who, whatever their nation or creed, descend from the first man and woman.

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