One of the topics that occupied the minds of all the commentators was Avraham Avinu´s purchase of Me´arat Hamachpela. For some reason, the Torah devotes an entire section to the purchase of this cave in Chevron. The obvious question arises as to why this subject earned such elaboration. Furthermore, Yaakov Avinu, in Parashat Vayechi, also recounts the story of the purchase, in order to underscore its importance. But wherein precisely lies this importance?
An allusion to this uniqueness is found already in the writings of Chazal: “It is written ten times [in this section] ´benei Chet,´ to correspond to the Ten Commandments, to teach you that whoever blesses the purchase of that tzadik is considered as having fulfilled the Ten Commandments.” But why is this cave so important? The Ibn Ezra posits an interesting theory, claiming that the Torah here seeks “to inform us of the great quality of Eretz Yisrael for both the living and dead.” His view directly opposes the opinion of the Kuzari, who rejects this concept.
The Ramban does not accept the Ibn Ezra´s approach, and explains that the Torah teaches us the great kindness the Almighty bestowed upon Avraham Avinu. Even in a foreign land, where Avraham is practically alone and isolated, Hashem saw to it that His promise of, “I will make great your name” is fulfilled.
It seems to me that we have here a fundamental argument regarding the sanctity of the Promised Land. In a well-known passage, the Meshech Chochma writes that the sanctity of the land depends solely on Am Yisrael´s conduct. The claim that the kedusha of the land is inherent and independent, he claims, approaches idolatry. It is important to point out, however, that other scholars see in Eretz Yisrael a sanctity that does not depend on Am Yisrael´s behavior, but that is rather inherent in Hashem´s creation of the world.
Undoubtedly, the Ibn Ezra views the land´s sanctity as inherent. He therefore emphasizes that it possesses a certain beneficial quality even for the dead, who no longer have any influence through their actions. But the Ramban argues that the sanctity of the land, the kindness bestowed there by Hashem, is granted only to those who earn it through their holy actions.
Amidst this discussion we find a third view, which the Ramban mentions, as well. The Torah here comes to inform us of the burial site of our ancestors to obligate us to visit and respect this location.
Hevron is not only an important, historical city, but rather a city that lives in the present and even in the future – we bear a responsibility to look after its well-being, its construction, and its honor.
May it be His will that we will all, as the agents of our ancient forefathers, have the merit of fulfilling these words of the Ramban, and return to our sacred land and take part in its construction, restoring its former glory to its rightful place.