Weekly Chasidic Story 1352 (5784-09) 22 Cheshvan 5784 (Nov.6, 2023)

"Sons of Fatima"

"The Sheik in charge of the Cave of the Patriarchs came out and started rebuking and shouting at the Jewish visitors. And it seemed he was right….The Jews were all silent--except one."

Connection: This week's Torah Reading, Chaye Sara, 1) opens with [Sarah's death and] Avraham's registered purchase of the field in which Machpela Cave is situated, and 2) continues with the saga of arranging the match between Yitzchak and Rivka (Isaac & Rebecca).

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Sons of Fatima

Although the Patriarchs and Matriarchs are entombed in Ma'arat HaMachpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron), for 700 hundred years [1267-1967], the Muslims did not permit entry to the Jews, claiming that Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov belonged exclusively to them. They gave permission for Jews to ascend only until the seventh step of the outside Eastern stairway leading up to the tomb markers, and no further.

When Israeli forces liberated Hebron, Jerusalem, and other important Jewish sites in the Six-Day War, Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Nissim sent Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, then aged 38, to visit and inspect the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Rachel's Tomb in Beit Lechem (Bethlehem), and the Kotel HaMa'aravi (Western Wall) in Jerusalem.

When they were at the cave, a large group of soldiers entered. This was the first time anyone had been inside after the battles.

There were many high-ranking army commanders and numerous soldiers there, among them Yitzhak Rabin[1], Haim Bar-Lev[2], and Uzi Narkiss[3]. A number of prominent rabbis were also present.

Some of the soldiers were injured, some were hungry, and most of them were exhausted after days of fighting. The saw the rugs in the cave and lay down, soon falling asleep. Suddenly, the sheik in charge of the cave, a man named Jibri, came out and started shouting at the commanders and soldiers.

"Get out of this cave!" he yelled. "You have no respect for it! We Muslims wash our hands five times when we come here. We take off our shoes and honor this place. But you show no respect whatsoever! Your soldiers are eating here, sleeping here, walking on the rugs with their dirty boots. You have no respect for this place - leave!"

Apparently, he was right. What he said made sense. Everyone was silent… except one.

Rabbi Eliyahu, who understood Arabic, as did most of the senior commanders, responded, "Listen to me, Sheik. You know that if a servant comes before the king in soiled clothes, or serves him food on a filthy tray in front of all the king's ministers and servants, he will surely be put to death.

"But if the king's son were absent from his mother and father's home for many years, and his father spent many nights worrying about him and his mother crying for him, if that son was to return home after many years, how do you think the king would receive him? What if he simply wandered in without making an appointment? What if he showed up with torn, dusty clothes, and interrupted the king's conference with his ministers, crying, 'Father, I came home?'

"What if he approached his mother, the queen, calling, 'Mother, I'm here'? His mother and father would surely hug him, loving him, and thanking G-d with all their heart for his homecoming, even with his ripped, dirty clothes - because he is their son."

Rabbi Eliyahu looked the sheik in the eyes and said, "Avraham is our father, Sarah is our mother. We behave here as though in our own home. You, however, are the 'sons of Fatima,' the children of the maidservant Hagar. You behave as is appropriate for a servant to behave, and we behave as is appropriate for children to behave!"

The sheik turned red with shame. Not only did he have no rejoinder for the rabbi, he had been called a "son of Fatima," son of the maidservant. He was insulted. He turned on the spot and stormed back into his room in a great rage.

The senior commanders there immediately turned to Rabbi Eliyahu, asking in horrified dismay, "Why did you do that? We want to live in peaceful coexistence with the Arabs. Why did you have to upset him? You may have ruined everything!"

Rabbi Eliyahu replied firmly, "You have to tell them the truth. That's the only thing they understand."

The argument continued for a few minutes, until the door of the sheik's room suddenly opened. The sheik exited his room with his head down, approaching Rabbi Eliyahu in deference. "Oh Wise One, oh Master; please forgive me!" he cried out.

Rabbi Eliyahu didn't turn to him or even respond. He simply looked at the commanders and said, "You see what language they understand? I grew up among the Arabs from when I was a young child in the Old City of Jerusalem. Tell the truth and they will understand!"

Source: Adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from the book, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu: A Legend of Humility and Leadership.

Connection: This week's Torah Reading, Chaye Sara, 1) opens with [Sarah's death and] Avraham's registered purchase of the field in which Machpela Cave is situated, and 2) continues with the saga of arranging the match between Yitzchak and Rivka (Isaac & Rebecca).

Biographic note:
HaRav Mordechai-Tzemach Eliyahu [of blessed memory: 5689 - 25 Sivan 5770 (1929-2010)], son of Rabbi Salman Eliyahu, a leader of the Sephardic kabbalists in Jerusalem, served as the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel from 1983 to 1993. Rabbi Mordechai was a noted sage in all areas of Torah study, as well as a significant kabbalist, and was considered to be one of the leading authorities on Jewish law in Israel. His son, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who is currently the popular Chief Rabbi of Tsfat, was also the main force in compiling the 5-volume Hebrew set from which the English book cited above was taken.

Early background notes for Machpela and Hebron
(from the informational website -worth visiting! - HebronFund.org):

The Cave of Machpela has an ancient history dating back to the earliest man and woman in the Bible. Adam and Eve are said to be buried in the cave, the first of four couples to be buried there. The Cave of Machpela and the field around it were Abraham's first acquisition in the Land that God promised to him and his descendants. Besides Adam and Eve, the three patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people - Abraham and Sarah, Rebekah and Isaac, and Jacob and Leah - are buried there as well. These three holy couples gave birth to the Jewish people and brought the awareness of God to the world. Since Biblical times, the Cave of Machpela has been a place of prayer, meditation, and study. The cave is respected as a gateway to the Garden of Eden, where our prayers have a special potency. Hebron was the capital of the tribe of Judah. King David began his kingship here. From Hebron, he was crowned King of Judah seven years before he was crowned king of Israel in Jerusalem.

[1] Rabin was IDF chief of staff during the Six-Day War. In later years, 1974-1977 and 1992-1995, he served as the fifth prime minister of Israel.
[2] 1924-1994. A military officer in pre-state Israel and during the early years of statehood. He was deputy chief of staff during the Six-Day War. He later served as a government minister and ambassador.
[3] 1925-1997. A general in the IDF, commanding the units in the Central Region during the Six-Day War.


Please pray every day:
FOR the success and safety of the dedicated warriors of the IDF -- especially, as requested by many commanders and soldiers on the battlefronts, between the hours of 2 am-5 Israel time, when the shooting and fighting is fiercest.
and for the immediate rescue a/o release of the 240+ captives kidnapped (including 13 babies!) by despicable Hamas;
and for the speedy and complete recovery for the 4500+ injured;
and for the soul elevations of the 1400+ Jews and other victims who were viciously murdered by the bestial terrorists;
and that the ONE Above should shower the close and extended family members --tens of thousands!-- of the victims with divine consolations, and only happy occasions and good news from now on.

Below is a link to a short video (1:07 minutes) showing the extraordinary works of kindness that the expanded staff of ASCENT-of-Tsfat (Safed) is doing for the refugee families of South Israel; and for the
IDF soldiers on duty in the North, who are living in bleak, dangerous conditions. PlEASE join us.
R. Yerachmiel Tilles
Managing Editor, AscentOfSafed.com & KabbalaOnline.org

Giving Our Soldiers What They Need To Win

" Cooked Meals for 1000 IDF Soldiers everyday
" 1800 Shabbat meals every week
" 13,0000 regular IDF meals upgraded to Festive Shabbat Meals every week
" accommodations and activities to 80 REFUGEES
" moral building concerts for 2000 soldiers every week

Please CONTRIBUTE TO THE VICTORY by using the following link:


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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"Festivals of the Full Moon"
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is now available for purchase from ASCENT
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Book 1 of Yerachmiel Tilles's 3-volume set, "Saturday Night, Full Moon",
is also available for
purchase on our KabbalaOnline-shop site.

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