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Chayei Sarah

"Let him grant me the Cave of Machpelah which is his, on the edge of his field; let him grant it to me for its full price, in your midst, as an estate for a burial site" (Bereishis 23:09).

Some say that the reason the Torah describes in detail Avraham's purchase of the burial place of the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs, is so that the Arabs would not be able to claim that it is theirs; as they try to do today. The same goes for King Dovid's purchase of the mountain upon which he and his son, King Shlomo, built the Holy Temple. It is described in detail to be an everlasting testament of our ownership.

The burial site of a holy person is a special place where one can pray to Hashem in the merit of the one who lies there. Special care should be taken to keep the site clean and reachable to beseechers. There are many stories about people who were rewarded for taking care of these holy places.

The following amazing story was sent to me from someone who read it in the English Jewish Tribune, August 24, 2000.

In 1972, Mordechai Shababo was a typical, secular Israeli who lived with his family in Tzefas, in northern Israel. Mordechai had been training hard as a wrestler for the world competitions which were to take place in Munich, Germany. Mordechai was the only real hope for bringing home a victory for the Israeli team. Although Mordechai himself was not an observant Jew, his family had a long and illustrious history in the religious community of Tzefas. An ancestor of his was Rabbi Yehoshua Shababo, who had been a student of the Holy Arizal, the greatest of the Kabbalists, some 400 years previous. Mordechai's father was a member of the local Chevra Kadisha (burial society), besides being the shammash (sexton) at the famous Alshich Shul.

The holy Rabbi Moshe Alshich (1508-1593) was a pious scholar and rabbinical judge who lived, taught, and was buried in Tzefas. Mordechai's father was responsible for the upkeep of the Alshich Shul, which was next to the Alshich's grave. For a few days in the summer of 1972, Mordechai's father was unable to carry out his duties in the shul. He therefore requested that his son take care of the shul in his place. At first Mordechai wanted to refuse his father's request, because the world competitions in Germany were quickly approaching. However, something inside Mordechai's heart told him to help his father, so he agreed to take care of the shul for a few days.

One night, Mordechai had a dream. The holy Alshich appeared to him, all dressed in white. The scholar thanked Mordechai for making the shul so bright and clean. "However," the saintly Rav added, "where I lie, it is dark, filthy, and neglected so that no one can approach my grave." Mordechai woke up the next morning somewhat disturbed by the dream. However, he did not act on the Alshich's request to clean up the grave. But when the same dream occurred twice more over the next few nights, Mordechai became very alarmed. His wife insisted that he do something to tidy up the grave of the holy Alshich.

Mordechai wanted to wait until after he returned from the world competitions in Munich, but his wife insisted that he take care of the task immediately. So, 48 hours before the Israeli team was set to leave for the competitions, Mordechai regretfully withdrew from the team, claiming that he was not feeling well. The team tried everything, including bribery, to convince him to take part in the competitions. But Mordechai refused to join the team.

While his former team members boarded the plane for Germany, Mordechai was busy cleaning up the grave of the holy Alshich. Several days later, news of the horrible tragedy in Munich reached Mordechai's ears. Together with the rest of the Jewish world, he was shocked by the report. He then realized that the Hand of Hashem was upon him. He was spared from the tragedy in the merit of the saintly Alshich, of blessed memory.

Mordechai began to become more and more religious. He spent lots of time in the Alshich Shul, where he prayed three times a day. Using his phenomenal strength, the former wrestler moved the heavy obstacles which had blocked access to the cave where the grave of the Alshich was situated. After six months of backbreaking labor, Mordechai completed the restoration of the Alshich's gravesite.

Today, Mordechai lives a fully religious lifestyle with his family in Tzefas.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel