Thousands Expected for Hilulat HaAvot on Rosh Hodesh Elul

The Hall of Isaac will be open to the public on August 9, 2018

Hall of Isaac and Rebecca
Hall of Isaac and Rebecca

As we do every year, we are preparing for the “Hilulat HaAvot” which takes place on the eve of Rosh Chodesh Elul. This year the Rosh Chodesh, the First of the Month falls on Shabbat, and therefore the celebration will be advanced to the Thursday before it, the 28th of Av, or August 9, 2018.

Starting at 4:00 am, the Cave of the Patriarchs will reserved for Jewish prayer service, including the Hall of Isaac and Rebecca, which is open to the public only 10 times a year.

Closing at 10:00 PM, it is recommended to arrive at 9:00 pm at the latest.

Rabbis, Admorim and thousands of worshipers from across the country are expected to visit the site during the day.
According to tradition, the Month of Elul is the month of mercy and forgiveness. It is the last month before Rosh Hashanna and writings from past generations have described it as a day in which prayers at the Tomb of Machpela were recited. During Elul, it is traditional to visit the tombs of the righteous and saintly. At the Tomb of Machpela, (Ma’arat HaMachpela) the matriarchs and patriarchs of the Jewish nation are buried. It is said that on Hilulat Avot, the celebration commemorating the patriarchs, prayers have special significance.

The Isaac Hall is the largest in the Machpela complex and is usually reserved for Muslim prayer only. The rotation agreement with the Muslim Waqf and the Palestinian Authority allows for ten days out of the year for Jewish prayer services and ten days for Muslim prayer services in which the normally Jewish areas are open to Muslim worshipers. These days correspond to Muslim and Jewish holidays respectively, with Rosh Hodesh Elul being one of them.

The Hall of Isaac and Rebecca, or Ohel Yitzchak v’Rivka, as it is called in Hebrew, is where the actual entrance to the underground burial chambers is located. A small decoratively adorned hole in the ground, similar to a well, leads into the double caves beneath the massive Machpela complex. If one outs their face over the hole, a breeze can be felt emanating from underground. This is caused by back-draft from the underground caverns. Jewish tradition teaches that this is the entrance to the Garden of Eden from where Adam and Eve were expelled. Our sages say that Adam and Eve are buried in the cave.

According to the writings of D. Avishar, a resident of Hebron in the early 1900’s, Hebron was a place of Elul pilgrimage for generations. He wrote:

“The month of Elul in Hebron brought with it hundreds of visitors from afar. The first to arrive, by foot, would be the young men from Tsor, Sidon and Damascus. When the visitors would reach the out-skirts of Hebron, the youngsters and community leaders, singing joyously, would go out to welcome them and accompany them to the community inn. The visit of the young men would bring great joy to the Hebron community. During the day the visitors would pray at the Cave of Machpela and other holy places in the city. At night they would dance and sing, and the entire community would come to the inn to participate in the festivities.”

Come visit Hebron and Ma’arat HaMachpela on the world famous Hebron Fund tours! Click here to register and find out more, or contact our tour coordinator Sarah Edri (licensed tour guide) at tour@hebronfund.org or 052-431-7055.

(article originally appeared here)