This week’s Torah portion begins with the death a Sarah and Abraham’s quest to find an appropriate place for her burial. The place Abraham finds is a cave, which is known as the Cave of Machpelah. This cave, which becomes the family burial site for our ancestors, provides us with a window into some of the ancient burial rites of our people.
In ancient times, burial caves were a common way to honor and respect the dead. They were usually communal and provided families ways to set their loved ones to rest in a location that was shared. Excavations show that bodies were laid out in these caves, and later the bones may have been gathered together to make room for new burials.
Burial customs have evolved over time, and the traditions which we know and observe today have roots in these early biblical traditions. This Friday night, as we consider the burial rites found in this week’s Torah portion, burial customs (old and new) will be the topic of the sermon.
L’Shalom – Steve