People call the Machpela the "Cave of the Couples" or "Cave of Pairs" because of the four husband-wife teams buried there.
Instead, I think of it as a Cave of Brothers, an optimistic symbol of the attainability of family harmony. Despite lethal rivalry, conflicting interests, and fundamental philosophical differences:
- Yitzchak (Issac) and Yishmael (Ishmael) joined together to bury Avraham there.
- Yaakov (Jacob) and Esav joined together to bury Yitchak in it.
- Yosef (Joseph) and his brothers traveled together from Egypt to bury Yaakov in it.
- After the Exodus from Egypt, the whole nation together brought Yosef's 200+ year old bones to the land of Israel (and perhaps back to this cave) for burial.
We celebrate their ultimate victories: not over their brothers, but in overcoming themselves. The strength of our nation was built on a foundation of generations men who vanquished interpersonal strife for the sake of brotherhood and common purpose.
When someone dies, we say "may his memory be for a blessing." In our thrice-daily prayers, we bless G-d in the names of our Fathers, each of whom ended his life with the respect and cooperation of his sons. When they gathered together in their father's memory, they became a blessing.
The midrash tells us that this Cave is the threshold to the Garden of Eden. Why? For me, this is meant to show that reconciliation and healing interpersonal relationships are prerequisites for experiencing spiritual perfection.
Hope lives in this tomb. May they rest in peace.