Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik
by R. Aharon Ziegler
The Torah tells us that the city of Chevron was also called Kiryat Arba [City of the Four] (Bereishit 23:2). Rashi explains: It was so called because of the four couples who were buried there, man and wife: Adam and Chava, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivkah, Ya’akov and Leah
Why were our Avot and Imahot, patriarchs and matriarchs, buried in the same cave as Adam and Chava, who were the progenitors of ALL MANKIND? According to Rav Soloveitchik, the message we learn is that human dignity, exemplified by Adam and Chava, who were created in the image of G-d [Bereishit 1:27], and the covenantal Kedusha, which was introduced by the Avot, are not mutually exclusive.
The difference that separates us is that the covenant G-d made with Noach and all future generations of gentiles charges them with the obligation to observe the Seven Mitzvot Bnei Noach, while the Jew is enjoined to fulfill a far more stringent and demanding discipline. Avraham Avinu did not appear in the historical arena to free the Jew from universal obligations. On the contrary, the covenant enhances the universal norm and elevates it to greater heights. It adds many more norms above those obligatory upon all members of mankind.
There is no contradiction between laws rooted in the universal concept of “G-d’s Image”, the source of man’s dignity which mandates the Seven No’ahide Laws, and those rooted in Kedusha, sanctity, which was introduced through the covenant. Non-Jews, however, even those well-intentioned, are frequently unable to appreciate the fact that the covenant is not neglectful of universal concerns. On the other hand, many well intentioned Jews fail to appreciate that the privilege of being a Mamlechet Kohanim Ve’goy Kadosh, does not relieve them of their responsibilities towards universal responsibilities.
We must truly internalize this message when visiting Me’arat HaMachpela and seeing where Adam and Chava were buried side by side with Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Sarah, Rivkah and Leah.