Justified or not, the term caveman connotes primitive, uncouth, and uncivilized individuals. When it comes to what we in contemporary society seem to be proper behavior, a caveman is regarded as the antithesis of one who is looked up to because of admirable traits, respectability, and comportment. With the intent of dispelling preconceived notions toward cavemen, I should like to bring to mind, three “cavemen” from our heritage, who were exemplary when it came to caves.
Leaving Ben Gurion Airport after landing in Israel, one enters the highway linking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. That highway is referred to as the Ayalon, a name hearkening back to Yehoshua, Moshe’s successor. Persuading the sun to stand still over Givon, and the moon to remain fixed over the valley of Ayalon, Yehoshua was able to proclaim stunning victory over the Amorites. By all accounts, it was quite a feat. In my opinion, however, an even greater feat occurred at the cave of Makedah, near what is now Beit Horon. It was at the cave of Makedah, where Yehoshua kept his word to the Givonites, despite having a good reason not to. It was at the cave of Makedah, where Yehoshua meted out justice to five kings, who declared war against the Givonites for having forged a pact with Israel. Realizing that they were about to be vanquished, the five kings sought refuge at the cave of Makedah. When Yehoshua learned about their whereabouts, he gave orders to seal off the cave until he and his regiment could arrive and give those five kings their just desserts. Thanks to Yehoshua, the cave of Makedah, in my opinion, is a cave of loyalty.
If one were to head in the opposite direction upon landing in Israel, bypassing Jerusalem, toward the Dead Sea, one would reach Ein Gedi. There are caves at Ein Gedi as well. Centuries after Yehoshua and the cave of Makedah, the drama was to unfold between King Saul and David, his perceived adversary. King Saul’s fear of and hostility toward David was such, that it depleted the King of tactics, energies, and resources that were sorely needed to rout the Philistines, Israel’s preeminent enemy. Pursuing David, rather than the Philistines, King Saul and his entourage find themselves at Ein Gedi. David is closer than King Saul realizes. Much closer. It is in one of the caves at Ein Gedi, where King Saul enters to answer nature’s call. Unbeknownst to King Saul, David and his inner circle are in that very same cave. David, however, is well aware that his nemesis is mere feet away. Taking his sword, David slashes the corner of King Saul’s robe, which moments before had been removed. David’s message to King Saul was implicit. “Just as I ran my sword through your robe, so too could I have run my sword through you”. David’s message to his inner circle was far more explicit: G-d forbid that I should do this thing to His Majesty, HaShem’s anointed, by stretching out my hand against him”. Because of David, and his ability to refrain from doing what others would have done in a similar situation, the cave at Ein Gedi, in my opinion, is the cave of integrity.
Zigzagging to the north, east of Akko and north of the modern city of Karmiel, there is the ancient city of Pekiin. Pekiin also has caves. It is believed that a little over 1900 years ago, the great sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, together with his son Eliezer sought refuge from the Romans in one of those caves for a period of 13 years. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was set up by the Romans and ended up a victim of a sting operation. His crime was speaking the truth about the Romans who brought their way of life to Israel. When word got back to the local Roman authorities, a price was placed on Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s head. The great sage was wanted dead or alive. In turned out that the cave where he hid, was known to all his many students. Dressed in sports attire to throw off anyone who might follow them, in the hope of discovering the hiding place of a fugitive from (Roman) justice, his students continued to study Torah from their learned and revered master. It just so happens, that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s yahrzeit is Lag B’Omer, this Tuesday. Others would have spent their time as fugitives, differently. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai decided to spend his time as a fugitive disseminating Torah. Because of this, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai’s cave in Pekiin, is the cave of invincibility.
Three caves of renown. Three caves embodying the values of loyalty, integrity, and invincibility. Three caves are a source of pride for our people. Three caves that give new meaning to the term cave men.