Petachia of Ratisbon Describes the Cave of Machpela from the 1100s

A rabbi describes his mysterious descent into the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs and the difficulty in trying to pray at this holy location.

6.1.16, 14:21
Rabbi Petachia of Ratisbon, also known as Petachiah of Regensburg, is one of the many travelers in centuries past to describe the excitement of visiting the Tomb of Machpela in Hebron. The English translation of Travels of Petachia of Ratisbon was published in London in 1856. The original Hebrew text is written in third-person, leading the translator, Dr. A. Benisch, to speculate that the book was written by Rabbi Judah the Pious, "to whom Petachia, after his return, had given an account of his travels, and to whom perhaps he entrusted his original notes." 
Rabbi Petachia passed away in 1217, leading scholars to believe his travels took place sometime between 1170 and 1180 during the time of the Crusader state referred to as the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.
The following is the full text of his account of Hebron as translated from Hebrew. The text is interesting when compared to other travel journals of the time such as Benjamin of Tudala and Rabbi Moshe Basola. Although the language utilized may seem unusual, the reader may keep in mind that in modern times, there have been only two recorded visits inside the actual cave, in 1968, and in 1981.
page 63 - 64
He then went to Hebron. He saw over the cave a large palace, which Abraham, our father built. There are in it large stones of twenty-seven or twenty-eight cubits. Every corner stone is about seventy cubit. He gave to the keeper of the key of the cave a gold piece to take him to the graves of the fathers; and he opened it, and behold there was over the entrance an image, and inside three cells. The Jews of Acco had told him previously, Beware, for they have places three corpses at the entrance of the cave, saying that these were the patriarchs; but they are not. He, therefore, gave him another gold piece to take him inside the cave, He then opened it, saying, I never permitted a Gentile before to enter this gate. He then brought lights and they went inside, and has to descend steps, and before he entered the cave he had outside to descend fifteen steps. They then came to a very spacious cave. In the midst of the cave there is an entrance in the ground. The ground consists all of rock ; and all the graves are in the hollow of the rock ; and over that entrance in the middle, are placed very thick iron bars, the like no man can make unless through heavenly instrumentality, and a storm-wind blows from between the holes between bar and bar. He could not enter there with lights. Then he understood that the fathers were there, and he prayed there. Whenever he bent towards the mouth of the cave a storm-wind went forth and cast him backwards.
page 65 - 67
Among the oaks of Mamre, at a distance from there, dwelled an old man, who was near death when Rabbi Petachia arrived there, and he told his son to show Rabbi Petachia the tree under which the angels rested. He also showed him a fine olive tree cleft into three parts with a stone in the middle. They have a tradition that when the angels sat down the tree was cleft into three parts, each resting under one tree whilst sitting on the stone. The fruits of the tree are very sweet. By the tree is the well of Sarah; its waters are clear and sweet. By the well is the tent of Sarah. Close by Mamre is a plain and on the other side there are about a hundred cubits from the well of Sarah to the well of Abraham; its water is very agreeable. They also showed him a stone of twenty-eight cubits, upon which Abraham, our father, was circumcised. The old man affirmed, with an oath, that now that he was quitting the world and would not any a falsehood that one day, on the fast of the Day of Atonement, he saw a fiery angel and a fiery horse by thw well of Sarah, who was offering up his devotion.
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