Our Parshat HaShevua, Chayei Sarah is sponsored by Yirmi and Rochelle Gold and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh who dedicate this vort Lilui Nishmas the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Chaim Zev Malinowitz, z”l. To the Gold family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
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Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides a context, questions and various understandings regarding acquisition of the Cave of Machpeila (Ma’arat HaMachpeila) for Sarah’s burial in his sefer, “Unlocking The Torah Text”, Volume One, Sefer Breish’t, pages 101-102):
Parshat Chayei Sarah opens with the death of Sarah and the purchase of the Cave of Machpeila by Avraham as a burial site. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 23, posukim 1-20)
Torah dedicates no less than twenty sentences to the negotiations between Avraham and the Hittites [particularly with Ephron ben Zohar, the Hittite] concerning the purchase of the Cave of Machpeila as a burial site for the patriarchal family. This is more text than was dedicated to the entire story of Akeidat Yitzchak. (Rabbi Goldin providing the posukim re: the Akeidat Yitzchak, Sefer Breish’t, Perek 22, posukim 1-19)
A variety of approaches are suggested by the classical commentators. The Talmud, in a passage echoed elsewhere in Midrashic literature, sees the entire story of the purchase of the Cave of Machpeila as a testament to Avraham’s loyalty and fortitude. Even the Satan has to admit: “I have traveled across the whole world and have found no one as faithful as Your servant [Avraham]. You promised him, ‘Arise, walk the length and breadth of the land for I will give it to you.’ Yet when the time came to bury Sarah and he could not find a site for her burial, he did not question Your ways.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Bava Basra 15b)
Some authorities actually suggest that this episode is one of the ten tests administered to Avraham throughout his lifetime. (Rabbi Goldin citing Ramban on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 24, posuk 19)
Other sources see this… as… record for perpetuity of the clear claim of the B’nei Yisrael to specific areas of the land of Israel. The details serve to underscore and cement the legal, contractual nature of our ownership. (Rabbi Goldin citing Midrash Rabbah, Sefer Breish’t, Perek 79, posuk 7)
How ironic that in our time the city of Hevron and the Cave of Machpeila have once again become the flashpoints for violent dispute between Israel and her neighbors. The Torah’s recordation of Avraham’s purchase of this land remains frighteningly prophetic. We are told that we will need, across the ages, every possible proof that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews.
Rabbi Goldin refers to Hevron and the Cave of Machpeila as having, in our time, again become flashpoints. However, Hevron and the Cave of Machpeila are NOT the only flashpoints, in the ongoing violent dispute between Israel and the PLO and it’s brother terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah.
There is an intriguing commentary regarding the dialogue leading up to Avraham Aveinu’s acquisition of the Ma’arat HaMachpela for 400 shekels of silver from Ephron the Hittite.
The first of the two posukim spoken by Avraham to Ephron the Hittite in our Parsha says, in part:
“I give the price of the field, accept it from me …” (Breish’t, Perek 23, posuk 13 Rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)
“…That a man may marry a woman by using money to effect the marriage is deduced in the Talmud (Kiddushin 2) by drawing a parallel from this verse. But the parallel goes beyond merely the acquisition of the land of the Ephronite and the acquisition of a wife. Just as in a marriage the act of acquisition is only the beginning and not the end, because that is when all one’s obligations begin — food, clothing, etc. — the same is true in our dealings with the Ephronites. Nothing ends with written contracts and agreements. We pay, pay and pay again, and yet they keep demanding more from us.” (Torah Gems on Chayei Sarah, page 182 quoting Rabbi A.M. Amiel)
Somehow these last sentences, “Nothing ends with written contracts and agreements. We pay, pay and pay again, and yet they keep demanding more from us” seem to ring true in our ongoing struggle to maintain our Jewish presence and sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael against the Arabs, the Moslems, under the guise of a bogus, fake “palestinian people
Rav Goldin now discusses two-word phrase used by Avraham as he negotiates with Ephron and the Hittites — “ger v’toshav” (“Unlocking The Torah Text”, Volume One, Sefer Breish’t, page 103):
Avraham… opens the dialogue with the Hittites dwelling in Hevron: “Ger v’toshav anochi imachem,” “I am a stranger and a citizen together with you.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 23, posuk 4)
Avraham’s self-description is, therefore, inherently self-contradictory. Is he a citizen or a stranger? It would seem that he cannot be both.
Rashi immediately notes the problem and offers two possible solutions:
On a pashut pshat level, Avraham is saying, “I am a stranger from a different land, who has come to live with you.”
On a Midrashic level, Avraham is saying, “It is up to you. If you treat me well, I will deal with you as I am but a stranger who has no rights to the land. If not, I will consider myself a citizen, and take this property by law.”
Rabbi Goldin now brings further understanding (“Unlocking The Torah Text”, Volume One, Sefer Breish’t, page 102)
Other authorities understand this narrative [the negotiations for purchasing the Cave of Machpeila] as underscoring the deep respect that must be shown, according to Halacha, towards the dead. With meticulous detail, Torah records Avraham’s extraordinary efforts to secure a proper burial for Sarah.
From that time onward, Avraham’s descendants will continue to care for those who pass from this world with honor and dignity. The Chatam Sofer goes so far as to learn from this episode the Halachic requirement to purchase a burial plot, rather than simply receive it as a gift. (Rabbi Goldin citing Responsa Chatam Sofer Yoreh Deah 332)
This author should add here, as this Parsha vort is dedicated Lilui Nishmas for the second Yahrtzeit of HaRav Chaim Zev Malinowitz, z”l, that the Rav held a deep love for Eretz Yisrael, as well as speaking and teaching often about the Kedusha of the Land. For a number of years, he encouraged the Kehilla to take annual trips to Hevron and the Ma’arat HaMachpeila on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashana. He often visited Kever Yosef. This year being a Shmitta year, he taught the Kehilla about Shmitta and promoted and worked with organizations such Otzar Ha’Aretz in facilitating the keeping of Shmitta according to Halacha. The Rav celebrated with us in three Hachnasat Sifrei Torah including one in Yesha and one in Gush Katif, in Shirat HaYam (in the months before the expulsion in August of 2005) as well as the celebration in Beit B’nai Rachel in Kever Rachel. He protested against the Expulsion, including giving a passionate talk to the Kehillah about Gush Katif.
Somehow the above citing from Torah Gems, “Nothing ends with written contracts and agreements. We pay, pay and pay again, and yet they keep demanding more from us” seem to ring true in our ongoing struggle to maintain our Jewish presence and sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael against the Arabs, the Moslems, under the guise of a bogus, fake “palestinian people
And even worse, successive so-called Jewish governments, successive Jewish Prime Ministers, from Sharon and Olmert, to an extent Bibi, and most certainly the current rag-tag coalition of Bennett, Shaked, Lapid who, with their power-lusts, seem straight-facedly complicit with the enemy in betrayal of their Jewish brethren, the nation they lead. This latest coalition which acts in accordance with the will of Mansour Abbas and his Moslem Brotherhood Ra’am party out of fear of losing their reigns of power. These successive governments have all schemed the separation, divorce and eradication of any and all things Jewish from the mindset, intellect and consciousness of Israelis even in blind and distorted disregard for national security and well-being.
Then, three posukim below our first posuk:
“And Avraham heard Ephron … and … weighed for Ephron the silver which he [Ephron] spoke about in the ears of the B’nei Chais, four hundred shekels of silver that merchants used.” (Breish’it, Perek 23, posuk 16)
On the words, “And Avraham heard”, the Rashbam commented:
“A hint is sufficient for a wise man.” Ephron spoke as if he were a man of generosity. He spoke to Avraham with great respect and ostensibly offered him the burial site free of charge. However, Ephron mentioned in passing, “The four hundred shekels … is nothing between friends. Your friendship is more precious than money. Bury your dead.” (Rashi and Rashbam on Breish’it, Perek 23, posuk 15)
But Avraham was perceptive, with his finely-honed intuition, and understood Ephron’s real intentions; he didn’t really want to give the land away for nothing. Avraham responded to Ephron’s real inner wishes, not to the outer, simple meaning of his [Ephron’s] words. (Growth Through Torah, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, on Parsha Chaye Sarah, pages 57 – 58).
Rabbi Pliskin speaks of understanding the true meaning of what others say in a context of correcting and refining one’s midos. He writes that “this ability to differentiate between what someone says and what he means is an attribute that we must develop. For many areas of spiritual growth it is essential.” (Growth Through Torah, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, on Parsha Chaye Sarah, page 58)
However Rabbi Pliskin’s discussion of refining one’s perceptiveness and intuition extend beyond the striving for perfection of midos in Everyman. Avraham Aveinu who, in his time, was THE pre-eminent leader of mankind as well as builder and proponent of a then revolutionary concept: belief in an infinite being who controls every aspect of the world’s existence, correctly read the reality of his relationship with the other peoples. He read the reality of his relationship with Ephron and, with an eye to both Hashem’s promise to create a people from him [Avraham] and to all of future history, he acted accordingly in paying Ephron the four hundred shekels of silver.
And so, the posuk which begins; “And Avraham heard”, is inextricably tied Perek 23, posuk 13 above it which reads, “I give the price of the field, accept it from me …” And so we learn in our days that “Nothing ends with written contracts and agreements. We pay, pay and pay again, and yet they keep demanding more from us.” We paid with Oslo, Oslo 2, the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif, the continuing propping up of Abbas and Fatah (who seek our destruction and eradication no less than Hamas) by continuing to give them the weapons, training, technology, money and capability to kill us in numbers. And we have stiffly paid for lack of perceptiveness by way of the “Jewish government” persecuting and expelling their fellow Jews from Jewish land, under the bogus guise of pre-empting UN, EU, World or American pressure. The reality though, for those perceptive enough as Avraham Aveinu was in dealing with Ephron, is to read deeper back into history in Israel over the Oslo period through today.
The reality is that of successive prime ministers who are soo corrupt and soo blinded by their lust for power or for their hate of anything Jewish that they hide behind their enemy’s obvious duplicity and the bogus guise of American pressure for “shelter” even at the expense of national security.
Undoubtedly, Israeli leaders have brought it all upon themselves by subverting Avrahamic wisdom and intuition to the embrace of distorted Sodomized Western morality in their blind expedience in attempting eradication of Jewishness from Israeli consciousness.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.