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 fourth 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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As this vort is being written, we are in the midst of truly, a Melchemet Shel Torah — the War of Simchat Torah, it seems appropriate to repeat this vort, in part, from a few years ago.
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 …” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 23, posuk 13 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)
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’nai Chais, four hundred shekels of silver that merchants used.” (Breish’it, Perek 23, posuk 16 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)
On the words, “And Avraham heard”, Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his Sefer “Growth Through Torah,” cites Rashi and Rashbam, and comments (pages 56 – 57) :
“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.” (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin citing Rashi and Rashbam on Sefer Breish’t, 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.
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, pages 56 – 57).
“…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.” (The sefer “Torah Gems” on Chayet Sarah, page 182 quoting Rabbi A.M. Amiel)
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.
Somehow those last sentences cited 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
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 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. In 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’nei Rachel in Kever Rachel. He protested against the Expulsion, including giving a passionate talk to the Kehillah about Gush Katif.
Successive so-called Jewish governments, successive Jewish Prime Ministers, from Sharon and Olmert, to an extent Bibi, and most certainly previous rag-tag coalition of Bennett, Shaked, Lapid who, with their power-lusts, and with the addition of Mansour Abbas and his Moslem Brotherhood Ra’am party, seemed straight-facedly complicit with the enemy in betrayal of their Jewish brethren, the nation they lead. 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.
We pray that this current Israeli governance, in its current configuration or as a War-Time Unity government, keeps to its vows of the first days of this Major War and eradicates Hamas, Hezbollah if they dare get involved, as well as all terrorist barbarians and their sponsors.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled, back in Gush Katif and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, as well as the buildings of Yishuv Elchanan, all at total government expense, as the wild beasts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, all other terrorist units, and if necessary, Syria, Iraqi militias and Iran are all destroyed and eradicated. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. 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 nine 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. May we see, in 5784, the REAL Jews, via matrilineal descent, from the Ukraine and Russia make Aliyah enmass — via thorough review by Misrad HaPanim. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese Wuhan Lab corona virus pandemic and all like viruses and variants. 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.