Chaye Sarah 5763
Posted on March 23, 2011
by Ariella Rosen
Parashat Chayei Sarah focuses mainly on the glory of Sarah’s life after her death, Avraham’s quest to bury her, and his efforts to find his son Yitzchak a wife. Though the way Avraham bought Sarah’s burial place was well described, not many know the significance of his purchase to the Jewish homeland Israel, today.
When Avraham bought Ma’arat Hamachpelah (the cave of Machpelah) from Ephron the Hittite, he made the sale clear and public, stressing the fact that he was doing business in the presence of many witnesses. “Ve’Ephron yoshev b’toch b’nei Chet vaya’an Ephron haChiti et Avraham b’oznei b’nei Chet lechol ba’ei sha’ar iro leimor.” (Breishit 23:10. Ephron was present among the Hittites; so Ephron the Hittite answered Avraham in the hearing of the Hittites, all who entered his town saying…) The language itself the Torah used to describe the scene can tell us a lot about the importance of the sale to Avraham.
The Torah uses as few words as possible. In fact, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote whole books on the notion that “every letter, stroke, sign or ornamentation of a letter in the Torah may be the basis of ‘mounds of mounds of law’”. This means that every word written that may seem extra really has a specific meaning not clear at first glance. With this in mind, the repetition of Avraham’s request to buy Ma’arat Hamachpelah only further demonstrated his desire to have claim to the land, and how much he wanted the deal to be recognized as legal.
The buying process Avraham went through to acquire this land can parallel what the Zionist movement had to deal with in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when buying land in Israel, then Palestine. Most of the land bought for the Jewish homeland came from absentee landlords (owners from outside the country), and the early Jewish settlers wanted to make it clear that they had legal claims to this land, that they hadn’t just come in and taken it. They made the sales formal and public, calling in big-name philanthropists like Rothschild and Montefiore to make it clear that the transactions took place.
Today, Hebron (the location of the cave of Machpelah) is one of the most debated locations in all of Israel, and the entire country is trying to prove its validity. Avraham and the early Jewish settlers recognized this as an issue, which is why they took the extra steps to physically buy the land. We, as Jews, know that the land of Israel was promised to us by God. We understood our claim to the land. However, the other nations weren’t buying it (in a metaphorical sense). The purpose of the transactions that took place between Avraham and Ephron and the Zionist settlers and absentee landlords were to prove to the world that even if they didn’t recognize our religious ties to Israel, they would have to understand that we owned it.
Now, during today’s controversy, we have both religious and political ties to our homeland. And still, the conflict goes on…
May peace come soon to our brothers and sisters in Israel.