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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Chayei Sara

The Test Of Time

Rabbi Stewart WeissCheshvan 23 5776
143
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Hashem tests all of us – all the time. And the greater the person, the more challenging the tests we are given.

Avraham, as we know, was tested 10 times. Chazal debate just what these tests were, & most assume that the Akeida was the last & toughest test. But others argue that the events of this week’s sedra – the protracted purchase of Ma’arat HaMachpela as an eternal, holy resting place for the Avot & Imahot – was his final trial.

But just what did this test consist of?

To answer, let us recall that much earlier, when Avraham first set out for Israel, he took along his nephew Lot. It wasn’t very long before Avraham was forced to part ways with his brother’s son. What caused the rift? Lot’s workers were grazing their cattle on land that did not
belong to them. Their rationale? Avraham had been promised this land by G-d, & Lot (at least at that time) was Avraham’s one and only heir. So, they reasoned, in essence, "the land is as much as ours already – let’s just use it now!"

Avraham was repelled by this false sense of justice, and so he and Lot separated, with Lot going to live in S’dom, a place that perfectly suited his skewed sense of right and wrong. (Another "S’dom-ism" was to steal amounts so small that they were not compensable in court, thus allowing the S'domites to eventually amass a fortune). In fact, I am not at all sure if Lot did not teach S’dom its perversity!

But now, fast forward a bit; Avraham ironically finds himself in a similar situation. Hashem has indeed proclaimed that all this land will belong eternally to him & his descendants. So why should he pay such an exorbitant sum for Machpela? – as much as a million shekels, say Chazal! After all, Avraham was strong - he had recently defeated the mighty 4 Kings almost single-handedly - & he probably could have taken the cave from Efron & his cohorts by force if he so desired. Should he pay – or slay?

This, then, is the ordeal which Avraham must confront.

Avraham chooses to negotiate, to pay the money, even if he may have had good reason not to. Perhaps he believed that, in the final analysis, "you get what you pay for," i.e. the lasting, eternal value of Ma’arat HaMachpela derives from the huge price which was paid for it. Maybe he wanted to send the message – so very topical for our tough times – that things which come cheap, ARE cheap! But that which
requires a great expenditure of money, energy & blood retains a priceless price tag.

I suggest that Avraham’s test, paying high prices for valuable property - and there is no land more valuable than Israel! - continues with us, his children.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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