Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Chayei Sara
To dedicate this lesson

'Let us go up and possess the land'

Abraham's negotiations in Hevron are a lesson for the future.


Rabbi Yonatan Kirsch

Cheshvan 7 5782
Tough Negotiating

The story of purchasing Me'arat Hamachpeyla (cave of the patriachs) is more than just any real estate tale. It is the establishment and beginning of the conquering the land of Israel by the Jewish people. What happened in our Parsha has effect ever since and shows us the right approach to the land of Eretz Yisrael.

Looking in to the conversation between Avraham and the people of Hevron of the time, Bnei Chet, and there leader Efron, can teach us a lot. Every step of the negotiating we can witness differences between what Avraham requested and what they replied. I'd like to point out some insights in this discussion. My claim is that it was a pretty tough discussion that included ideological aspects and arguments.

Real ownership or "right of use"

Avraham requests an "Achuzat Kever"- a plot of land for burial (Bereshit, 23, 4). The people of Chet reply that they are willing to let him burry his wife Sarah in any spot he chooses.

They only decided to leave out one word-"Achuzat" – the land. They were willing to let him "right of use" but not ownership. "Not one of us will prevent you from burying your wife"- to be accurate- we will allow you to use what belongs to us.

Rashi brings that Avraham threatened, that if they refuse his offer he will take the land by law because Eretz Yisrael was promised to him by God. In other words, here Avraham begins his conquering the land and fulfilling the dream of the Jewish nation.

Upgrading the demand for top dollar

Next, Avraham begins the negotiating with the president of Hebron, Efron. He requests a "cave". A cave is more than a burial plot, a cave is a "place", a location, a zone. Avraham upgrades his demand for a higher level of possession.

Efron responds by offering it for free. Avraham refuses. Avraham doesn't want "freebees". Why not take it for free? Because when you get something for free you aren't completely the owner. The person giving the gift could deny the gift in the future.

Chazal explain (Bereshit Raba, Vayishlach, 79) that the three places that were purchased by Am Yisrael cannot be argued by the natons of the world, Umot Ha'olam- Temple Mount that was purchased by king David, Shechem by Ya'akov, and Hevron by Avraham. Eventually, not only do we get the "cave", but we also get the "Sadeh"- "the field" surrounding it above including all the trees it contained (Bereshit, 23, 17). By doing this, we claim that not only do we have a place to "hideout- safe haven" from antiSemitism but we also have the right of living here, "above the ground"- proudly and openly.

Inspiration for generations

This story gives us inspiration for generations - knowing how we must conquer, settle and possess the land of Israel. Kalev, the son of Yefune, came to Me'arat Hamchpeyla, the Cave of the Patriarchs. to daven so as not to fall prey to the sin of the spies who said bad things about the land (Rashi, Bamidbar 13, 22). Our forefathers gave us the legitimacy and strength to call out, just like Kalev did at the time- "Let us go up at once, and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it."
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