Shabbat Commentary

2/3 Nov : Chayei-Sara: Shabbat comes in 4:17 pm,  ends  5:19 pm

Parashat Chayei Sarah, the Torah reading for this Shabbat, opens with the death of Sarah, and with Abraham securing a burial plot for her. Indeed, the entire first chapter of the Parashah is devoted to the intense negotiations between Ephron the Hittite and Abraham.

Part of what strikes the reader so deeply is Abraham’s demeanour during his exchange with Ephron. Having been promised the land as his inheritance, one that will be passed on to his descendants, it is surprising that Abraham behaves with such humility and sensitivity. Two moments stand out in particular. First, Abraham declares to Ephron, “I am a resident alien among you.” Second, Ephron graciously offers to give Abraham the plot he is seeking; Abraham politely refuses and insists on payment.

Abraham’s special quality is that of humility with respect to God and his fellow humans. Far from taking the divine promise for granted (that his descendants will inherit the Land of Israel), he is keenly aware of the reality in which he resides. He is indeed “a stranger in a strange land”; he is a newcomer. And more importantly, he knows that if he is to attain a legitimate foothold in the land, he cannot rely on divine promises alone. He must do so through humility and through the assent of those “in power” (a.k.a., the Hittites). Further, Abraham understands that he cannot take advantage of the magnanimous spirit of Ephron; land cannot be given, it must be acquired.

Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman




November 1, 2018