Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Ancient Jewish Hebron

  The Torah portion 'Chaye Sarah' tells us of the change of ownership of the Cave of Machpela from the sons of Heth to Abraham our Patriarch. From here we have clear guidance pertaining to our times. At this time Arabs are intent on taking over ownership of the Cave of Machpela. Initially we should make every effort to deal with this in a peaceful way that the property remain in our possession. Should approach be of no avail, we should battle to remain masters over the Cave of Machpela.

Ancient Jewish Hebron
  Initially, when Abraham came to bury his wife Sarah in the Cave of Machpela, the sons of Heth agreed that he bury her there. However they made it clear that the ownership of the location will remain theirs. The narative continues to explain the line of actions which Avraham took whereby he became master over the cave and surrounding area, as the verse continues - [he took over possession] 'of the field, the cave within it and all of the trees of the field'.

However the first step which Avraham took that 'he bowed down to the people of the land, to the sons of Heth', the Midrash explains was inappropriate. The purpose of the Midrash is not that we know the failings of Avraham G-d forbid, rather that we learn a lesson, that it is forbidden to conduct ourselves in this manner to kneel down or to fall to the feet of gentile so that we regain possession of the Cave of Machpela. 

The actions later taken by Avraham to gain possession of the cave the Midrash does not designate as inappropriate. The Torah is recounting those in order that we - the sons of Avraham - know how to conduct ourselves. 

After having bowed down, Avraham said: 'I am both a stranger and a citizen with you". Rashi [Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki] comments: "Should you agree [to sell me the plot] I will remain a stranger. Should you not agree, I will take advantage of my citizenship and take the plot by legal right because G-d told me "to your progeny will I give this Land". After such words of strength Efron sold the Cave to Avrohom. 

From here we need to take guidance for our times, that when a gentile hears such unequivocal words, he will immediately agree.

At first sight one could ask: 'why is it necessary to take this path? Would it not be preferable to explain things in a more amenable manner?  - since the cave belongs to Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rivka, Jacob and Leah, so automatically it is owned by their progeny and not to the children of Heth!

Regarding this approach the Torah wishes us to know that such a line of action will be ineffective. Avraham did not take this approach because he knew well that explanations - however nice they sound - will be of no avail.

The only effective way will be to state with absolute fortitude "if you are not in agreement, I will take the property by my legal rights. When he hears that we are preparing to take the property by force and placing our reliance on G-d who gave the property to the Jewish people - only this approach will have a meaningful effect. They will take the 400 silver shekels [as paid by Avraham] and give over possession of the Cave of Machpela to the Jewish People.  
                                                                       [Public talk Shabbos Chaye Sarah, 1969]