And he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, "But, if only you would listen to me. I am giving the money for the field; take [it] from me, and I will bury my dead there." And Ephron replied to Avraham, saying to him, "My lord, listen to me; a [piece of] land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is it between me and you? Bury your dead." (Bereishis 23:13-15)
“This cave has very little value,” thought Ephron, “I will present it to Avraham as a gift.” As it is written: "No, my lord, listen to me. I have given you the field, and the cave that is in it, I have given it to you. Before the eyes of the sons of my people, I have given it to you; bury your dead." Why didn’t Avraham accept the Machpelah as a gift, or at least not overpay its perceived worth?
According to the Ohr Hachaim, Avraham realized that Ephron would later try to reclaim the Machpelah when he discovered its true worth. Ephron will claim later that he was cheated. Furthermore, if Avraham did not own the Machpelah outright, Ephron’s descendants might try to prevent further burials. Therefore, he was ready to pay a high price to avoid any future problems.
Ephron and Avraham stood in front of the Cave of the Machpelah, each with a different perception of what they were seeing. Ephron saw the Cave of the Machpelah as a dumping area for dead animals and garbage; a deep dark cave that emitted a foul odor. However, Avraham saw something completely different. He perceived a great light emanating from the cave and could smell the sweet fragrance of the Garden of Eden. Both the Rasha and the Tzadik saw the same cave but had completely different experiences.
Rav Nachman of Breslev adds that purchasing the Cave of the Machpelah constituted the beginning of the conquest of Eretz Yisrael. Avraham was willing to forfeit his entire wealth to insure that the Machpeilah would never fall from Jewish possession. His mesirus nefesh would pave the way for further sacrifices until the entire land would be conquered.
Due to Avraham’s lofty status, which was acquired through years of spiritual refinement, he was able to recognize the holiness of the Cave of the Machpelah. He was attuned to the reality of what was really before him. Ephron, who was a dishonest and greedy person, projected his own spiritual emptiness onto an exquisitely holy place. He was so close to such holiness and yet he felt nothing.
Someone who passes through a tragedy is changed forever. He or she may become a more sensitive person or chas v’shalom a bitter person. Either way, this person now sees the world in a way that many others do not. It comes from depth of character. Avraham passed through ten tests that fundamentally changed his spiritual DNA and ours.
We don’t need to be tested so dramatically in order to see God more clearly. This is because every good thought we have and every mitzvah we do impacts the meaning of what we see. There’s a cumulative affect. Don’t you agree that this is true no matter how small and seemingly insignificant such a thought or deed may seem?
Over the years people have asked me if I would ever draw cartoons depicting some of the cases found in Yora Daya. Well, the answer is yes! I recently published a sefer called The Great Game of Kashrut. Click on the link to find out more: The Great Game of Kashrut
As for me, I don’t want to believe in a God that I understand. --
If you would like to dedicate a Davar Torah in honor of a special occasion or in memory of a beloved family member please contact Yisroel Simon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good Shabbos,R’ Channen