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10/29/2021 09:55:26 AM


There is an old story about the CIA agent who was sent on a spy mission to Saudi Arabia.  Before leaving for his new post, he spent a year in intensive training. He learned to speak Arabic with a Saudi accent, and to dress in a way that would fit in exactly with the locals. After arriving at his destination, for the first several weeks, he was doing a great job in uncovering secret information.

Until………..  you see, one day he went to the Suk, the marketplace, to buy a certain item. Immediately, the locals realized he was a spy, jumped on him and started beating him to death.

What happened?  How did he blow his cover?  Well, when the vendor stated his price, the spy took out his wallet and paid. He accepted the price, and didn’t start bargaining! That gave him away!

This week’s parasha begins with Avraham asking the local inhabitants for a plot of land in which to bury his wife Sarah. A certain Mr. Ephron offers him a plot: for free! Yet Avraham insists on paying full price: winding up with a bill for 400 silver shekels.

When I first learned this story of Avraham and Ephron, when I was young, I wondered: Avraham had been offered a great deal: a free burial plot.  Why didn’t he grab it? Instead, he was bargaining backwards: rather than haggling to lower the cost, he was asking to raise the price!

The answer is as follows: Avraham knew that he was a “ger ve-toshav,” a stranger, a recently arrived immigrant. He was trying to obtain a plot from the natives, the indigenous people. He knew that were he to accept the offer of a free grave, eventually there would be objections to the sale. By paying top price, with money that was `over lasoher, that is, internationally recognized currency, no one would dare object. [It has been estimated that in modern currency, that would be equal to well over $100,000!]

By purchasing this “Cave of Machpelah,” Avraham was establishing for himself and his descendants a permanent residency in the country that later would be known as Erets Yisrael!  

Shabbat shalom

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782