This Shabbat we will read the fifth Torah Portion in the book of Genesis – “Khayey Sarah” – The Life of Sarah.
The Torah tells us about Avraham who acquires the Cave of Makhpela from Ephron in order to bury his wife Sarah there.
(MAKHPELA comes from the root כפל – KEFEL, meaning double, since it had a cave within a cave).
In the presence of all the people of Heth Abraham formally purchased the Cave of Makhpela from Ephron paying 400 Shekels (in Big Coins).
וַיִּשְׁקֹל אַבְרָהָם לְעֶפְרֹן אֶת הַכֶּסֶף אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר בְּאָזְנֵי בְנֵי-חֵת, אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שֶׁקֶל כֶּסֶף, עֹבֵר לַסֹּחֵר
“Avraham weighed out for Ephron the silver of which he had spoken in the hearing of the children of Het, four hundred shekels of silver, transferable to the merchant.” (23:16)
In this verse appears a special expression: “transferable to the merchant.”
Our Sages explained this expression, saying that it implies that Avraham gave Ephron coins of great value – currency that merchants accept everywhere.
What caused our Sages explain this expression in this way?
Rabbi Yonatan Eybeshutz from Prague elucidates this explanation in a brilliant manner:
Avraham, who was in direct contact with God, fulfilled the entire Torah and acted according to Torah law.
Torah law says that it is prohibited to give an idol worshipper bars of gold and silver, out of concern that he will melt them down and make idols from them and worship them.
However, it is permitted to give an idol worshipper gold and silver coins if the value of the coin is higher than the value of the metal that it is made from – because then it would not pay for the idol worshipper to melt down the coins, as he would come out with a loss.
Therefore, Avraham gave Ephron coins such as these, that are accepted everywhere, with a value that was more than the metal they were made from, so there was no concern that Ephron would make idols from them.
We all have somewhere our own “Idols” that really are not worth so much, and which in fact hinder our growth and development in life.
It is worthy to consider, what could be our “Big Coins” to overcome these unworthy idols…
After his death Abraham was also buried in the Cave of Makhpela.
Tradition tells us that in the Cave of Makhpela (Cave of Patriarchs) are buried four couples:
1. Adam and Hava (Eve)
2. Abraham and Sarah
3. Yitzhak (Isaac) and Rivka
4. Yaakov (Jacob) and Leah
In this Tora portion appears an expression “AM HA’ARETZ”:
And Abraham rose up, and bowed down to the people of the land, even to the children of Heth. (Genesis 23,7)
Originally the expression “AM HA’ARETZ” meant –
People of the land / Group of people / Crowd.
However in the times of The Second Temple this expression was used to describe someone who was not knowledgeable in regards with the Jewish laws.
Nowadays the expression “AM HA’ARETZ” is used to describe an uneducated person.
An even stronger expression to describe a completely illiterate person is “BUR VE’AM H’ARETZ”.
Another Hebrew expression which includes the word ‘Land‘ or ‘Earth‘ and describes a worthy person who is connected to his nation’s roots and values is very similar in the meaning to the expression in English:
“Salt of the Earth” – “MELAKH HA’ARETZ”
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Wishing you Shabbat Shalom,
Yoel & Orly
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