This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Chayei Sarah (5760)
This week the Torah reveals to us another chapter in the life of the father of Judaism, Avraham.
One of the more difficult lessons that the Baal Shem Tov taught us, is that everything that happens in the world, every small detail, is really a lesson for every person, whether Jewish or not, how to be a better person and a better Jew. How much more so if it is taught to us by the Torah, especially through a story in the life of Avraham or the other 'Fathers'.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, however, that in this week's section lies an unusually powerful idea.
Our weekly Torah portion opens with Avraham negotiating with the members of the 'Cheis' family over a burial place, 'the Cave of Machpela', for his recently departed wife Sara. Avraham opens the dialogue with the following self-contradictory statement:
"I am a foreigner (Ger) and a permanent citizen (Toshav) here, give me a place to bury my dead"
Now Rashi, the chief clarifier of the Torah, explains that Avraham was saying like this: "If you agree to sell me the land then, well, really I'm a stranger here and I'll pay what you ask. But if you don't want to sell, you should know that this is my land, I'm not a stranger but rather a citizen here, and I'll take it back by force."
Of course this is, on the face of things, very strange business talk to say the least. If Avraham was really a citizen then why did he weaken his position by saying he is a stranger? On the other hand if he was visitor, a 'ger', which seems to be the case because he had never even seen the place previously, then why did he contradict himself and say that he is a native (toshav), and that the cave belongs to him?!
The Rebbe answers like this: First let us understand why Avraham chose to buy that particular cave as a place to bury his wife? What drove him to pay such an exorbitant price for an ordinary plot of land? The answer is that Avraham knew that Maarat HaMachpela had been chosen by G-d to be the burial place for all the 'Avos and Emahot' the patriarchs and matriarchs of Judaism.
Now exactly who is buried in that place? Four couples: Avhaham and his wife, Yitzchak and his wife, Yaakov and one of his two wives and…. Adam and wife. You may ask yourself what Adam is doing there, wasn't he the father of ALL mankind? The answer is that Adam was a Jew! Well, he 'sort of' was a Jew. You see, Adam was created with an 'additional' soul; a deep, constant urge; to recognize, be devoted to, and advertise the existence and nature of G-d, just like a Jew. And just like every Jew, G-d was his father (in a very real sense of the word in Adam's case). Yes…Adam was created with a Jewish soul (see the beginning of the second chapter of the Chabad book 'Tanya') but he sort-of knocked it unconscious for almost 2000 years when he ate from the forbidden tree, until it was awakened and inherited by Avraham. That is why Adam was, and still is, buried together with the forefathers (in fact that is how Avraham recognized the place, he saw signs that Adam was buried there) to show that only true offspring of Adam are the seed of Avraham, the Jews. The other nations only exist because they have the potential to help the Jewish people (especially through the 7 noahide commandments) do what they were chosen for; perfect the world.
According to this, then, Avraham was hinting to the owners that if they don't want to sell him the Cave and aren't willing to help him, then not only have they no connection to him, but they forfeit their connection to Adam as well and deny their own right to exist. So that is what he meant when he said "I am a visitor and a native" in other words; if you want to sell me the land and help me, then you have a connection to Adam and have more right to the land than I do because you were here first. But if you aren't willing to sell it to me, I become the native and the land is mine because I have been here for several minutes and as for you, well, it is as though you were never here at all!
[This, incidentally, explains why it is that a non-Jew who transgresses one of the 7 noahide commandments is technically punishable by death, a seemingly unfair punishment for stealing, or eating meat from a living animal! But now we understand that by not observing his commandments he cuts himself off from Adam and his own right to live. This, incidentally, is not so for a Jew who sins. A Jew is miraculously protected by the extra level of faith that HaShem has in him, being that the Jews are His 'sons' and, even more important, His (at least potential, in the case of the sinner) servants.
This, then, is the lesson to be learned from Avraham's words, Judaism is not just 'one of the religions of the world'. Judaism is the reason for and source of all creation! The world, then, is part of the Torah, not the other way around and therefore (although we may not have eyes to see the truth) anyone who doesn't aid the Jews looses his connection to the Oneness of the Creator and to the true reason for life itself.
So we see that even in such a mundane act as buying a funeral plot, Avraham illustrated the oneness of G-d, the job that he began as the first Jew and which will be completed very soon by the revelation of....
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