The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Marcheshvan 23, 5769/November 21, 2008

"... and Avraham weighed out to Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant."
(Genesis 23:16)

It may strike us as unusual that Avraham avinu - our patriarch Abraham's first purchase of land in the land that G-d promised to him and to his descendants, would be a cave in which to bury his wife Sara. But for Avraham, his wife's burial plot was not a memorial to the past but a bridge to the future. Avraham knew, intuitively, perhaps, that the land G-d promised him as an eternal inheritance was not going to be received on a silver platter. On the contrary, every inch of the blessed land of Israel was to be acquired through conquering, purchasing, settling and working the land, and through establishing households of faith and trust in G-d, upon the land. Just like G-d's promise of the rebuilt Holy Temple, the inheritance of the land of Israel is earned through much toil and trial.

Avraham diligently negotiated his purchase of the field and cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite. He slowly and deliberately counted out the four hundred shekel agreed upon in front of the Hittite townspeople. He carefully repeated the terms of the contract between himself and Ephron, for all to hear. Avraham foresaw that time and time again throughout the millennia the right of possession of Machpelah by his descendants, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, would be denied, disputed and disregarded by the nations of the world. The recording in detail of his purchase, by the holy Torah, would ultimately prove the final word.

How ironic, then, that the very issue of the Jewish right of residency and ownership of property in the city of Hevron, hundreds of meters from the Machpelah itself, would be once again in the headlines this week, the week that we read in Torah of Avraham's purchase. Some two years ago, after much painstaking and deliberate negotiation, a Jew purchased from an Arab a certain house in Hevron. The contract was signed, the sum agreed upon was handed over, and a small number of Jewish families moved in. To this day, the legal acquisition of the house, named by its Jewish inhabitants, the "Peace House," has not been recognized by the Israeli courts.

Ostensibly the problem derives from the fact the the Arab owner who signed a contract and received the money in full for the property, has since denied ever having sold it. This should hardly be cause for surprise, and certainly not be considered a serious claim in court, for the following reason: The Palestinian authority long ago outlawed the selling of property to Jews. The punishment for violating the law is death. Were the former owner of the "Peace House" to openly admit to selling it to Jews, Arab terrorist henchmen would snuff out his life within hours, in broad daylight, for all the townsfolk of Hevron to witness, even before the Palestinian "police" could lay their hands on him.

Anticipating all this, the Jewish purchasers took precaution to record phone conversation and videotape the actual transaction, after the manner of Avraham, who recorded his transaction with Ephron. The purchasers and residents of the "Peace House" hope and believe that in time the Israeli courts will come to accept the indisputable evidence of their legal acquisition of the property. Until that day, they, and tens of thousands of fellow Jews who have returned to the land of Israel to fulfill G-d's promise to Avraham, are ready, willing and able to carry on the struggle to regain and repossess the land.

Avraham's purchase of Machpelah came after he had successfully measured up to ten trials by which G-d tested his spiritual mettle, his trust in G-d's word. It has since become axiomatic that the acquisition of the land of Israel is gained through blood, sweat and tears. Unfortunately, today in the land of Israel, those who lack the courage and determination to carry on the sacred work of Avraham, are bent on creating obstacles for those that do. The final chapters of today's ongoing saga haven't yet been written, but the conclusion is of a certainty, having been recorded long ago in the book of Genesis:

"So the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the border thereof round about, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city." (Genesis 23:17-18)

Due to scheduling constraints, TEMPLE TALK was not broadcast this past week. However, TEMPLE TALK will return next week, on schedule, (Tuesday, November 25th). Join us as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven will be discussing parashat Chayei Sara, Avraham's purchase of the Machpelah, today's ongoing struggle for the land of Israel, the upcoming Torah reading of Toldot, and much more.

No audio file is available.