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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Did Abraham Err in Buying The Land in Hebron? Is it Like Celebrating November 29, 1947?

Many times I've blogged that I consider the Israeli celebration of the "29th of November," the anniversary of the day when the infant United Nations member states approved the establishment of the State of Israel to be a terrible mistake.  We, Jewish Zionists, should never have asked the world permission to establish our state. It has made us dependent on international approval and seriously undermines our sovereignty.

I admit that some people may find what I'm now going to say rather "sacrilegious," but I feel it must be said.

In this week's Parshat Shavua, Weekly Torah Portion, Chayei Sarah, we read of the Matriarch Sarah's death and that Abraham, her husband goes to great lengths to buy a specific piece of  Land in Hebron with a burial cave, now known as Ma'arat HaMachpela.

Genesis Chapter 23 בְּרֵאשִׁית
יא  לֹא-אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי--הַשָּׂדֶה נָתַתִּי לָךְ, וְהַמְּעָרָה אֲשֶׁר-בּוֹ לְךָ נְתַתִּיהָ; לְעֵינֵי בְנֵי-עַמִּי נְתַתִּיהָ לָּךְ, קְבֹר מֵתֶךָ.11 'Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is therein, I give it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee; bury thy dead.'
יב  וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ, אַבְרָהָם, לִפְנֵי, עַם הָאָרֶץ.12 And Abraham bowed down before the people of the land.
יג  וַיְדַבֵּר אֶל-עֶפְרוֹן בְּאָזְנֵי עַם-הָאָרֶץ, לֵאמֹר, אַךְ אִם-אַתָּה לוּ, שְׁמָעֵנִי:  נָתַתִּי כֶּסֶף הַשָּׂדֶה, קַח מִמֶּנִּי, וְאֶקְבְּרָה אֶת-מֵתִי, שָׁמָּה.13 And he spoke unto Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying: 'But if thou wilt, I pray thee, hear me: I will give the price of the field; take it of me, and I will bury my dead there.'
יד  וַיַּעַן עֶפְרוֹן אֶת-אַבְרָהָם, לֵאמֹר לוֹ.14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him:
טו  אֲדֹנִי שְׁמָעֵנִי, אֶרֶץ אַרְבַּע מֵאֹת שֶׁקֶל-כֶּסֶף בֵּינִי וּבֵינְךָ מַה-הִוא; וְאֶת-מֵתְךָ, קְבֹר.15 'My lord, hearken unto me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.'
טז  וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָהָם, אֶל-עֶפְרוֹן, וַיִּשְׁקֹל אַבְרָהָם לְעֶפְרֹן, אֶת-הַכֶּסֶף אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר בְּאָזְנֵי בְנֵי-חֵת--אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שֶׁקֶל כֶּסֶף, עֹבֵר לַסֹּחֵר.16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the hearing of the children of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.
Now please think about it.  There are three places in the Land of Israel that were bought by Jewish Leaders in Biblical times.  It's all in the Bible.  They are that piece of land in Hebron, Har Habayit (the Temple Mount,) and Shechem.  I remember going to a shiur, class, a few years ago that brought up the subject that davka those three places which were legally, according to the laws of man, were repurchased by Jews.  But davka, those three places are most contested.

If the purchase had been the correct thing to do, then those locations would be recognized as Jewish owned over the millennium to this very day.  The fact that no other religion or people take those purchases seriously, including the Christians who "swear on the Bible" makes me wonder about the wisdom of paying people for our Land.

Davka, it was Abraham who had followed G-d's instructions in Lech Lecha to go the Land G-d would show him, which G-d would give to him and all his descendants. G-d is the true owner of all of the Land and all of the earth.  By making such a point to buy the piece of land to bury Sarah there, and getting permission from a human being for this denies G-d's ultimate ownership.

We're still making the same mistakes.  Our Israeli courts are making it more difficult for Jews to prove Land ownership than for Arabs.  That is what's behind the Givat Asaf and Migron problems and various other plots of land and buildings in Jerusalem, Hebron and other locations.

We still haven't fully accepted G-d's Lech Lecha challenge.  G-d has given the Land to us, and we do not need the approval or purchase receipt from humans.

Shavua Tov
Have a Wonderful Week


Dov Bar-Leib said...

1. Avraham did NOT buy Chevron. He bought the cave and the field next to the city. Kiryat Arba is in that field today, and of course is not part of Chevron. So at least the City of Kiryat Arba sits in the field that Avraham purchased. The only disputant for the Cave today is Yishmael who actually does have 1/2 a claim to 1/6th of the known graves in the Cave..at least as far as visitation rights. (I am not including Adam and Chava because no one knows where to place the tombstone, and their burial preceded Avraham's purchase.) So divide up the time of use for prayer and study in the cave to 1/12th of the time spent in the Cave since both Arabs and Jews do share Avraham as our "spiritual" or physical forefather. I am sure that Yitzchak never would have prevented Yishmael from visiting the grave of his father.

2. I don't think that Ya'akov bought the entire city of Shekhem. I think that he bought a piece of land at the entrance to the city which is now the tomb of Yosef, correct? So as rightful owners of that "plot" of land, we have an obligation to secure access to it...even if it is in the middle of Nablus since Nablus is far bigger than ancient Shekhem. The tomb of Yosef is therefore deep in the modern city. I remember for instance when the tomb of Rachel was on the edge of Beit Lechem many years ago, but as Beit Lechem has grown around it, it is now in the middle of town.

Anonymous said...

Always felt the same way.
But most likely it goes much deeper than this.
With paradoxes and all, and you can't just take it, can you? Or kick them out?
But still, nice to see someone agreeing.
On some level i am sure we have a point.

Anonymous said...

Of course, if at the beginning of the statehood, Israel would have heeded the Torah and done as commanded, we would not be having the tzarot that exist today and so many lives would have been saved. We were commanded to expel the inhabitants found in the Land, which could have been easy to do then, but because of the Erev Rav in charge, this was not to happen. They never even contemplated such a rational move because then they could not have succeeded in making the 'Land' Judenrein, as they are trying to do today. To these leaders, Israelis do not mean being Jewish, r'l. Our sages foretold that the Land will be regained with sweat & blood, and, of course, we see that truth, as Torah is all truth!

Batya said...

Dov, and do we have easy, recognized Jewish access to those places? Maybe we've gone about it all wrong?

a1, thanks

a2, The problem was before statehood. Benzion Netanyahu's "The Founding Fathers of Zionism" about five early Zionist leaders explains the different approaches they had to getting international approval. Maybe the early leaders, that's pre-state, should have been more concerned about Jewish acceptance. At the book launch when Netanyahu had the book republished decades after the original, Moshe Shamir chastised him for not including religious Zionists.
If the Jewish People would be less apologetic about our right to be here and have a state, then maybe we'd have world recognition. They play on our weakness and insecurity.

Gnarlodious said...

Taking your comparison to its logical conclusion... Abraham foresaw the loss of sovereignty that would result from a partnership with unreliable agencies. In the modern day bargain… we weren't so wily.

Shy Guy said...

Both strategies are required. We are currently weak in BOTH.

See Rav Hannan Porat's book, מעט מן המאור - בראשית, article "אברהם אבינו - אבי קרן קיימת לישראל", especially the Kol Ha'Tor he brings down at the end of the article.