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This Land is Our Land

This Shabbat, thousands of Jews will gather in Chevron (Hebron), city of our forefathers. We read in this week's Torah portion of Abraham's acquisition of the Cave of Machpela, and many will come to hear that portion read within the cave itself. Listening to the Torah's description of an event in the very place it occurred is an otherworldly experience.

The story of the purchase of the Cave of Machpela is not the only incident in the Torah that can be read on-site. Yet it's the only one that draws scores of visitors. There is no drive to read the story of the splitting of the sea at the banks of the Sea of Reeds, nor is there a great influx to Mount Moriah to hear the portion of the Akedah being read. Something about the Cave of Machpelah, though, draws crowds of people each year.

The reason for this is simple: The message of this particular story is particularly relevant to people in our time, one that people identify with strongly. This is one parcel of land that was clearly purchased by our ancestors and belongs to us outright.

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There are those who assert some sort of claim to the land, as descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham. However, only the Jews are descendants of Isaac and Jacob, the other two forefathers interred in the cave. Furthermore, Abraham bought the cave as a burial place of his wife, Sarah, and the Ishmaelites certainly cannot claim to be descended from her.

When Abraham purchased the Cave of Machpelah, he was in a very stressful situation. He had lost his beloved wife at the age of 137, after many loving years of marriage. When Ephron offered to sell him the Cave of Machpelah as a burial place, Abraham was thrilled – but did not rush into the deal.

At first Ephron offered him the cave for free, but Abraham insisted on paying full price. In the end Ephron, with a gleam in his eye, agreed to accept 400 silver shekel – no small sum. Abraham paid in its entirety, in front of many witnesses. He understood the nature of this transaction and wanted to ensure that the sale would be concluded without any doubts. The Cave of Machpelah belonged to Abraham, unequivocally.

  *

 

The message for us, the descendants of Abraham and Sarah, is this: We must take care not to lose an opportunity. It's better to pay money today than to lose our land tomorrow. If holding on to our land is important to us – the very land promised by G-d to Abraham – we must follow in his footsteps and establish our claims to all of Israel, its width and its breadth. We must stand proud in G-d's promise that the entire land is ours – not just the tiny sliver of it begrudgingly granted to us by the United Nations, but all of it.

Whatever our reaction is today, we have one final hope: G-d will surely carry out His promise to us. He will not wait until we have staked our claim, but will fulfill the prayer "Remember the kindness of our forefathers and bring the Redemption to their children." Speedily He will send us Moshiach, to redeem us and return us to our land.

 

 


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