David WilderDavid Wilder was born in New Jersey in 1954, and graduated from Case Western...
This coming Shabbat we read in the weekly Torah portion how Abraham purchased Ma’arat HaMachpela for 400 silver shekels (in today’s term’s, about $750,000). The story is told in the Bible in great detail how Abraham haggled with Efron the Hittite and finally bought the double cave to bury there his wife Sarah.
What if Abraham had lived today?
Abraham cannot reach out directly to Efron. If Efron knew that Abraham the Ivri – the first Jew, wanted to buy his land, he would refuse outright, knowing that the punishment for selling to a Jew is instant death by the hands of the country’s elders.
So, Abraham approaches Fony the Hittite, pays him a lot of money, and asks him to be a go-between, to purchase the caves for him. Of course, after raising the price a few times, Fony the Hittite agrees.
He then approaches Efron with an offer that cannot be refused: 400 silver shekels for a dungeon, a cave, and some of the property around it. Efron jumps at the offer and taking the money, finds his way to his cave to count the cash, making sure he didn’t get ripped off. Unknown to him, a secret camera from the roof of the cave films his greedy act.
Being satisfied that the money is in order, he returns to sign the contract with Fony the Hittite. This act is also filmed, just for the history books.
Fony takes the contract and films to Abraham, who can now announce the funeral plans for his dearly departed wife. A few hours later the procession begins. The casket is followed by Abraham and Isaac and thousands of others who respected this righteous woman. Unknown to them, others, from the IIA (Israelite Intelligence Agency) have infiltrated the crowd and too are taking part in the mourner’s ceremony.
As Abraham reaches the cave, a few hundred black-uniformed special security forces jump out from behind the rocks, trees and bushes.
“STOP,” they scream! “You have no permission to enter the caves of Machpela. They do not belong to you!”
Abraham, having some experience with these kinds of people, pulls out the contract and films, sets up his laptop, and screens the transactions, saying, “you see – I really did buy the caves – they belong to me!”
The IIA forces aren’t taken by surprise. The head honcho dials quickly and within moments a panel of Hittite judges have taken their seats in front of the caves, blocking the entrance, waiting to hear the case before them.
The IIA forces call on Efron: Did you sell this cave to Abraham?
Efron: Of course not.
IIA: How do you explain this film of you counting this money?
I was asked to count it for someone else – I counted it and gave it back.
The IIA then called Fony:
IIA: Did you purchase this cave for Abraham the Ivri?
Fony: Me? Why would I do that?
IIA: For money?
Fony: My morals would never let me buy property for a Jew.
The IIA rests its case.
Abraham calls to G-d and says: Now it’s Your turn.
G-d takes the stand.
Abraham: Please tell the truth. Did I buy these caves?
G-d: Yes, they belong to you. I created them for you during the first 6 days of creation. I even showed them to Adam and Eve.
Abraham: And I paid full price for them? You witnessed this transaction?
G-d: Of course, 400 silver shekels in cash went to Efron via Fony the Hittite.
Abraham: I rest my case.
The judges huddle and whisper hurriedly to each other. A few moments later they announce:
We reject Abraham’s testimony and that of G-d. We are the highest force on earth. Even G-d must obey us. The caves must stay with Efron. Abraham may not bury Sarah there. He must leave immediately. Take the body and go.
Abraham shrugs at G-d, looks at his son, and they all turn around and walk away. The caves of Machpela remain with Efron, and Sarah remains unburied.
That’s the way it probably would have been had Abraham lived today.
Morris Abraham, the righteous Jew who purchased Beit HaShalom with his father Mickey, told me this morning: “We will not be driven out of our home a 2nd time. We were expelled by the Arabs and the British in 1929 – my family was forced to leave its home in Hebron. We will not be exiled again, again expelled from Hebron, this time by the Israeli government. Just as Abraham purchased Ma’arat HaMachpela almost 4,000 years ago, so too did we, the Abraham family, buy property in Hebron. It was all done legally. We have the documents, the videos and the recordings. It belongs to us, and we will live there!”
With the help of G-d. The judges, the attorney general, the defense minister, whatever they may think, are not above G-d, and justice will win out. It may take some more time butBeit HaShalom will be ours. Without any doubt!