Why did Abraham have to buy the Cave of Machpela?

Israel may need to purchase its holy places the same way our forefather Abraham did.

Dr. Joseph Frager,

Dr. Joseph Frager
Dr. Joseph Frager
Courtesy of Dr. Frager

"He spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the members of the council, saying: "Rather, if only you would heed me! I give the price of the field, accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there." (Genesis 23:13) Abraham forced himself to buy the Cave of Machpela with money.

The same verse could be translated as follows:"Listen to me - I am giving you the money for the field-take it from me!"(23:13) Rabbi Natan of Breslov - the talmid muvhak (foremost student) of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov of blessed memory gives a poignant analysis of this verse.

Rabbi Natan z'l asks the question: Why did Abraham feel compelled to purchase the Cave of Machpela and not just conquer it the same way he conquered the four kings? What are the lessons for the future? Ephron was not as powerful as the four kings including Nimrod. Abraham could easily have defeated him. Similarly King David bought the site of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) from the Jebusites. King David could easily have conquered it.

Why did he feel compelled to buy it? The Zohar says that both of these locations have indescribable kedushah (holiness). The Cave of Machpela is the gateway to Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) through which all souls pass and the Beit HaMikdash is the gateway to heaven (shaar shamayim). The essence of their kedushah is that Hashem's hashgacha (oversight and involvement) is more intense and revealed at these sites.

And this is true of Eretz Yisrael (Israel) in general as the verse in Deuteronomy states, "The eyes of Hashem (G-d) are constantly upon it (Israel)" (11:12). And as the Mishnah in Keilim (1:6) states there are ten levels of kedusha in the land of Israel - the ultimate being the Holy of Holies (Kodesh Kedashim). Similarly the Cave of Machpela has special hasgacha and the avot (forefathers) were buried there to join their souls with Hashem.

But it is amazing that both these sites were under the control of the "sitra achra" (the "dark" side): 1) Ephron/Hittites and 2) Jebusites. Rabbi Natan says that whenever there is tremendous kedushah in this world it is always wrapped up in the forces of evil (sitra achra). The essence of the sitra achra is the denial of G-d by attributing all things and events to the forces of nature. They leave G-d out. Rather, this is the source of avoda zara (idol worship).

Therefore to extricate the kedushah from its bonds and chains the sitra achra must be appeased. Money always appeases the sitra achra. Money and the desire for money is the foundation of much of avoda zara. Both Abraham and King David tricked the sitra achra with its own essence to release the kedushah. Essentially, money is the currency of the sitra achra. The formation of the State of Israel and I daresay the future of bringing more kedushah to the land of Israel will be through money.

The land of Israel has been conquered but the areas of kedushah that remain in Arab hands will have to be bought out the same way Abraham and King David did. Most people don't realize that much of the north of Israel including the Galilee was purchased from the Syrians for pennies through the efforts of the Tagger family. My work for the past 32 years with Ateret Cohanim utilizes this principle. Ateret Cohanim has brought tremendous kedushah to Jerusalem.

Abraham showed us the way. Rabbi Natan of Breslov z'l gave us the understanding of the action.

Dedicated in memory to Rabbi Manuel Joseph Koegel, z'l - R.Menachem Yoseph Ben Eliezer, z'l. Shabbat Shalom