<I>Chayei Sarah</I>: Acquiring Territory in the Land of Israel

In the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah, we encounter the acquisition of the cave of Machpelah in Hevron by Avraham Avinu (our forefather); and we ask ourselves what all of this episode says to us, what do we learn from it for our own lives.

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
In the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah, we encounter the acquisition of the cave of Machpelah in Hevron by Avraham Avinu (our forefather); and we ask ourselves what all of this episode says to us, what do we learn from it for our own lives.

My teacher and my rabbi, Rabbi Zvi Yehudah HaCohen Kook, z.tz.l., explained this in his discussions of the weekly Torah portion... that we must learn the history of our ancestors in light of the great principle: "The action of the fathers is a sign for the children." (Ramban to Bereishit 12:1 and onward, Tanchuma , Lech Lecha 9 and Sotah 34a)

The acquisition of the cave of Machpelah is the beginning of our settlement in the Land and Avraham Avinu acquired it with money. There are various methods of acquisition: money, contract, possession, etc.... The first of them is money. And so, too, after many generations, one of the first acts of Theodor Herzl was the establishment of the Bank of the Land of Israel, not a bank for individual matters, rather a bank for settlement of the Land. It was arranged as a bank of stocks, and there was then a mitzvah to buy these stocks. The activities of the Jewish National Fund continued from this starting point.

Avraham Avinu was also a great warrior, when it became necessary, but this initial act of taking possession of the Land of Israel was not through conquering, rather through purchasing.

"The action of the father is a sign for the children" is not in the sense of an external, causal symptom, but an internal, essential, inherent sign. The action of the fathers is a sign for the children because they are our forefathers. They are us. They are not private men, they are the root of the entirety of Israel. The forefathers and us - we are one subject. When we learn about the forefathers, we learn about ourselves. Everything is bound together. Everything is one essence, which flows throughout the duration of the generations.

This issue has its source in the words of our Talmudic sages. Avraham Avinu received a divine command: "Arise, walk in the Land, its length and its breadth, for I am giving it to you." (Bereishit 13:17) Our sages explain in the Talmud, in Baba Batra (100a), that this traversing by Avraham Avinu was not designed to the fulfill his individual "I am giving it to you," but rather it had divine historical value for the generations. Thus, Yehoshua was required to conquer the Land, which is not a simple matter. Conquest is a very complicated matter. Therefore, our sages define the value of this traversing by Avraham Avinu: in order that the Land of Israel would be easily conquered by his children. The father and the children are one continuity of connection to the Land.

It is clear that this connection that we have to the Land does not begin with purchasing activities, but with the divine decision: "I gave this Land to you." This Land is ours. This is an absolute divine fact, which is unchangeable. But it is revealed in the activities of life through our efforts. Therefore, Avraham Avinu brought into reality the "I gave" by the act of acquiring with money. And this action of the fathers is a sign for the children from the period before the establishment of the State of Israel until this very day.

Our master, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, z.tz.l., explained in his speech regarding the Jewish National Fund (Ma'amrei HaRe'eiyah vol. 1, p. 252), that in truth, our right to the territory of our Holy Land was never annulled, not the right of an individual and all the more so, not the right of the entire nation. However, we are a loyal, righteous nation, and we aspire that even our conquest will be in a just and faithful manner. Therefore, as much as possible, we do not conquer through strength and with the sword, but rather in a peaceful manner; and we pay the best of our money for every piece of the territory of our Land.

It is our desire to fulfill the mitzvah to "love your fellow as yourself" (Vayikra 19:18) not only toward individuals, but also toward every nation and people, and also so that the nations will not have a claim or resentment against us. As our sages said (Bereishit Rabbah 79:7), regarding three places, the nations of the world do not have a claim against us to say that they are stolen: the Cave of Machpelah, which is mentioned in our Torah portion, the threshing floor of Arnon, which is the place of our Temple, and the grave of Yosef in Shechem, since we paid their price with money. And with the help of Hashem, we will merit to increase the acquisition of building and redeeming the Land.

[From She'eilat Shlomo vol. 4, #54; originally delivered on the radio program "Kabbalat Shabbat", dedicated to Beit El. Translated by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig.]


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