גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי עִמָּכֶם תְּנוּ לִי אֲחֻזַּת קֶבֶר עִמָּכֶם וְאֶקְבְּרָה מֵתִי מִלְּפָנָי: (בראשית כג/ד)
On the possuk (Braishis 23/4), “I am a foreigner and a resident among you…” Rashi comments, “A Medrash Aggado explains, ‘If you wish I will act like a foreigner (and I will buy the Maaras HaMachpaila from you), but if (you will) not (sell it to me then) I will act as a resident and take it by rights since HaKodesh Baruch Hue said to me, “To your offsprings I will give this land.””
From this medrash we learn that Avraham Avinu was determined to bury Sarah Eimainu in the Maaras HaMachpaila and offered Bnei Chais to choose one of two options how it would become his; either he would buy it from them or he would take it because Hashem promised it to him and therefore it was legally his.
Zera Shimshon asks that if Avraham was really entitled to the land because of Hashem’s promise, then why did he offer to buy it from Efron like a foreigner? Why would Avraham want to pay for the land that is rightfully his?
He answers in light of a machlokos brought in Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 163/2). The halacha is that if a person buys a house in a city he automatically becomes a citizen of that city with all of its obligations and benefits. There is a machlokos, though, in which specific situation does this halacha apply. Some say that this is only if he bought the house in order to permanently live there. Others say that it applies even if he intends to live there for only a short period of time.
According to this, explains Zera Shimshon, Avraham didn’t want to take the Maaras HaMachpaila as a gift but he wanted to buy it. However he didn’t only buy a small plot but the whole field. Because he also wanted to buy the whole field he was concerned that Bnei Chaiss would think that he planned to permanently live next to his wife’s grave. Therefore Avraham was concerned that Bnei Chais did not want him to be a part of their city and because of this they would not let Avraham buy it.
To put them at ease he told them that if the custom in Chevron was like the first opinion in Shulchan Aruch, that only a person who plans to live in a city forever becomes a citizen, then he will buy the field and stipulate that he will continue to be a foreigner. If however the custom in Chevron was like the second opinion, that even one who buys a house to live there for a short period becomes a citizen, then he will take from his legal rights!
Zera Shimshon asks a few questions concerning the incident of Avraham’s purchase of Maaras HaMachpaila from Efron HaCheeti.
Firstly, how did Efron have the chutzpah to change the deal so greatly? In the beginning he said he was willing to give him the land for free and in the end he asked an outrageous price!
Secondly, there seems to be a contradiction in pessukim from who did Avraham actually buy the Maaras HaMachpaila. In the end of the parsha it says, “The field that Avraham had bought FROM BENAI CHAIS, there Avraham and his wife Sarah were buried.” This seems to indicate that Avraham didn’t buy the field from Efron but rather he bought it from Benai Chais!
On the other hand in the end of Parshas Vayechi, when Yaakov asked his children to bury him there it says (Braishis 49/30), “in the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre in the land of Canaan, which field Avraham bought FROM EFRON HACHEETI for burial property.” How can we reconcile these two pessukim?
A third question is that at the time that Avraham acquired the field it never says that he actually bought it! It only says (Braishis 23/16), “And Avraham listened to Efron, and Avraham weighed out to Efron the silver that he had named … four hundred shekels of silver, accepted by the merchant.”
Zera Shimshon answers these three question in light of a Gemoro in Kidushin (59a). Rav Giddal was negotiating for a certain field, and R. Abba went and bought it. Thereupon R. Giddal went and complained about him to R. Zera, who went [in turn] and complained to R. Yitzchak Nappaha. ‘Wait until he comes up to us for the Festival,’ he said to him. When he (R. Zera) came up he (R. Yitzchak Nappaha) met and asked him, ‘If a poor man is examining a cake and another comes and takes it away from him, what then?’ ‘He is called a wicked man,’ was his answer: ‘Then why did you, Sir, act so?’ he questioned him. ‘I did not know [that he was negotiating for it],’ he answered. ‘Then let him have it now,’ he suggested. ‘I will not sell it to him,’ he answered, ‘because it is the first field [which I have ever bought]. and it is not a [good] omen; but if he wants it as a gift, let him take it.’
Now, R. Giddal would not take possession, because it is written: “But he that hates gifts shall live”, nor would R. Abba, because R. Giddal had negotiated for it; and so neither took possession, and it was called ‘The Rabbis’ field’.
From this incident we learn a few things.
Firstly that it is a bad omen to sell one’s first field.
Secondly, that it is praiseworthy not to take gifts.
And thirdly, that when a person relinquishes rights to a field in order that a second person will take, if the second person does not take it, the land remains in limbo and neither of them own it.
According to this Zera Shimshon explains the incident of Avraham Avinu buying the Maaras HaMachpaila.
In the beginning Efron didn’t want to sell the field to Avraham but he wanted to give it to him because it was his first field he ever bought and to sell it would be a bad omen.
However after he heard that Avraham did not want to take presents he said that the price the field is worth four hundred silver sheckel. He didn’t tell him this in order to sell him the land for this price but rather in order that it wouldn’t be considered that Avraham was was getting a present.
This is the reason that at the time of acquisition it doesn’t say that he bought if from him. It only says that he “weighed out the money”.
Since Efron relinquished his rights on the field and Avraham didn’t want to take it, it became hefker and it became the property of all of Benei Chais.
Therefore it is as if he got it from them. On the other hand since it was originally Efron’s field and only relinquished his rights in order to give it Avraham it is also considered like Avraham bought it from him!
Concerning Avraham’s burial of Sarah the Medrash comments: This is the meaning of the verse “Whoever runs after righteousness and kindness finds life, prosperity and honor.” (The possuk is referring to Avrohom)…Whoever runs after righteousness” … “and kindness” (is referring to when Avrohom) was kind to Sarah (at the time of her funeral).
The Zera Shimshon asks why is Avrohom described as someone who “runs after kindness” for burying Sarah? The halocho requires every husband to bury his wife! What then was so special about what Avrohom did?
He answers this question by first asking another question.
Right after Sarah passed away Avrohom spoke to B’nei Chais and asked them to approach Effron to ask him to sell Maaros HaMachpaila to him to bury Sarah. The Zera Shimshon asks why didn’t Avrohom speak to Effron directly? The normal reason that a person doesn’t directly negotiate is either to convince the seller, who is hesitant to sell, to sell or to bargain for a good price.
Concerning Avrohom, however, these two reasons weren’t relevant. Firstly, Avorohm specifically said that he didn’t care how much it cost. And secondly, we don’t find anywhere that Effron was hesitant to sell!
And even if he wanted a middle man for some other reason, why did he need a whole nation to be present? Why wasn’t it enough that only one person would speak to him?
He answers that the reason he called of B’nei Chais was not to mediate a good deal. Rather he felt that Sarah deserved a big funeral. The way he orchestrated this was by calling B’nei Chais to mediate the selling of the burial plot. Like this, Avrohom reasoned, since they were there, they would stay for the funeral and Sarah would have a big funeral that she deserved.
This, concludes the Zera Shimshon, is why the Medrash praises Avrohom for burying Sarah. Even though a husband is obliged to bury his wife he certainly isn’t required to go to great lengths to insure that a lot of people will attend. The only reason that Avrohom did do it was because he ran after kindness!
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