Dvar Torah on Chayei Sarah 5773 2013 – An Alien and a Resident

When Avraham is negotiating with the Bnei Chet to buy a burial ground for his wife Sarah and future generations he makes a strange contradictory statement to them. He says: גֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי עִמָּכֶם “I am an alien and a resident among you…”. (Gen. 23,4) Which is he? Rabbi Soloveitchik has a unique elucidation of this passage.

He explains that Avraham is talking to them for the Jews throughout the generations to come. The Jew is indeed a תוֹשָׁב, a true resident among the nations of their dispersion. He deals in business with them; he speaks their language; he participates in their social and monetary institutions; he serves in the army and is prepared to protect the land; he partakes in their labs; tries to cure the sick; he works and develops the land – he is a resident in the full sense of the word.

Yet he is also an alien and in certain areas he is even a stranger. He belongs to a world that is completely strange to them, a world in which he is united with the Creator of the universe; a world and a tradition that is completely incomprehensible and curious to them; to a world of spiritual values that are not realistic according to their understanding; a world of sacrifices and of Torah, mercy, righteousness, and holiness. The Jew is indeed an alien among them.

Avraham, therefore, pleads for a burial ground that will be strictly a Jewish burial ground and a place they can call their own. He purchased מְעָרַת הַמַּכְפֵּלָה, the cave of Machpelah in Hebron. He purchased it, and today its ownership is contested.

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