Sunday, November 12, 2006

Chayei Sarah: The Purchase of the Machpeilah Cave. Sheva Brachos #4

On the purchase of the Me’oras Hamachpeiloh, the double cave Avraham purchased to bury Sarah.

One of the most famous exegeses in the Gemora states that the laws of effecting a state of marriage are similar to those of executing a land purchase contract. This "gzeira shava" is called “kicho kicho misdei Efron,” which connects and equates the two areas of law on the basis of a word match.

It has been pointed out that deriving the laws of marriage from the purchase of a burial plot is incongruous, ironic, and bizarre. (If you don't think so, I offer you my condolences.) However, upon reflection, several interesting observations may be extracted from this association. (Unfortunately, the morbid aspect makes these observations utterly useless for a Sheva Brochos, although I have heard worse things at Sheva Brochos parties. If you have any good stories of chasanim discussing pesach pasu'ach or mekach to'us or meis oviv shel chosson, send them in.)

A. Both sides of the deal won. Attributed by some to the Bobover Rebbe. A friend once told me that most business transactions have a winner and a loser. Each side thinks that they are getting more than they are giving. The winner is the one who sees the real value and the loser is the one who doesn’t see it. Sometimes the buyer is the visionary, who sees that the value is greater than the price he is paying, and sometimes the seller is the one with vision who knows that it’s worth less than the price he is being offered. But in the case of Sdei Efron, they both got more than they gave away and they were both winners. Efron got far more than market price. The Gemora in the end of Bechoros talks about how much he got for the land, that ‘over lasocher’ means that it was far more than face value. When Efron came home, he told everyone how delighted he was at the sale, that he had gotten far more than he had given away. For Avrohom, he got something that was priceless– the M’oras Hamachpeiloh, the burial place of Odom and Chavoh. This was insignificant to anyone but a person that is fit to be buried there or a person that can perceive its holiness. For Efron, the land was only a useless rocky headache. For Avrohom, every inch was a treasure. Both sides came away knowing that they had gotten the best deal they could have dreamed of. This is the feeling we hope people have when they make a shidduch. Each side should feel that they got more than they gave, that the other side is better than they are.
To describe how little value the land had to Efron, I was reminded of something General Norman Schwartzkopf said. He said that "Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without your accordion." For Efron, the land was as useful as an accordion on a deer hunt.

B. The price of love is grief. I think that a truer answer is along the lines of what Queen Elizabeth said at her daughter-in-law’s funeral, that the price of love is grief. The Torah is connecting the most joyous of events and the inevitable concomitant of loving dedication to another human being. You can live a life of indifference. But if you commit to another person, if you love another person, there is a cost. The idea is that the gzeira shoveh between love and bereavement is appropriate because the two events are part of the same idea, one doesn’t exist without the other, it’s two sides of the same coin. And even though loving someone means that you will mourn their departure, the benefit of love far outweighs the eventual cost. Like the epitaph someone wrote on a relative’s grave, “Here lie the bones of Amelia Jones, for her life held no terrors. Alone she lived, alone she died, no hits, no runs, no errors.” An unpleasant observation, but with some truth.

C. Marriage is the creation of a perfect neshomoh. A friend showed me that in Ma’ayonei Hayeshu’ah or something, R’ Wolfson of Torah Vodaas says, in a much more Ari Zal style, that whenever a man is mekadeish a woman, he aspires to the state of perfection symbolized and realized by the residents of the M’oroh. It is there that the perfect neshomos, which were intertwined from the moment of their creation, and who, through marriage, formed a perfect whole, are buried.

D. Marriage is not just for a lifetime, it is for an eternity. Every person should realize that their marriage is not limited to their time on Earth. Their marriage transcends death, and they will be together in life, in death, and in life after death. So the idea of kiddushin being tied to the burial of Soroh takes on a positive light– that their marriage did not end with her death, and that Avrohom took steps to ensure that they would be together in death just as they were in life. Marriage is not just for a lifetime, it is for all eternity. “U’b’mosom lo nifrodu.”

E. Avrohom was negotiating for something he was fated to get anyway. Rabbi Yosef Osher Weiss, Rosh Yeshiva and Artscroll author and editor, said that Avrohom was negotiating for the land, and we have no proof that he even knew who was buried there. We don’t even know whether he knew how significant the land was and that he was fated to be buried there, along with Soroh and the others. So, he was negotiating for the land, while all along he was fated to be buried there. He was working and negotiating to get something that he was going to get one way or another anyway. It’s like he was negotiating to get the land, and the land was negotiating to get him. This is like the shidduch process– people go through a lot of effort to get what is bashert for them in the first place.


  1. I don't understand point D as (1)Death is not forever.May techiyas hmeisim come soon.(2)What is source for spouses being together in the next world.Surely a tzadik/es who was sovel being married to a rosha won't be stuck with the m in the next?

  2. Yehuda, your point deserves to be addressed.

    As far as whether a resurrected couple need to remarry, see the Avnei Nezer Even Ho’ezer and of 56 who brings a strange shittoh that death parting a couple only operates as long as they are dead. As soon as they’re not dead, the “death hetter” goes away, and they’re married again. The Avnei Nezer thinks this is weird.

    However, see Be’er Heiteiv EH 17:1, Rav Pe’olim from Ben Ish Chai II in Sod Yeshorim 2, and Sho’eil Umeishiv II:131, who all discuss what the marital status will be if a man comes back from the dead.

    Also see the Piskei Teshuva 124 that discusses a woman who was widowed and remarried-- who is she going to be married to at tchiyas hameisim. First he says we’ll ask Moshe Rabbeinu, then he brings a Zohar that says she will be married to the first husband. The Rav Pe’olim also discusses this and also says her first marriage will be reinstated.

    Anyway, the fact that Rebbi used to come home and make kiddush after he died is mashma that there remains a connection. Of course, one could argue that tzadikim are not really said to be dead.

    There is a Medrash that Tosfos brings that says clearly that there remains a connection in the olom haneshomos, but I can’t remember where it is right now.

    Anyway, from all the above it is clear that although there are many shittos about a dead man or woman coming back to life as far as the dinim of our world are concerned, it is clear that after techiyas hameisim, and certainly in the Olom Haneshomos, they will be connected, one way or another.

    I don't know what will happen to a person that's married to a rosho. Maybe they can get a Get even then.

    Anyway, the bottom line is, choose wisely. You can’t even get away by dying.

  3. Beautiful idea about marriage.

    I find it hard to believe that the people of chevron did not know that Adam & Eve were buried there. However, reading the text, maybe you are right. 'Yitnenah li laachuzat kaver', implies it was not a kever earlier, perhaps.


  4. You should add to answer A what Rashi comments:

    ועפרון ישב - כתיב חסר אותו היום מנוהו שוטר עליהם מפני חשיבותו של אברהם שהי' צריך לו עלה לגדולה

    Efron hit it big time time in the political arena. To some, it's worth more than money (ie. Mike Bloomberg).

  5. Anonymous, that's an interesting point. It deserves a letter of its own.
    F. Just as Efron was elevated simply because Avrohom deserved to deal with with a respected and honored man, a new marriage can enable each party to raise themselves up to be worthy of the particular spiritual character achievements the other brings to the marriage.
    I sometimes wonder why people post anonymously. Bishlema me, I want to reserve the right to say something scurrilous some day. But if you're saying a respectable thing, why not say who you are? At least until the Agudah assers this whole enterprise and we disappear into the trashbin of history.

  6. The price of love is grief - כי עזה כמוות אהבה - the greater the love, the greater the grief, when the love ends. (Heard from Stuchiner Rebbe RLY on Hoshana Rabba this year)

  7. Interesting pshat in כי עזה כמוות אהבה. Thanks. How did he use it in his drasha? Was it a hesped?