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Parshat Chayye Sarah

November 22, 2019

In last week's parsha we learned about the value of good deeds and hospitality. When Abraham welcomes several guests to his tent he offers them a small amount of bread and water if they come in. However, when the guests agree and actually enter Abraham’s tent he gives them much more; meat, milk, and other great gifts. Abraham embodies the classic cliche “Say less, do more.” This value has become very important throughout the Jewish world. Don’t be a big talker and then not deliver on your promises, it's far more important to act than to talk.

However, in this week’s Torah reading, we see a counterexample of the “Say less, do more” mantra in Parshat Chayye Sarah. Efron the Chiti is the owner of a lot of land in Hebron, most famously though he owns a burial site known as the Cave of Machpelah. Abraham approaches Efron wanting to purchase the cave to bury Sarah his wife who has died at the age of 127. Efron responds by telling Abraham that he can use the Cave and the field surrounding it for free. “What is 400 shekels between us” he says to Abraham. First, Jewish law teaches that when giving a gift it is customary to leave the original price out of the deal. Secondly, since Efron tells Abraham the price, we know he truly doesn’t expect to give the Cave to Abraham for free. He immediately takes the 400 shekels without protest. Efron does not deliver on his promise. He talks and paints a picture of himself as an exceedingly humble individual, but when push comes to shove he acted completely contrary to what he originally promised.

It’s not that Efron was unable to act humbly, the scent and possibility of money proved too great for him. The Torah is providing us with a commentary on greed. Efron is not a bad person, he merely gave into his greed, a very human thing to do. Yet in doing so he failed the promise he made to Abraham. The Torah asks us to behave more like Abraham: hospitable, humble, and kind to all because, well, you never know when the guest you invite into your tent, might turn out to be messengers of G-d.  

If one wishes to emulate Abraham, perhaps the best place to start would be to engage in hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests. This trait was so important to Abraham that when Abraham’s servant eliezer is sent to Charan to find a wife for Isaac. He is told by G-d that when the maidens come to the well he will stop at, he will ask for some water to drink. The woman who will offer to give his camels to drink as well shall be the one destined for his master’s son. Hospitality and welcoming guests is the key factor in deciding a wife for Isaac, and because she passes the test Rebecca is chosen.

The importance of hachnasat orchim, directly applies to hosting and inviting people to attend BBYO events. Whether they are members, prospects, parents or alumni it is important that we make sure each person feels valued and individually included in programming. With Global Shabbat coming up, we can learn a lot from this portion about hosting guests. Just as Rebecca offered water to Eliezer’s camels before he asked; don’t wait for someone to start a conversation with you go up and introduce yourself! Rebecca knew next to nothing about Eliezer but she still invites him into her house for a meal. During Global Shabbat we have the chance to invite members of our community to share a Shabbat together and we set aside any judgement in order to fully welcome them into our BBYO community. As Babylonia sage Rav Huna was known to say every time he sat down to a meal: “Let all who are in need come and eat!”

Shabbat Shalom,

Margalit Goldberg, Rocky Mountain Region

Read commentary on this week's Parsha from BBYO teens around the world.

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