Composure – In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z’L)
After Sarah’s death, Abraham traveled to Hebron to purchase the Cave of Machpeilah for Sarah’s burial. The Children of Heth had great respect for Abraham and treated him as a prince. When Abraham asked to buy the land, Ephron, the owner, proclaimed, “No, my Lord (Abraham), listen, I have given you the field and the cave that is in the field. In front of my people, I have given it to you. Bury your dead.” As the Radak (1160 – 1235; Genesis 23:11) explains, Ephron had the Children of Heth witness his declaration to make it official.
Yet, rather than accept Ephron’s generous offer, Abraham requested a price for the field. Ephron responded, “A Land worth 400 silver shekels, between me and you, it’s nothing; bury your dead.”
Abraham took 400 silver shekels of the highest quality and gave it to Ephron in exchange for the land.
As Nahmanides (1194 – 1270; Genesis 23:13) explains, Abraham was testing Ephron to see if Ephron meant what he said when offering the field for free. When Ephron responded “A land worth 400 Shekels...” Abraham understood that Ephron had no interest in offering the land for free. If Ephron was sincere he would have never quoted a price and just responded by saying “bury your dead”.
The classic example is being invited to dinner at a restaurant and then being offered the opportunity to see the tab in the hopes that you would pay at least your fair share.
This was worse. Even after making a public proclamation in front of a congregation of his own, Ephron was lying. And, despite the public display of honor Abraham received from the Children of Heth and particularly Ephron, Abraham retained the clarity of mind to challenge Ephron, to determine if the offer was real.
Standing in Abraham’s presence before his own people, Ephron tried to embellish his personal stature by offering a gift he never intended to give. In contrast, Abraham, even whilst mourning for Sarah, displayed his own greatness by not becoming enthralled by the flattery of others. Abraham lived a life of truth and the Torah is his legacy.