Sarah, our first matriarch, passes away at the age of 127. Abraham, her loving husband and life partner in spreading monotheism throughout the world, immediately throws himself into the task of finding the appropriate burial ground for his righteous wife. He sets his sights on the Cave of Machpelah, resting place of Adam and Eve and the gateway through which all souls ascend to the Garden of Eden.
In order to procure the rights to this holy place, Abraham must assume ownership from a shady character named Efron. Abraham asks the locals, who have absolute respect for Efron, to serve as brokers and arrange the payment.
When Efron is approached about the sale, he responds by saying before all the locals, “The property is yours!” One would expect this to be a moment of consolation for Abraham. But instead, Abraham insists on paying the full value for the cave and the field in which it lies. Without losing a beat, Efron takes full advantage of this offer and charges Abraham a whopping one million shekels for the property (Rashi on Genesis 23:16; Bava Metzia 87a). Abraham readily agrees to this amount.
Why didn’t Abraham agree to Efron’s original gift of the field for free? And why did he end up paying the exorbitant amount that Efron quoted? Couldn’t he at least have negotiated for a fair price?
The Cave of Machpelah was no ordinary place. Abraham had discovered that it was the gateway to the Garden of Eden; this was the place where Sarah’s soul would arise and join with the Divine. Precisely here, Heaven and earth are bridged and an awesome level of God’s Providence is revealed. The Other Side of Evil would not allow Abraham to exploit these powers for the good. Therefore, it made sure that the keys to this holy site were in the hands of the lowly Efron.
Abraham needed the right battle plan to rescue this property and return it to the Side of Holiness. The weapon he used was money. Money is the ultimate show of power and control, blinding its possessor into thinking that he is the end-all and be-all who holds fate in his hands. So Abraham bribed Efron with an exorbitant amount of money and, in effect, gave the Other Side a taste of its own medicine. Efron got what he thought would make him all-powerful, but the ultimate prize went to Abraham. The Cave of Machpelah, the place where Heaven and earth meet to reveal God’s true rulership in every detail of our world, was brought back to the Side of Holiness.
As we travel the path to spiritual growth, we arrive at powerful destinations. These new levels can help us rise and experience new awareness and closeness to God. However, the Other Side constantly sets up roadblocks and does everything to keep us away. The forces of evil make it seem as if it’s just not meant to be—things are going to end up the same way they always do. Do you really think you can change? Do you really think your life can improve?
But God does just the opposite and beckons to us. Realize there is holiness here; realize that you and God can have an entirely fresh and better relationship than yesterday or the day before. God is here and there is no such thing as nature or habit. You must only realize that God is truly in charge, and anything that pushes you away from Him is but another ploy of the Other Side. Throw away all your doubts and worries, and persevere in your spiritual desires, so that you, too, will merit a taste of the Garden of Eden.
Based on Likutey Halakhot, Hilkhot Periviah V’Reviah