In the Torah portion for this week, we read about Abraham buying a plot of land as a burial site for his wife Sarah. After reading through this account one may wonder why Abraham goes through the trouble of purchasing a parcel of land when God promised him 5 different times, “I will give you this land.” In the story the Hittites tell Abraham “bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places. None of us will withhold from you his burial place…” Abraham, as “a foreigner and a visitor” recognizes, in the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks ZT”L, that “…the force of their reply stripped of its overlay of courtesy, means ‘Use one of our burial sites. You may not acquire your own.’” The Hittites were clear; they didn’t want Abraham to have any claim over the land. It was only after Abraham persistently requested to buy property did Ephron the Hittite finally concede and sell Abraham the Machpelah cave (known today as Hebron) for an outrageously expensive sum. Why did Abraham buy land that would eventually become his descendants’ inheritance? Because Abraham recognized an important truth; in order for the Word of God to stand, someone must stand on, believe in, and hold fast to it.
Dennis Prager, in his commentary “The Rational Bible” explains the importance behind Abraham’s seemingly small act of purchasing land. He writes “Abraham’s efforts to purchase the land promised to him by God provides a significant lesson: Even if God makes promises, humans may need to act to realize them…” God’s promises take people to bring them into full actuality. God uses humanity; He speaks to, and acts through people. People are the language of God. He uses humans to accomplish divine tasks.
To again reference the great scholar, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks ZT’L, he writes, “The divine promise is not…a statement that God will act. It is in fact a request, an invitation from God to Abraham and his children that they should act. God will help them…the covenant is God’s challenge to us.” God has challenged us to stand on His Word and on His promises; will we take up the challenge? As Abraham Lincoln once said, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” The question for us today is, Are we on God’s side? And if so, have we accepted the challenge to bring His reality into our realm?