Abraham was a prophet and a legendary leader in the middle-east of old. He was also a ‘guru’ with a huge spiritual following. But he was also a practical businessman who insisted on a legal and dutifully witnessed full value purchase of land in Israel – the land that G-d bequeaths to the Jewish people. Notes:
• For most of recent history, Jews were excluded from professional guilds and professions and were reduced to eke out a living as ‘middle-men’ in anti-Semitic host societies. The most practical activity they could engage in was the exchange of goods and services i.e. business. And over the centuries Jews have excelled in this narrow arena allowed them.
• Buying and selling became second nature. And this week we encounter the first major purchase of real estate by a Jew – Abraham, who bought a plot of land with no improvements on it other than a double story cave. He buys it off a wily local middle eastern vendor by the name of Efron. And to consummate the deal Abraham insists on witnesses and absolute full payment of the value of the property.
• This is the first recorded purchase in what was to become the Promised Land of Israel – a land with clearly biblically defined borders – a land G-d promised to Abraham Isaac and Jacob for the Jewish people.
• We are living in times when indigenous people all around the world are seeking to reclaim their heritage lands. The American Indians, the Australian Aborigines, the Kurds of Turkey, Iran, Irak and Syria – all seek redress for their expulsion from their ancient heritages.
• The Jews too are indigenous people – the first people to legally own the country Israel by legal tender of actual purchase. What’s more there is an actual document of sale that the majority of the world attests to as a long standing and binding contract – the Bible.
• That is why Abraham insisted on a legal purchase. He anticipated that future peoples would lay false claims, and so he insisted in this week’s Sedra the transaction be recorded for all peoples of the world. • Abraham may have been a great prophet, but he was also a very capable and prescient business person with a true sense of future and history.