By Grace, Through Faith

Max Steinberg 


 In the Ramban’s letter to his son (Igeret HaRamban) he begins with the following passage.

“Hear, my son, the instruction of your father and don't forsake the teaching of your mother (Mishlei 1:8). Get into the habit of always speaking calmly to everyone. This will prevent you from anger, a serious character flaw which causes people to sin people to sin”

        In this week’s Perasha (Chayeh Sarah), we see Abraham Avinu radiate the idea the Ramban was talking about in his letter. What does it mean to get into a habit of speaking calmly that will prevent you from getting angry?

I humbly believe that this week’s Perasha is the perfect case study for the Ramban’s theory. Abraham was on his way home from the most significant test he was faced with. He was put in a position where he had to make a choice between slaughtering his son (and his ideology), and disobeying Hashem’s command. As we all know, he passed with flying colors.

When Abraham was on his way home he was dealt, once again, another test. His wife passed away and he had no place to bury her.  He then went to Ephron, the owner of Me’arat Hamachpelah, and asked to purchase the burial place. Ephron said he would give it to him for free, but changes his mind to 400 silver coins - and this is how Abraham handles the situation

13 And he spoke to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, saying, "But, if only you would listen to me. I am giving the money for the field; take [it] from me, and I will bury my dead there."

יגוַיְדַבֵּ֨ר אֶל־עֶפְר֜וֹן בְּאָזְנֵ֤י עַם־הָאָ֨רֶץ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר אַ֛ךְ אִם־אַתָּ֥ה ל֖וּ שְׁמָעֵ֑נִי נָתַ֜תִּי כֶּ֤סֶף הַשָּׂדֶה֙ קַ֣ח מִמֶּ֔נִּי וְאֶקְבְּרָ֥ה אֶת־מֵתִ֖י שָֽׁמָּה:

14And Ephron replied to Abraham, saying to him, ידוַיַּ֧עַן עֶפְר֛וֹן אֶת־אַבְרָהָ֖ם לֵאמֹ֥ר לֽוֹ:

15"My lord, listen to me; a [piece of] land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is it between me and you? Bury your dead." טואֲדֹנִ֣י שְׁמָעֵ֔נִי אֶ֩רֶץ֩ אַרְבַּ֨ע מֵאֹ֧ת שֶֽׁקֶל־כֶּ֛סֶף בֵּינִ֥י וּבֵֽינְךָ֖ מַה־הִ֑וא וְאֶת־מֵֽתְךָ֖ קְבֹֽר:

16And Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out to Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, accepted by the merchant. טזוַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע אַבְרָהָם֘ אֶל־עֶפְרוֹן֒ וַיִּשְׁקֹ֤ל אַבְרָהָם֙ לְעֶפְרֹ֔ן אֶת־הַכֶּ֕סֶף אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֶּ֖ר בְּאָזְנֵ֣י בְנֵי־חֵ֑ת אַרְבַּ֤ע מֵאוֹת֙ שֶׁ֣קֶל כֶּ֔סֶף עֹבֵ֖ר לַסֹּחֵֽר:



 Abraham just nearly sacrificed his beloved son and his coveted ideology of what Hashem desires. On top of that emotional rollercoaster, he just lost is wife. Not only did he lose his wife, but also Chazal say that the reason Sarah died, was because Og (the giant) told her about the Akedah, and she died because of shock!

After passing such a high caliber test like the Akedah, you would think Abraham would  be able to retire from the political realm and just take a break and enjoy the rest of his life. In fact, Perashat Chayeh Sarah opens with the exact opposite chidush. Hashem is providing Abraham with yet another test. This time it’s a test of his middot, rather than his faith.

Ephron tricks and scams his way into making Abraham pay a ridiculous price for the burial grounds; 400 SILVER COINS! Rav Dessler says that this test, the test of Chayeh Sarah, is a test of whether or not Abraham has what it takes to be a “mensch.”  A test to see whether or not Abraham had what it took to “Get into the habit of always speaking calmly to everyone.”

What a beautiful midda this is! Abraham even in the toughest of situations, was able to act like a “tzadik gamur”, and speak calmly because he knew that it was his job as a Jew, to not get angry.  That’s exactly what I think, the Ramban was trying to convey to his son.