Likkutei Sichos-Parshas Chayeh Sarah -The importance of effort driven accomplishments

Parshas Chayeh Sarah

The importance of effort driven accomplishments

(Likkutei Sichos Vol. 10 1st Sicha)

In this week’s Parsha, Parshas Chayeh Sarah, the purchase of the Mearas Hamachpeila by Avraham for the sake of burying his late wife Sarah is discussed. The negotiations that ensued for the purchase of this double cave, was unlike the ordinary negotiations in which each side tries to profit more from the deal, with the buyer trying to get a lower sale price and the seller trying to get a higher sale price. In the negotiations of the sale of the Mearas Hamachpeila we find to the contrary that the seller, Efron, wanted to give it away for free while the buyer, Avraham, wanted to purchase it for its full market value. Indeed, at the end of the negotiations it was agreed that Avraham would pay its full market value, to its highest evaluation. In this talk, the Rebbe analyzes the reason for why Avraham was so adamant to purchase the property rather than receiving it as a gift. After all, wasn’t all the land of Israel already promised to him anyways, and hence why waste money on purchasing something that is already yours? The Rebbe begins the talk with a deep and critical analyzation of the words of Rashi, in which several questions are raised. The answer to those questions leads to a more significant lesson on the subject of effort and accomplishments and the necessity for the two to be combined in one’s service of God. This talk is one of the classic talks of the Rebbe that became known as a “Rashi Sicha.”


Explorations of the Sicha:

1.      From where does Rashi know, and why does he feel a need to emphasize, that Avraham paid the full amount for the Mearas Hamachpeila?

2.      What is the proof that Rashi brings from Dovid, if there too the same exact words are used?

3.      Why did Avraham refuse to legally take the land for free and rather insisted on giving full payment?

4.      What hidden Halachic and Chassidic message is found in Rashi?



1. The commentary of Rashi:

In the ongoing negotiations between Avraham and the Hittites, the verse[1] brings that Avraham stated, “And you shall give me the Mearas Hamachpeila… Bekesef Malei/For the full price you shall give it to me. Rashi comments on the words “Bekesef Malei” that it means to say that Avraham offered to pay the full market value of the property. Rashi then concludes this commentary with stating “and so too by David it says[2] that he offered to pay Arona [for the altar and sacrifices[3]] with its full value.” Next, we will discuss various questions the Rebbe asks on this commentary.

2. The questions on the commentary of Rashi:

Several queries can be asked on the above commentary of Rashi:

  1. What is the novelty of the commentary? Why does Rashi need to comment for us that the the scriptural words “Kesef Malei” means the full market value, when it is blatantly evident that that is what it means without Rashi needing to comment on it?
  2. What is Rashi’s proof from Dovid: Rashi brings a proof for his commentary from a verse in Divrei Hayamim discussing Dovid’s purchase of cattle in which the term “Kesef Malei” was also used. How does that verse regarding Dovid serve as a proof for his commentary here, if the same term was used in both places in Scripture and can be interpreted identically, in a way that is different than Rashi’s commentary?
  3. Why need to mention the extra word payment: In his commentary on the words “Kesef Malei” Rashi says that it means “I will pay its full value.” Why is it necessary for him to mention the words “I will pay” in this commentary when he could’ve simply said “its full value?”


3. The two possible interpretations of “Kesef Malei”-Quality of coin versus value of property:

There are two possibilities in how to understand the term “Kesef Malei,” the first in which it refers to the type of currency while the second which refers to the market value.

The first interpretation-Quality of coin: In the first possible interpretation, Avraham is informing the seller that he will pay him with complete and unblemished silver coins, without any lacking in their weight or size. Likewise, it possibly refers to the size of the coin and that Avraham is informing the seller that he will pay him with the largest type of silver coin that is available in currency.

The second interpretation-Full market price: In the second interpretation above, the term “Kesef Malei” does not refer to the quality of the coins at all, but rather to the value of the property, and that Avraham will pay the full market value of the property. It is precisely this interpretation that Rashi is adapts in his commentary, and in it he comes to negate the previous interpretation.

4. The reason Rashi chose the second interpretation:

The reason Rashi chose the second interpretation over the first is because of the context of the discussion. The discussion in this step of the negotiations between Avraham the buyer and the Hittite sellers, is not regarding how much should be paid, but rather if Avraham should pay at all or receive it for free. The Hittites were offering Avraham to receive the entire property as a present, free of charge, and to this Avraham replied that he desires to pay with “full money” which in this context is not referring to the quality of the coins used for payment but to the payment itself, and that he desires to pay the full market value. It is for this reason that Rashi in his commentary adds the extra word “I will pay” to emphasize the context of the reply and as to why he chose the second interpretation over the first.

5. The need for Rashi to bring a proof from David:

Although the implication of the context of the verses at this point in Scripture implies like the second interpretation, nonetheless, it is still possible to argue that it refers to the quality of the money, as brought in the first explanation, and that Avraham was telling the Hitites that not only will he not accept the free present but furthermore he will pay with the highest quality of currency. It is for this reason that Rashi could not suffice with simply commenting like the second explanation, but also had to bring a proof for his explanation from Dovid. The purpose of this proof is not to show other places in Scripture where this term of “Kesef Malei” was used, but rather to prove that its intent is in reference to the market value of the to be purchased item rather than the quality of the currency used for payment. Regarding the episode with David, it is definitively clear that the term “Kesef Malei” refers to the value of the purchased item versus the quality of the currency, as Dovid himself makes clear when he states it, as the verse states, “King David said to Arnon, No, rather I will buy it with full money as I will not bring to God that which is yours and that which I received for free.” Hence, from this verse it is abundantly clear that the term full money is coming to suggest full market value, rather than quality of currency, and hence Rashi says that the same applies here as well when Avraham used this term in his negotiations with the Hittites, that he was coming to express his desire to pay full market value, and was not coming to express anything of the quality of the coins.

6. Why did Avraham insist on purchasing the Meras Hamachpeila, if in any event it was to be given to him by God as an inheritance, as part of his inheritance of all the land of Israel?

One can suggest, that in Rashi bringing a proof from Scripture regarding David’s purchase of the altar and sacrifices from Arona he also intended to answer the following question: Why did Avraham refuse to accept the property as a present and insist on paying full market price? After all, he could’ve legally demanded the property to be handed to him under the guise of the promise that God made to him that he would inherit the land. In other words, even if for whatever reason Avraham as a principal did not want to receive things for free, in this case, he was really receiving something that’s already his, and hence why insist on paying for it if he could get it for free? The answer to this question can be taken from the story with Dovid which Rashi references to. To explain: King David had already conquered the area of land in Jerusalem in which King Arona was living in, and hence rightfully owned all the property as is the law regarding all conquered territory of a monarchy. Despite this, when he came to build the altar, he did not suffice with his general rights to the property due to conquering it, and not even with being offered the property by the king Arona, and rather insistent on purchasing it for its full market value as he did not want to bring a free present to God and wanted it to be from items that he paid for and earned. The reason for this is because when one receives property due to conquering it, and certainly when he receives it as a present, there is still some level of attachment viewed between the prior owner and the property, and the potential for future litigation on the property remains open. David wanted to negate this completely, and remove any and all association of Arona to the property and therefore he offered to pay its full market value. The reason that Rashi brought this episode with David is because the same can be explained here regarding Avraham’s refusal to take the property as a present or as his rightful inheritance from God. Avraham did not want to bury his wife Sarah and all the other forefathers and matriarchs in a property which can have even an inkling of association with its previous owners, and therefore he refused to take it for free or even as his rightful inheritance, and rather implored that he pay for its full market value.

7. Halachic secrets revealed in Rashi:

In the commentary of Rashi on Scripture we find wondrous novelties relating to other sections of Torah as well, including Halacha. To explain: The Talmud[4] searches for a scriptural source that land can be purchased with money, and in the end brings a source from a verse in Jeremiah.[5] The question is raised as to why they didn’t bring a proof from much earlier in Scripture, from our story here with Avraham in which he purchased the land with money? Tosafus, who raises this question, explains that the reason for this is because the verse regarding Avraham only proves that one can buy land from a Gentile using money but does not show any proof if this form of acquisition would work also when purchasing property from a Jew. However, according to the above interpretation of Rashi, the question does not start to begin with, as aside for the fact that Avraham offered to pay the full market value, which hence cannot be used by the Talmud as a proof that even a single Peruta can acquire the land, furthermore according to Rashi’s interpretation this episode was not one of a real sale at all. Meaning, since Avraham could’ve legally received the property for free without making any payment, and the entire purpose of the payment was simply to remove all association of the previous owners from it, therefore it cannot be used as a proof regarding acquisition laws of real property sales.

8. The necessity to place personal effort into one’s mitzvah’s:

The commentary of Rashi on Scripture contains “the wine of the Torah” which refers to lessons and divine service of a Jew to his creator. The Zohar[6] states that Mitzvos need to be fulfilled with proper effort and with full payment, as an empty vessel cannot be brought up to God. The holiness that is drawn down through a mitzvah, cannot be drawn down when the mitzvah was accomplished easily and without any payment, as it is only by the side of evil that we receive things for free, as it states[7], “Which we ate in Egypt for free.” This is the hidden message of Rashi in his commentary regarding Avraham and later regarding Dovid, that one should not try to fulfill mitzvos with a bargain and find the easiest way possible to do it, but rather is to place effort, and is to choose performing a mitzvah with effort versus performing it easily.

9. The lesson:

The divine lesson that we can deduce from all the above in the service of God of each and every Jew, is regarding the effort that he must place in the service of God. Every single Jew is given a mission to refine and elevate the area that he is found in through the performance of Torah and mitzvah’s, hence so to say spiritually purchasing the property. This purchasing and refining of his allotted section of the world must come through effort and toil. Even if he finds his service of God to be without challenge from the evil inclination, and he is blessed with a good mind and heart in Torah learning and service of God, he should not think that he is exempted from needing to exert effort in his service. Just like Avraham could have legally received the property of Mearas Hamachpeila for free but nonetheless insisted on paying the full market value in order to take it away completely from the hands of the other side, so too an individual Jew can only completely fulfill his allotted mission of elevation and refinement from the hands of the Sitra Achra if he toils and places effort into his service.


[1] Chayeh Sarah 23:9

[2] Divrei Hayamim 1 21:22-24; See also Shmuel 2 24:20-25

[3] The background from Shmuel ibid: Gad the prophet came to Dovid and told him that [in order to stop the plague] he should go and erect an altar for G-d, in the granary of Arvana the Yevusite. So Dovid did as Gad instructed him, as he in turn was instructed by G-d. Arvana looked, and he saw the king and his servants passing before him, so he came out and prostrated himself on the ground before the king. He asked the king, “why has my master the king come to his servant?” Dovid replied that he came to purchase from him the granary in order to build an altar for G-d and to stop the plague from the people. Arvana replied to Dovid that he may do as he wishes and he may take cattle to offer as a sacrifice, and he may use the wood eating utensils for fire to burn the offering. Arvana, who himself was a king and aristocrat over the Jebusites, gave all these items to the king, and said to the king, “May Hashem, your G-d, be appeased by this.” The king replied to Arvana, “No, I will not accept it from you as a present but rather I will pay for it it’s full price, as I do not want to bring to Hashem, my G-d, offerings that cost me nothing.” So Dovid purchased the granary and the cattle for 50 silver coins. Dovid then built the altar for G-d and offered upon it sacrifices of Olos and Shelamim, and G-d answered the prayers of the people and ceased the plague from upon Israel.

[4] Kiddushin 26a

[5] Yermiyah 32:44

[6] 2 p. 128

[7] Behalosecha 11:5

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