Torah Study Notes 10-26-13

October 26, 2013

p. 154

This immediately follows the sacrifice of Isaac –  that didn’t happen.

23:1 Abraham seeks to buy land to bury Sarah. Note the rapid transition here from the sacrifice to the death of Sarah. Midrash likes the notion of connecting the death of Sarah with the event – despite what must have been a considerable passage of time. It is suggested that Sarah knew what was happening and dies from grief.  The rabbi’s also turn the age 127 into a eulogy for Sarah because the literal translation is 100 years, 20 years and seven years, i.e. she looked like a 20 year old and glowed like a seven year old. There was considerable speculation and discussion about the age of Isaac at the time of the “sacrifice.”  LL: If Isaac was in fact 37 years of age it casts the entire story in a different light. Was Isaac as an adult willing to be sacrificed? Or was he a son indulging an elderly father – knowing that the sacrifice was never going to happen? Artists have traditionally depicted Isaac as a young boy. This is by Titian:



Note that Midrash is part of Talmud. Also, the Hittites were generally associated with  Asia Minor. Note that those “in the fold” are just the family itself. The first person to become a Jew by choice  in the Torah is Ruth. All of Abraham’s household undergoes circumcision to join him in his monotheistic faith.

23:7  Ephron offers the burial cave for free in the presence of the community.  This is more than a bargaining ploy. There is recognition of Abraham’s numbers and strength. They want to take him into their midst and make him an honorary Hittite.  Also, the suggestion is that the property is non-arable and not valuable.

23::12  400 shekels of silver sounds like a lot of money. SF: the torah is establishing a moral code that payment confers legitimacy. PG: Maimonides said that a pure gift is one between an unknown donor and an unknown recipient. LL: Consider the system of obligations in Japanese culture. AF: Note that Abraham twice bows low. He is humbling himself. PG: Or just showing respect in order to get what he needs. SF: In order to make a deal you need to establish rapport. PG: The Christian view of this is that Abraham was given the grace of God. From the Jewish perspective he was selected because he was worthy. CL: The Hittites were a major culture at the time – like the Babylonians and Egyptians. PG: At the time this was written the Hittites were no longer a political or military factor.

23:16  400 shekels is paid. Title to the land passes to Abraham. Consider the story of the peddler who is annoying a group of wealthy individuals. One of them decides to get rid of him and asks “”How much is that handkerchief.” “Three kopeks.” “Fine, I will take it.” And the peddler leaves. The rich man’s friends ask him why he paid so much for the handkerchief. The rich man replies “Next time he will wonder how much the handkerchief was really worth and try to sell it for four kopeks.” SN:   Why does the place name Machpelah not appear again in the Torah? PG: There things are lost over time – and the text is indicating as much. Much later archeologists may suggest a location.  Such is the case of the cave at Hebron today.

24:1 Abraham sends his slave to his homeland to find a wife for Isaac. “Do not bring my son back there.” Again, Abraham is intent that his son and his son’s family remain with him.  The slave of course finds Rebekah in the house of Laban.


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