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D’var Torah: Parashat Chayei Sarah

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In this week’s D’var Torah for Chayei Sarah, the Chief Rabbi asks what character trait we can learn from the Kinneret.

Rivka and Ephron were opposites. In Parashat Chayei Sarah we are told how Rivka would greet total strangers at the well side in Mesopotamia.

She said to Eliezer, “I’ll give you something to drink.” She ended up giving him, those with him and his camels, sufficient to drink. This prompted our commentators to say, “Amrah Me’at V’Asta Harbei” – “She said little and did much.”

Ephron, at the beginning of the Parasha, promises Avraham the world. ‘Anything you want, I’ll do it for you.’ Intimating that it would be an unconditional gesture – perhaps even free of charge. In the end, he insisted that Avraham should pay 400 Shekels of silver for the plot to bury his wife Sarah. This prompted our commentators to say, “Amar Harbei Ve’AfiluMe’at Lo Asa” – “He said a lot and didn’t even do a little.”

Notice that there is an unusual feature in the verse describing the transaction between Ephron and Avraham. “Vayishma Avraham El Ephron” – “Avraham listened to everything Ephron had to say,” “Vayishkol Avraham L’Ephron” – “And then Avraham weighed the 400 silver Shekels to give to Ephron.”

The first ‘Ephron’ in this verse is spelt ‘Ayin’ ‘Pei’ ‘Reish’ ‘Vav’ ‘Nun’. It is ‘malei’ – full, with the ‘Vav’ inside it. But just three words later, “Vayishkol Avraham L’Ephron,” ‘Ephron’ is ‘chaser’ – lacking. There is no ‘Vav’ in the ‘Ephron’. It is quite remarkable.

There can be only one explanation. For as long as Ephron promised so much to Avraham he had the potential to be his ‘full’ self. That is why ‘Ephron’ is spelt out in full. Once, however, there was no gesture from him and all he wanted to do was to take from the world around him, he became a diminished individual. Therefore his name is spelt ‘chaser’ – with something missing from it.

Our tradition tells us about the two landlocked seas in the Holy Land. The Kinneret receives water from the River Jordan, which enters into it in the north and then the Jordan again flows from it in the south. The Dead Sea however receives water from the Jordan but that is where the River Jordan ends.

The Kinneret is the shape of a harp. The message of the Kinneret is that when you receive and then give then you provide a melody of life. You provide joy and happiness to those around you. If however, you are only there to receive then it is as if you are not there at all. That is why the Dead Sea is named as such.

Rivka was person who took and gave. She lived in order to utilise all the resources she had available to her to bless her surroundings.

Ephron however was a person who took but had no desire to give whatsoever.

The lesson to us is clear. As opposed to Ephron, symbolised by the Dead Sea, let us always strive to be like the Kinneret. To give what we receive. To be a blessing to our environment and to guarantee that we will always be a symbol of life.

Shabbat Shalom