In this week’s parsha Chaye Sarah, there are two great stories that are at the center of the parsha. The story of buying the graveyard cave of the Patriarchs and the story of Rebecca’s choice as a wife for Isaac. In both stories, Avraham and his servant Eliezer find themselves conducting tedious and petty negotiations just like in a Turkish bazaar. In fact, if we analyze the style of negotiation conducted by Abraham and Eliezer, we can learn a lesson about confidence in G-d.
Usually when a person negotiates to purchase a property, prior to that there is a strong desire of the person to purchase that specific property, and sometimes the person is “locked” on the goal and is not ready to let go at any price.
This desire is even more evident in love relationships where the lover who is interested in the partner digs into his desire, and no logical explanations about incompatibility or other objective motives that prove that this is an unhealthy relationship, will stand in his way and will not dissuade him from “letting go”.
The Talmud tells about a man who approached a rabbi and asked him to pray for his success in winning the heart of a certain woman. The rabbi tried to explain that the correct form of prayer is that God will succeed in marrying the woman that suits him, but the same man insisted and begged the rabbi to pray for his success in winning the heart of that specific woman. The rabbi gave in and prayed exactly as he was asked, that that person would be able to marry that specific woman, and so it was. Several years after the marriage, the same man returned to the rabbi and with an unhappy face asked the rabbi to pray for his success in divorcing that specific woman he was so obsessed with marrying several years before.
In the negotiations conducted by Avraham and later Eliezer, the word “Im” appears several times, and in sentences that seem unnecessary and even lengthen the description of the plot without any real need. Avraham is interested in buying a specific plot of land to bury his beloved wife, Sarah. For various reasons Avraham is not ready to accept the land as a gift and wants to buy it in full. For this Avraham needs his neighbors Bnei Het to lobby for him and bring him together with the landowner Mr. Efron.
Avraham could have phrased his words in a different way, he could have said: ‘… connect me with Efron ben Zohar.’ What does Avraham gain by opening with ‘Im’? The word “Im” – “If or May” is a special word, it fundamentally changes the rules of the language game and outlines the reality that Abraham wants to shape.
Avraham needs a meeting with Efron but leaves the choice to the Bnei Het mediators whether to hurry up and contact Mr. Efron or to ignore Avraham’s request. Even when the meeting takes place and Efron rejects Avraham’s request for payment and offers Avraham the place free of charge, Avraham insists on paying and formulates his request again, with the word ‘if’:
“But if you listen to me, I gave the field money, take it from me, and I will bury my dead there.” After Sarah’s burial, Avraham sends his faithful servant Eliezer Haran to find a bride for Isaac. Even in such a case we do not see Eliezer.
In my humble opinion, in this formulation, our father Avraham teaches us an important lesson in confidence and faith. The western world is built on the concept that results depend on human efforts. Psychologists’ rooms are full of people who have developed feelings of guilt for no good reason, even if they did everything possible to succeed in their mission, but failed for other reasons.
Man can control his efforts to fulfill his ideas and desires, but he cannot control the final result. The final result depends exclusively on God’s will. That’s why Abraham says and later his servant Eliezer, there is no point in pressing or being stressed. Avraham very politely asks Bnei Het to arrange a meeting for him with Efron. He has control over the request, but not over the result.
The same thing happens with Eliezer when he negotiates with Rebecca’s family. Eliezer negotiates effectively, but throughout he leaves the final decision in the hands of the opposing party whether to send Rebecca to Canaan.
The knowledge that not everything is in our hands, and even if we are pressed and pressed, it is not certain that we will reach the desired result, and only with the will of God we can achieve our goals, contributes to peace of mind, reduces feelings of guilt and develops in our interior the belief in the unlimited ability of the creator of the world.
Rabbi Refael Cohen