The negotiations between Avraham Avenu and Efron the Hitite in this week’s parsha provide great insight regarding how a Jew must approach any negotiation or bargaining situation with the Arabs. There is an old saying: “You cannot trust the gentile even forty years in the grave.” Though such a saying might sound somewhat crude, it expresses a healthy
and natural understanding that has been acquired through several thousand years of experience.
Through the parsha concerning Efron, the sages teach us about the hypocrisy of the gentile and convey to us the vital lesson that “the wicked they promise a lot and even a little do not do.” For here is Efron promising the world: “Listen to me. I have already given you the field. I have also given you the cave that is there. Here, in the presence of my countrymen, I have given it to you. Bury your dead.” (Breishit, 23:11) But in the very next verse, Efron takes 400 shekels, a hefty sum, without blinking an eyelash. So much for his generosity.
Big Talk, No Action
As the parsha illustrates, Efron starts out incredibly big-hearted, expressing an unlimited willingness to give. He behaves in such a manner that no one could possibly doubt his sincerity. Or so it appears. But Avraham is not naive, and he well understands the true nature of Efron and others of his ilk. He knows that the greedy Efron has no intention of giving up something without making a profit, and all his smooth talk and flattery is void of content. Thus, Avraham makes it immediately clear (in the very next verse) that he is not looking for handouts, and wants to pay full price.
The ball is now in Efron’s court, and he certainly does not react as one would expect after such initial “righteousness” and generosity. He takes the money. Indeed, much, much more than the actual value of the cave, and all this without even the slightest guilt or effort to justify his original piousness. Efron’s own words at the conclusion of the bargaining
process best express his very special brand of hypocrisy and decadence: “My lord, listen to me. What’s 400 silver shekels worth of land between you and me? Bury your dead.” On the verse, Rashi comments: “Between lovers like you and me, what is it important…” Avraham accepts the verdict without a flinch. He never expected any favors or any “chesed” from the gentile in the first place. His sole intention was to acquire the cave, without developing any “special relationship” with his neighbor. With this singluar goal in mind, he gets what he wants, and ignores all the rhetoric and hollow words of Efron the Hittite.
The Moral of the Story
What is the lesson for us? The Jew cannot trust and must never expect to build any relationship between himself and the Gentile. Between Jews and Gentiles there is an unbridgeable gap. No agreements, no “faith-building”, and no “normalization”. All the more so when dealing with the Arabs, who are especially endowed with the characteristics
exemplified in Efron. Any attempt to be “nice” and to make “peace” with him will just create illusions that will eventually explode in the Jew’s face. The only healthy approach is to distance ourselves as much as possible from dialogue and deals. Only thus will we prosper. Only thus will we avoid dangerous and unnecessary illusions.