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Parshat Chayei Sara

The parsha opens with the death of Sarah and Avraham’s acquisition of a plot of land in order to bury her. The story explains that despite the locals being willing to give up a plot of land for free, Avraham was insistent on paying, eventually paying 300 shekels to the merchant Ephron. Avraham then buries his wife in the Mearat Machpela.

The notion of ownership is an interesting one: “unlike possession, ownership is not easily defined in physical terms. Possession we can define as having physical control over something”. The difference between these two words is a crucial sematic difference. It is the difference between our relationship with our houses and the land on which it sits.

Land is not only central to the parsha but also central to our story as Jews. And yet, it remains a difficult notion with unclear boundaries. What do we do with land when we are not there? How may we signify that it is indeed ours? Is it ever really possible to own land?

These are central questions to the present conflict in Israel. We need to answer these questions for ourselves prior to adopting any view on conflicts of land. Avraham bought his land and this seems to be sufficient but is the same true today?

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