Sharona Margolin Halickman
Sharona Margolin Halickman

Can you be both an alien and a resident?

The author on a trip to Hevron
Photo Courtesy Ronit Lewis

After Sarah’s death, when Avraham goes to buy a burial plot in Chevron, he tells the sons of Chet (Breisheet 23:4): “I am a foreigner (ger) and a resident (toshav) among you.”

Rabbi J. David Bleich points out that the biblical commentators struggle with this contradiction. If one is a toshav, then they are not a ger. If one is a ger, then they are not a toshav. If a person is a stranger, they are not a permanent resident; if a person enjoys rights of residency, they are not an alien. One may be a citizen or a foreigner, a national or a stranger, but a person can’t be both at the same time.

Rabbi Bleich explains that a Jew of today who has visited Chevron knows exactly what Avraham meant. A Jew visiting Chevron today knows what it means to be a ger and a toshav. A Jew feels at home in Israel but in Chevron, one experiences another emotion as well. In Chevron, particularly at Maarat HaMachpela (The Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs), one has a strange feeling, “Here I am; these are our holy places. And yet I am told when I may enter and when I may not enter, where I may pray and where I may not pray. One experiences the dichotomy existentially: “This is mine. Yet if it is mine, why do I feel as a ger? Why do I feel like a stranger?” There is a tension in the air.

I completely understand what Rabbi Bleich is talking about and I have felt that way every time that I have been to Chevron considering how many soldiers need to protect us while we are praying there.

Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever observed:

In purchasing this parcel of land, Avraham paid more than the fair market value. According to the rabbis, the land was not worth the 400 silver shekels which Avraham paid. So why does the Torah record the exact purchase price?

Rabbi Shmuel Mohilever remarked:

The Torah here teaches us a lesson of great significance. The Torah emphasizes that there is no price that is too high for even the smallest portion of the Land of Israel.

I agree with Rabbi Mohilever and part of the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, Settling the Land is buying property. However, in many areas of Israel today the cost to buy or rent an apartment is prohibitive.

When you look at the population of Kiryat Arba (the Jewish neighborhood next to Chevron) today, you will notice that there are many new immigrants from different countries including the former Soviet Union, the United States and India who may not be living there for ideological reasons but rather moved there because the prices were affordable.

May we all merit to own a piece of the land of Israel.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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