The Parsha in Chesed – Chaya Sorah
This Parsha relates the story in which, after the death of Sarah, Avraham purchases the Ma’arat Hamachpela as a family burial site.
Efron, the owner of the plot, seems eager to do business with the respected Avraham, who is considered a prince by the residents of the region. At first, he offered to give Avraham the cave for free. Understanding the implications of accepting such a “gift”, Avraham declines and offers to pay full value.
At this point, Efron mentions the price of 400 silver coins, a price far beyond the true value of the land. In a matter of seconds, the “noble” Efron changes from the benevolent benefactor to someone seeking to squeeze Avraham for every shekel possible.
וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע אַבְרָהָם֮ אֶל־עֶפְרוֹן֒ וַיִּשְׁקֹ֤ל אַבְרָהָם֙ לְעֶפְרֹ֔ן אֶת־הַכֶּ֕סֶף אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֶּ֖ר בְּאׇזְנֵ֣י בְנֵי־חֵ֑ת אַרְבַּ֤ע מֵאוֹת֙ שֶׁ֣קֶל כֶּ֔סֶף עֹבֵ֖ר לַסֹּחֵֽר׃
And Avraham listened to Efron, and Avraham weighed out to Efron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the sons of Chet, four hundred shekels of silver, accepted by (any) merchant.
Not only did Avraham accept Efron’s terms, he paid with coins that were of the highest value and accepted universally. There could be no question as to the validity of this transaction.
When mentioning Efron in the payout, the Torah spells his name חסר, without a “ו“. Although the word reads the same, there is usually a lesson to be learned in such a case.
Rashi tells us that this alternative spelling teaches that Efron spoke “a lot, but didn’t do even a little”. He went from offering the field for free to charging far beyond the true value. As opposed to Avraham whose actions went above and beyond his words.
The “punishment” for Efron’s behavior seems to be insignificant. His name is missing one letter that doesn’t change its pronunciation or meaning. Does it really matter to someone like Efron?
In truth, the consequences are much deeper and far reaching than simply an absent letter.
From time immemorial, students of the parsha will see that missing “vav” and relate how Efron the profit-seeker tried to “pull one over” on Avraham.
Not exactly the “best PR” for such a central figure in history.
Efron was not a poor man. The Ma’arat HaMachpela was but one of his many possessions. Charging Avraham a fair price would not have made any difference in his personal wealth. Efron could have gone down in history as the one who dealt honestly and sincerely with our forefather Avraham by providing the Ma’arat HaMachpela at a reasonable and fair price.
Instead, Efron chose to talk a good talk but walk a very different walk. That double speak (and double charge) is recorded forever.
I am certain that if Efron would have known the consequences of his behavior, he would have done things differently. Efron wasn’t a bad guy, he was an opportunist. Unfortunately, the opportunity to make a bit more profit overshadowed his opportunity to be recorded positively for all of history.
Was it worth it?
And that is why the missing “ו” is so relevant. The letter “Vav” in Hebrew is used as a connector, to bring together thoughts, ideas and events.
Had Efron “connected” his original verbal offer of a gift with action, the story could have played out much better for him.
His words and his deeds did not line up. Efron promised much and delivered little.
Avraham’s actions always matched and, in most cases, surpassed his words.
While Efron lost his stature, Avraham only gained.
As the descendants of Avraham, his legacy should be our example.
Are our words and actions congruent? Do we aim to do even more than we say? Do we under-promise and over-deliver?
Do we consider the long-term consequences of our behavior, actions and daily conduct?
We are constantly provided with opportunities to make a difference for our families, our communities and the world.
Rather than live for the moment, we must live in the moment and consider how what we say and do right now can and will have lasting positive effects.
By keeping your eye on the “vav”, you can ensure that that your actions are consistent and reflect the words by which you live.