Parshat Chayei Sara: The field of goodness

“So the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the border thereof round about, were made sure to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.” (Genesis 23:17-18)

The emphasis on the field, mentioned three times in the first verse, suggests that the place that Abraham paid for the burial of his wife Sarah is the location of the entrance to the Garden of Eden, frequently called “the field” in the Torah. The “value” of this place was known by their dwellers of that time, the Hittite that sold it to Abraham for four hundred pieces of silver; considered an exorbitant price that our patriarch paid as an inheritance for his descendants.

The dwellers were not interested in keeping possession of this place, for its spiritual value was irrelevant to them. The reason was quite simple. The “children of Heth” were associated with the name of their ancestor that in Hebrew means “off target”; and commonly understood as transgression or sin. Interestingly, Adam and Eve were expelled from “the field” for transgressing God’s will in regards to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Abraham’s acquisition of the field was a correction or rectification of Adam and Eve’s “off target” choice. We certainly “miss the point” when we choose to bring evil in order to assimilate or understand goodness. It is quite unnecessary, because goodness is evident by itself, and not because of evil.

Thus we realize that “the world to come”, also known by our Sages as the Messianic era, is the time when human consciousness will be able to assimilate goodness in reference to itself; similar to “better” in regards to “good”, and “the best” as the next step for “better”.

In order to achieve this higher level of consciousness, evil must cease to exist. In this approach we are able to have a better conception of what was Adam and Eve’s consciousness before it was led to be “off target”. Their only reference in “the field” of goodness was only that, goodness.

Abraham was fully aware of the divine ethical principle by which goodness rules itself. He knew that it is the field from which we come and to where we return. Hence he paid whatever the sinners, the Hittite, demanded for it. Abraham was willing to pay whatever necessary to secure this “field” as his legacy for the descendants with his wife, Sarah.

Our first matriarch’s captivity in Pharaoh’s chambers teaches us that she embodied the children of Israel that generations later would become captives in Pharaoh’s “field”, Egypt.

Abraham bought this field as the place where we belong, for from there we come and must return either dead or alive. His lesson for us is to pay whatever is necessary to acquire and retain goodness. It is what makes life worthy to be lived, as God commands us to cultivate and care for it (Genesis 2:15). Goodness is inherent to itself, hence Abraham was chosen as God’s partner in His covenant with his descendants through Sarah.

“For I said, ‘the world is built on loving kindness’ [alt. trans. Forever is built loving kindness] Heavens! You establish Your faithfulness in them’.” (Psalms 89:2)

Our Sages refer to Abraham as the personification of loving kindness, and that by his merit God created the world. This makes sense, if we recognize that goodness is the vessel for goodness. This confirms it as the ethical principle by which we are supposed to live for. The “in them” in King David’s verse can be related to either the “heavens” or to the people with which God has His covenant, mentioned in the next verse (89:3).

A partnership requires that two or more persons must have something in common that gives meaning or sense to their association. In the case of the covenant of God and Abraham (representing the people of Israel), loving kindness (goodness as the natural expression of love) is the bond both share.

“And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre, the same is Hebron, in the land of Canaan. And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for a possession of a burying place by the children of Heth.” (Genesis 23:19-20)

The second verse tells us that we return to goodness after paying the high price of living out of it. This is the cost of fully learning the lesson of living “off target” by choosing ego’s fantasies and illusions, instead of the goodness we harvest in the field of love. What is “made sure” here is the safety that goodness, the possession of the “place” where we must return when we live in it, is the constant choice we make when we must choose between being “off target” and “right on”.

Being right is the acknowledgement that goodness is the right thing to do. Abraham’s buy out of “the field” was the reiteration that, in order to embrace goodness, we must its vessel. Our first patriarch was fully aware of this, hence he accepted God’s covenant to reaffirm that certainly the world is built on loving kindness for the sake of it. Then we understand that if such trait or quality is divine as it is, it is also eternal as the Psalmist points out.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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