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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Beresheet: Parashat Haye Sarah: Stranger or Citizen

Contributed by: Rabbi Haim Shaul

In this week's Parasha, we read about the first Jewish purchase of land in Israel. Abraham Avinou paid top dollar for the save of Machpela. During Abraham's exchange with Ephron, he describes himself as a "Get Vetoshav" meaning "a stranger and a citizen". These are contradictory terms and Rashi comments that Abraham meant he could purchase the land as a stranger or as a citizen.

What is the difference and why does it matter?

Abraham was told in the prophetic vision of "Ben Habetarim" that his children would experience three levels of suffering:
A. They will be strangers in a land not their own for 400 years
B. They will be enslaved
C. They will be oppressed

He was not told how long each stage would be, only that the total would be 400 years.

Abraham tried to extend the first stage of "strangers n a land that is not their own" and limit the last two stages of slavery and oppression. The stage of stranger could be satisfied in relative freedom within the land of Canaan, so long as the Jews remained strangers rather than citizens. The stages of slavery and oppression would be difficult stages for he Jewish people. Therefore, the longer the period of "stranger", the shorter the stages of slavery and oppression.

When Abraham needed to purchase a burial plot he wanted to buy it as a "stranger", but if given no choice he would demand it like a citizen.

When Ephron exacted from Abraham an inflated price, we was treated like a stranger and Abraham was glad to pay the price.
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