Sarah passes on and her husband Abraham is looking for a burial site to fulfill his obligation to bury his wife. Abraham didn’t even consider cremation, since that would be the greatest disrespect to her life and the greatest punishment to her soul.
Abraham decides he would like to buy land in Hebron from Efron, and Efron offers to give the land for free, as a gift. Abraham would not hear of it and insisted he wanted to pay for the land. Efron offers to sell the land for its full value, 400 silver talents and Abraham purchases the property – no haggling -- and buries his wife Sarah.
Abraham did not want that there should be in the future the slightest claim on the land from Efron or his people if he would accept the land as a gift, therefore he compensated Efron to the last penny that was requested for the land. In doing so, the land was totally acquired by Abraham for both Sarah and Abraham and all his future children.
The bible says Efron referred to Abraham as “a G-dly prince in our midst”. Abraham was a special and important person amongst the people of that time. The law is, when an important person accepts a gift from someone, the honor and pleasure received by the giver, is considered as a form of currency and exchange that the important person is giving, a sort of a barter, for the gift granted to him,
Abraham as an important person, had he accepted the land as a gift this would have been his form of payment for the land to Efron. Why did he still insist in paying the full price in cash?
Here we have a great secret and lesson in life.
It is true that had Abraham merely accepted the land from Efron this would have totally severed any claims to the land by Efron by virtue of the gift accepted by Abraham. However, Abraham would not have paid any money and this is something Abraham did not want to do.
True service to G-d and worthwhile accomplishments in life must come necessarily through hard labor. Anything that comes by itself or without sacrifice, remain external and superficial to our lives. Without working hard for something, what we acquire will not be permanent and doesn’t have any real inherent value and appreciation in our lives.
Abraham insisted to pay full price for the burial site because he understood, “a man (to be happy and fulfilled) is born to toil”, he must earn his keep.
Everything in this world has a spark of G-dliness, and therefore potential blessing waiting to be redeemed when it is used in the service of G-d. The more we utilize what G-d created specifically through sacrifice and difficulty, for the good, the more we free goodness in the world.
The way to involve our own lives and actual bodies in this process and bring the best of blessings and health in our own lives and thereby connect deeply with the act is when we toil in hard labor to bring about good. “With the sweat of your brow you will eat bread.” There is an inherent positive value -- more is absobed into and for your own life -- in working hard and plugging away to accomplish results in life.
Mysticism teaches, “Free bread is shameful bread.” The great AriZal always insisted in paying full price for his Mitzvot- (G-dly deeds) and taught, the sweat one experiences when doing good deeds cleans the dirt of one’s soul.