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    Abraham: Prince of God – Chayyei Sarah

    Abraham negotiates with the Hittites, by William Hogarth

    Sarah’s death left Abraham not only bereaved but also anxious to find a good enough burial place for her. His searches led him to Machpelah, the property of the Hittite people.

    The negotiations that led to the purchase of Machpelah are indeed fascinating, especially because of the insight they give into ancient bargaining procedures.

    Almost incidentally we are informed that the Hittites gave Abraham a title, Prince of God, Nesi Elokim.

    It is possible the phrase simply means a great or mighty prince. Biblical Hebrew has no superlative and uses phrases like “a mighty hunter unto the Lord”, “a great city unto the Lord”, etc.

    But perhaps there is a case for the literal translation when it comes to Abraham. What made him great was not so much his affluence or power but his dignity, faith and righteousness.

    It is a lesson for all of us to learn. After all, when the Talmud informs us of the questions put when we seek to enter the World to Come, it does not suggest that anyone will ask, “How much money did you make? How much property did you amass?” but “Were your dealings honourable? Did you give time to Torah? Did you have faith in salvation?”

    Judaism gives due regard to material achievement, but its real concern is whether, like Abraham, we are people of noble character and faith.

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