In Genesis, we see that Abraham makes Ephron accept money for the Cave of Machpelah in order to bury Sarah. He is offered the cave for free, but insists on paying the full price. This sort of story seems to be trying to teach us a lesson, so what is the lesson that we are supposed to learn?

Is it that we must pay money for burial plots? Is it that we should never accept gifts for free? Maybe that we shouldn't accept gifts from non-Jews? Something else?

I am looking for sourced answers that teach us what the lesson is.

  • According to Malbim (Chayei Sarah: 23:13) Avraham avoided taking it as a gift since then his usage would be be limited to that which the gifter intended, and if he used it differently then it would revert to its original owner. By paying for it, he made it fully his, thereby freeing himself of this limitation. Perhaps accordingly the lesson to be gleaned would be to think ahead rather than to pursue instant gratification. An alternative lesson is that there is no such thing as a free lunch; particularly from someone whom you don't know to be your friend.
    – mevaqesh
    Jul 8, 2015 at 18:14

2 Answers 2


Likutei Sichos 10 - page 63 - column 3 explains that Avraham wanted to pay in full, thus totally eradicating any connection Ephron had with this field. The lesson would thus be, that when one gets a discount or reduction in price from a seller, the buyer will remain indebted unless he pays its full price.

  • That's not actually true though. At least it's not how we pasken the halacha.
    – Daniel
    Jul 14, 2015 at 16:09

I believe Rav Menachem Leibtag has suggested that the emphasis on full payment, as well as the level of detail regarding the transaction, considering that this was the very first act of acquisition by the Jewish people of the land of Israel, is meant to serve as a proof of sorts that acquisition was legally sound and binding in perpetuity. In which case, except for corollary lessons, the main reason for the emphasis is more as a historical proof-text than as a moral message.

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