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    Paying too much for Gilad Schalit? – Chayyei Sarah

    400 shekels of silver was what Abraham had to pay Ephron for the cave of Machpelah.

    Rashi thinks the price was exhorbitant, though the Targum Onkelos followed by Ramban believes the price was fair.

    The argument will specially resonate in Israel this year* in view of recent controversies about the price of things.

    The debates ranged from dairy products – notably cottage cheese – to honey for Rosh HaShanah, which is apparently much cheaper in other countries, to the cost of housing, and, most ominous of all, the cost to Israel of paying more than a thousand prisoners for Gilad Schalit.

    Unfortunately, those who set prices do not always have “clean hands and a pure heart”, to use the terminology of Psalm 24.

    People who like gematrias (the numerical values of letters and words) may have noticed that Ephron’s name contains the consonants resh-ayin, which is ra – “wicked”.

    Without those letters the name Ephron is left with nun-vav-peh, making nof, “a height”… and putting the two words together we get nof ra, “elevated evil”.

    Israelis, who need no reminder of the terror, torture and tragedy caused by the prisoners who are part of the Gilad Schalit deal, have every reason to fear what can follow the freeing of so many terrorists.

    It’s not, God forbid, that we don’t appreciate what a precious soul Gilad is, but the debate will go on for years about whether the price was too high.

    The cottage cheese/honey/housing situation does not involve external enemies but commercial firms that need better supervision and firmer control.

    Until that happens and Targum Onkelos’ view has been found to be sustainable, many of us will continue to side with Rashi.

    * 2011

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