It’s not enough to “talk the talk;” so we learn from this week’s reading. In public, Ephron declared that he would give Avraham the Cave of the Patriarchs for free, but then he expected a massive payment of 400 Centurions (the equivalent of 40,000 silver coins). For pursuing a reputation for generosity while acting with greed, the Torah compares Ephron to dirt.
Over the past two weeks, we have seen the results when people do the opposite. We have seen communities mobilized to action in the wake of what Sandy did in New York, with no thought of reward or public recognition.
Kosher food distribution centers were set up. Brand-new and gently used clothing was donated in such quantities that donors were turned away. Even laundry service was provided for families without electricity. This coming Sunday, Rabbi Moshe Hauer will take a second chartered bus load of volunteers from Baltimore to New York to spend the day helping residents to clean, pump water-filled basements, and find what they need.
According to one resident of Lawrence, NY, when a FEMA worker learned that those with power in their homes had hosted other families they didn’t even know, and he read the community memo detailing the available services, he sat down and cried.
This is what happens when a community follows the path of Avraham, who welcomed guests from all sides, who promised his visitors bread and water and delivered a banquet. Every day we are called upon to choose the path of Avraham rather than the path of Ephron; let us learn from all the unsung heroes who have shown what can be done.