In the Torah portion known as “Chayye Sarah,” there are two major geographical /symbolic venues: a tomb and a wellspring. Abraham buys the first because, he explains, he is otherwise merely a ger toshav, a nomad settler, in the land. He wants full ownership over land where he can bury Sarah.The cave he purchases is near Hebron.
Yet in Lev. 25:23, God says, “You are all gerim vatoshavim with me: Don’t sell land in harness [that is, in perpetuity].” Therefore, don’t buy that way as well. So it forbids what Abraham does.
I’m not concerned with whether Abraham “knew the Torah” – the issue is beyond words and rules, it’s about deep truthful relationship with the Earth and God. Somehow death and purchase seem connected: purchase “in harness” stops the flow of life, challenges the “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, I Will Be Who I Will Be, I Am Becoming,” aspect of God. Only the dead know ownership.
Then Isaac, after joining with Ishmael to bury Abraham – for the first time the Torah calls them “his sons” – goes off to live at the Well of the Living One Who Sees Me, the well of Ishmael and Hagar. He goes to “sit” there. Perhaps like a Zen teacher? The water flows, it is a well of life, it is a place to flow with. It is place of reconciliation. No ownership, no deadliness.
Would that all of Hebron’s residents today, those who claim descent from Abraham through Isaac and those who claim descent from Abraham through Ishmael, grow beyond their fierce possessiveness, into a place of flow and reconciliation.