[First posted on The Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/ancestral-land/]
Ibn Ezra Genesis: Chayei Sarah
“Each blade of grass has its spot on earth whence it draws its life, its strength; and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life.” -Joseph Conrad
Our Matriarch Sarah dies and Abraham spends a veritable fortune to buy a plot to bury his wife. The Torah goes into painstaking detail as to the negotiations, the back and forth, the language each party used and the final sale price (400 shekel, the equivalent back then to buying a high-rise apartment building in Hong Kong).
It is curious the amount of time the text spends on Abraham’s purchase of land in Israel, his determination to buy the land at all costs and his refusal to accept it as a gift. The Ibn Ezra (on Genesis 23:19) suggests an answer.
He offers that there is something special, something unique about the land of Israel. He explains that out of all of the land on the planet, out of all of the countries in the world, Israel is the best place to be buried. It is the ideal resting place for the dead.
He adds one other comment. It is also the best place for the living.
In memory of my grandmother, Mrs. Zahava Rosenthal, who died last week in New York and was buried in her ancestral plot, in Haifa, Israel. Attached are links to the eulogy I gave (original Hebrew or English translation).