By Moshe FeiglinThe Cave of Machpelah that Abraham buys for Sara’s burial in this week’s Torah portion is his first actual acquisition in the Land of Israel. But it could have never happened. What if he had not triumphed in the war he waged with the four kings against the five? Why did Abraham even entangle himself in a war that was equivalent to a world war of that time? After all, he had enough money to redeem his nephew, Lot, from his captivity. Perhaps the anticipated ransom was the reason that the kings had captured Lot in the first place?
Nowhere do we see that G-d commanded Abraham to go out to war. What could he possibly have been thinking? Why endanger his entire life’s work for his errant nephew, who consciously chose to live in Sin City? What would the great scholars of his generation have told him to do if he had asked them? Why endanger his life and the lives of his men when all that was at stake was money – and his honor?
The answer is that Abraham didn’t go to war just to save Lot. He went to war to save his mission on earth. His entire destiny unexpectedly hinged on his decision. Everybody knew that Lot was Abraham’s nephew. They waited to see how Abraham would react to his capture. Abraham understood that a person who is not willing to endanger himself and fight for his relatives loses his uniqueness; he loses the legitimacy for his existence and from that point on, he remains dependent on the kindness of others. By going out to battle, Abraham merited the Land of Israel and the conditions in which he would be able to continue and realize his mission.
This war is described by our Sages as one of the Ten Trials that Abraham endured and conquered. This was precisely the trial: Do you think like a nation of liberty and are thus worthy to establish it? Or are you still stuck in your private consciousness? After his victory in the war, Abraham merits the Covenant of Pieces and G-d promises him the Land of Israel. Sounds strange? G-d chooses only the winners?
No. G-d chooses those willing to fight – not only for their existence – but for their destiny.