Photo Credit: Jewish Press

There are many fascinating secrets hidden in Biblical Names and here are two intriguing examples from this week’s parsha Chayei Sarah.

The Torah tells us about Efron HaChiti. Here was a man who made it into the Torah for all time because he had a very special piece of real estate. In his possession was the rarified burial site of Adam and Chava, the direct handiwork of Hashem. This was the very essence of his existence – that he would be the messenger to transfer ownership of the Me’aras HaMachpela to Avraham Avinu.


There was also a great personal challenge involved: whether or not Efron would be generous or stingy in the sale. History revealed that, while he promised much, he was miserly in the extreme, exacting from Avraham four hundred shekel kesef – a princely sum – and he further demanded that its payment in the most liquid of currencies.

Lo and behold, all of these events are directly hidden in Efron’s name. The word Efron is an anagram of the ‘pira-on,’ which means ‘to exact payment,’ for that was precisely what Efron did. The word Efron can also be read afaron, dust and earth, since he exacted payment for the earth of the Me’aras HaMachpela.

But, that’s not all. Towards the end of the incident, the Torah drops the letter vav from Efron’s name to depict his cheapness and smallness of character. Spelled without the vav, the word Efron consists of an ayin, which equals 70, a fei, which equals 80, a reish, which equals 200, and a nun, which equals 50. Remarkably, the value of these letters totals 400 in gematria, the exact amount that Efron insisted upon in payment for the Me’aras HaMachpela. This is yet another marvelous example of the secrets working in Biblical Names!

After Yitzchak’s marriage, the Torah tells us, “Vayosef Avraham vayikach ishah u’shmah Keturah – Avraham added a wife by the name of Keturah.” Rashi informs us that she was none other than Hagar. Why the name change? Rashi gives us two reasons. First, her deeds were as sweet as ketores, the sweet-smelling incense offered on the altar. Second, Keturah contains the Aramaic word katar which means ‘to tie,’ alluding to the fact that, after leaving Avraham, she abstained from relations with any other man (cf. Rashi).

Let’s analyze Rashi’s first reason. If she was called Keturah because of her sweet deeds, why wasn’t she called Naomi or Naamah? These are names of great people (the mother-in-law of Rus and the wife of Noach) who were named after their ne’imus, their sweet deeds. Why the additional analogy to the ketores? I believe that this comparison is to indicate that Hagar’s sweetness of character came out after she was ‘burnt’ by the suffering of being expelled from Avraham and Sarah’s home. Thus, she was compared to the incense that only emits a sweet fragrance upon being burned.

Rashi’s second reason, that her name indicates her fidelity to Avraham, even after being evicted from his home with her son, reveals a profound massage. Hagar was a Mitzris and the Mitzrim were known for their promiscuous and lewd nature. That Hagar went against her natural inclination and remained faithful to Avraham was a supreme exhibition of breaking her nature and doing good. In this, she showed that she was an admirable match for Avraham who we know went against his nature of kindness to offer his son on the Akeidah. Thus, this new name beautifully shows that, although the initial reason for taking Hagar – namely to have Yitzchak – no longer applied. Keturah was a fitting mate in her own right. Thus, we have yet another wonderful examples of how a name sheds light on the person’s makeup.

Once again, may Hashem bless us to reach the successes hidden within our own names, and may we live healthy and happy lives to greet the Mashiach speedily in our days.


Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.


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