16 Nov CHAYE SARAH: BUILDING TRUST
There are many ingredients that are necessary for a relationship to be strong and healthy. But if I would be asked to name the single most important ingredient, I would say it is trust. A relationship cannot be strong unless both people trust one another. This is true of the relationship between husband and wife, between parents and children, between siblings, between friends, and between business partners or associates.
The story told in the beginning of Parashat Hayeh-Sarah gives us an example of how NOT to build trust.
After the death of Avraham’s wife, Sarah, he approached Beneh Het, the people who lived in the area, and asked to buy Me’arat Ha’machpelah, the cave he wanted as a burial site, which belonged to one of the tribe’s members, Efron. Efron stepped forward and appeared like a really nice guy. He told Avraham that he could have the cave for free, and that he†could†even†have†the†entire†field†where†the cave is located. Avraham then said he wanted to pay, at which point Efron asked for an astronomical sum of money – 400 silver coins.
The Rabbis comment that this absurd price showed that Efron was greedy, and that even from the outset, he wanted Avraham to pay a truckload of money for the property.
Efron was a fraud. He spoke very kindly, as though he was very generous, but in truth, he was out for Avraham’s money.
In fact, the gematria of the name עפרן
is the same as that of רע†עין†(“evil eye,”
referring to greed).
This story warns us that some people are outwardly nice, sweet, friendly and smiley, but they cannot be trusted.
How do we build trust in a relationship?
The Torah emphasizes that Efron spoke to Avraham באזני†בני†חת†– “in the ears” of
his townspeople, loudly and publicly, so that he could be heard. Efron projected this image of kindness and generosity only because he was in public, because he was being heard. But when he spoke to somebody about Avraham privately, he spoke much differently.
This is why Efron could not be trusted. Avraham sensed that he was putting on a show, that he came across as a generous person when they were together, but behind Avraham’s back, Efron was far from being kind…
The†first†rule†of†building†trust†is not to talk behind a person’s back. If we say ten negative things about a person behind his back, it is very likely that he will†find†out†about†at†least†two†of†themÆ†That’s the way it works. And once that person†finds†out†that†we†said†something†disparaging about him behind his back, he will never be able to trust us again.
Trust requires that both people know that if one of them has a complaint about the other, that complaint is expressed to him, and not to somebody else. Of course, the complaint should be expressed in a gentle, respectful and constructive manner. But it should be expressed between them, and not shared with others.
If we want people to trust us, we need to speak and act kindly to them not only באזני†בני†חת†, when our words are heard
and our actions are seen, but also behind their backs, in private.
Let us strive to be loyal and respectful to the people who are important to us not only in their presence, but even in their absence, and this will help ensure that all our relationships will be strong, enduring, and mutually rewarding.