Photo Credit:
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Sometimes the Torah spells out its message; at other times it gives us no more than clues. In this week’s sedrah, there are three.

The first occurs when Abraham’s servant is returning with Rebecca, who is to become Isaac’s wife. The Torah describes the scene when she first sees Isaac in the distance. He is coming, we are told, from “Be’er Lachai Ro’ee” to meditate in the field. What is this place, and why was Isaac there? Thus far we have situated the patriarchal family at Beersheba (to which Abraham returns after the binding of Isaac) and Hebron (where Sarah dies and is buried). What is this third location, and what is its significance?

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Second is the extraordinary last chapter of Abraham’s life. For chapter after chapter, we read of the love and faithfulness Abraham and Sarah had for one another. Together they embarked on a long journey to an unknown destination. They stood out against the idolatry of their time. Twice, Sarah saved Abraham’s life by pretending to be his sister. They hoped and prayed for a child and endured the long years of childlessness until Isaac was born. Sarah’s life draws to a close. She dies. Abraham mourns and weeps for her, and buys a cave in which she is buried. We then expect to read that Abraham lived out the rest of his years alone.

Unexpectedly, however, once Isaac is married, Abraham marries a woman named Keturah and has six children by her. Who is this woman? What is this episode telling us? Is it a mere incidental detail? The Torah does not include mere incidental details. We have no idea, for example, what Abraham looked like. We do not even know the name of the servant he sent to find a wife for Isaac. Tradition tells us that it was Eliezer, but the Torah itself does not. If, then, Abraham’s second marriage was consequential, in what way was it so? How is it integral to the narrative?

The third occurs in the Torah’s description of Abraham’s death. He was buried, we are told, by Isaac and Ishmael. What is Ishmael doing here? Did we not read that he was sent away into the desert when Isaac was young? Have the two stepbrothers not lived in total isolation from one another? How did they make contact? Was there not tension between them? Yet the Torah places them together at the funeral with not a word of explanation.

The sages read these three details not as mysteries but as clues. The story they pieced together is enthralling.

First, the place from where Isaac was coming when Rebecca saw him – Be’er Lachai Ro’ee. Only one previous reference has been made to this place (Genesis 16:14). It is the spot where Hagar, pregnant and fleeing from Sarah, encounters an angel who tells her to return. He adds, “You are now with a child, and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael [God hears], for the Lord has heard your misery.” Be’er Lachai Ro’ee is the place associated with Ishmael. Why did Isaac go there? To be reconciled with his stepbrother after his mother’s death.

The second clue is Abraham’s remarriage. Who was Keturah? The sages said that she was Hagar. (It is not unusual for people in the Torah to have more than one name, i.e. Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, had seven.) She was called Keturah, said the sages “because her acts gave forth fragrance like incense, ketoret.”

Not only did Isaac feel guilty about the banishment of Hagar and Ishmael. So did Abraham, according to this interpretation. We know that Abraham did not want to send Ishmael away. The text (Genesis 21:11) is explicit on this point. But Sarah was insistent, and God told Abraham to listen to her. Throughout Sarah’s lifetime, reconciliation with Hagar was impossible. After her lifetime, however, Abraham sought her out and brought her back. Hagar did not end her days as an outcast. She returned, in honor, as Abraham’s wife. That is why, at Abraham’s funeral (he died 38 years after Sarah), Isaac and Ishmael were both present. The divided family was reunited.

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32 COMMENTS

  1. Wow. Ive read the words in the bible or Torah as a Christian. But I have never known this story of Abraham remarrying Hagar. Where does it come from in Jewish teachings? Interesting…

  2. Remember that Hashem did not Covenant for Israel with Ishmael and then had Abraham throw Ishmael out, as well as told Hagar that Ishmael would always we at war with others and vice versa. Hashem knew Islam would never be at peace with anyone, much less the Jewish people, never.

  3. Then you are a fool! If you can read, read this;

    No matter what they say, they say for this reason:

    I wonder how long it would take for you to believe all those lies?,,,,,, and this is how!

    1. Taqiyya

    Taqiyya allows Muslims to lie and/or conceal their true faith, feelings, thoughts, plans, and character, for the purpose of protecting themselves. It is fully based on the Koran and is agreed to and practiced by all major sects of Islam.

    “When it is possible to achieve an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible, and lying is obligatory if the goal is obligatory.” (Reliance of the Traveler, Para r8.2 )

    2. Tawriya

    Tawriya allows Muslims to “creatively lie” by being purposely ambiguous about the real meaning of what they are saying.

    3. Kitman

    Kitman is a term that means Muslims are permitted to tell half-truths, or partial truths, while concealing the greater whole truth. Discussion of “jihad” as being only an “inner” or “spiritual” struggle is an example of Kitman, as technically it is true that jihad refers to a spiritual struggle, but conceals the very real physical struggle that is also encompassed by jihad.

    4. Muruna

    Muruna is perhaps the biggest deception practiced by Muslims, as it allows them to be “flexible” regarding the commands of their faith in order to properly blend in with the society around them. Muruna permits Muslims to shave their beards, wear Western clothing, listen to Western music, and even drink alcohol.

    All of these deceptions go against specific commandments, as well as the overarching commandment against lying itself, that are found in the Koran. But they are allowed so long as their use contributes to a greater goal or serves a greater commandment within the Koran, like spreading Islam among the infidels.

    Americans who hold in high regard the founding principles and ideals of our country need to learn these terms, and watch for their practice in the world around them. The very future of our nation could be at stake if the lies and deception practiced by radical Muslims are allowed to continue and take further hold.

    Please share this on Facebook and Twitter if you agree that all Americans should learn and understand these four terms that are integral to the radical Muslim infiltration of America.

  4. Love Ya, Israel, but are you Stuck on Stupid? God Had Abraham Send His Other Son Out For a Reason! Ishmael has Never Been Part of The Covenant! Do you Not Read Your Torah? Sleeping With the Enemy is Not Going to Bring “Peace!” You’re Asking For Trouble! Sorry If This “Offends!”

  5. Please. Would a Jewish person tell me where this story is found where Abraham married Hagar and had six more children. Is there a Jewish text that Christians dont have that have this story? I know that historians believe Hagar took Ismael back into Egypt, her homeland. Who can tell me? Not questioning, Just immensely intrigued.

  6. The Shulchan Aruch Pakans"When Arabs come to do business,we must take weapons even on shabbos and evict them, for they come to steal our land"(Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Chapter 322). Thus Sacks is against the shulchan Aruch-Code of Jewish Law ipso facto a Kofer(heretic)

  7. With all due respect, Rabbi Sachs writes nonsense. Ishmael is not the father of the Muslims. He is the father of the Arabs, most of whom, but by no means all, became Muslim some two thousand years after the supposed reconciliation between Isaac and Ishmael. Rabbi Sachs is confusing ethnicity (Arab) with religion (Islam). Therefore, the story in the Torah about Isaac and Ishmael has absolutely no bearing on the conflict between Islam and Judaism. The fact is that the sacred texts of Islam prohibit any reconciliation between Moslems and Jews. This is a matter of belief, not a matter of lineage. Islam's god, Allah, requires Moslems to make war on the Jews and subjugate them. Islam's prophet, Muhammad, commands Moslems to make war on the Jews and kill them. Rabbi Sachs should know this.

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