Photo Credit: Jewish Press

I’m certainly biased. Both my grandmother and my wife are named Sarah. Both stand out as some of the wisest people I’ve known. And maybe there’s something to that name. Because in the Torah’s telling, to be Sarah is to be wise and decisive. It is to make difficult, but necessary, decisions under challenging circumstances. Indeed, there is no other figure in the Torah where G-d personally lays down a rule quite like “whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her.”

And this directive comes at one of the most challenging of moments – at a crossroads for the Jewish people. Sarah asks Avraham to cast out members of his own family and to do so because it is necessary to assure the continuity of his people. And this is true even as doing so may come at some risk to Hagar and Yishmael, who will now have to fend for themselves. Yet notwithstanding those moral hazards, G-d tells Avraham to put his own ambivalences aside. Sarah’s judgment – her careful balancing of competing demands – is ultimately correct. It is only by following her judgment that the future of the Jewish people will be assured.


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Michael A. Helfand is a Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty and Research at Pepperdine University School of Law.