menorah largeSarah

 

Andrew Doppelt

           

            While studying the Akeida, it became clear that the telling of the story failed to recognize a main character in the house of Abraham. Sarah is not mentioned in the text of Genesis 22 itself, and is seemingly absent from most commentaries on the text. This void is problematic given that she was such a key component in the lives of both Isaac and Abraham. It is for this reason I have written these midrashim. These commentaries give Sarah the voice the Torah failed to.

 

Midrash Doppelt- Genesis XXII

1. AND ABRAHAM ROSE EARLY IN THE MORNING, AND SADDLED HIS ASS (XXII, 3). It is written, “She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth food to her household, and a portion to her maidens” (Prov. XXXI, 15). AND ABRAHAM ROSE EARLY IN THE MORNING. Rabbi Yehuda says, “Sarah easily woke to the sound of Abraham and his departure and she spoke for she believed he would listen as it is written, “In all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her voice” (Gen. XX1, 12). She asked him, ‘What are your intentions for this journey?’ ‘To offer our son, our favorite son, to the Almighty,’ he replied. She wept but felt compelled to protest as it is written, “Strength and dignity are her clothing; and she laugheth at the time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and the law of kindness is on her tongue” (Prov. XXXI, 25,26). She said to him, ‘You must not do this. The Lord has granted us many blessings and all that is ours is His except for the boy. I was barren all of my days and finally was given a child. You must not take him away from me. I will not be able to carry on.’ He replied, ‘The boy belongs to the Lord. He granted us our miracle and it is to Him that we owe everything. He has blessed our offspring and it is my duty to serve Him.’ She replied, ‘This is not servitude; this is murder. My faith in the Lord is resolute and my devotion to Him as firm as yours. But, this is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of compassion. I beg you. Have compassion on the boy, your son, Isaac, the one you cherish. Have compassion on me, your wife, Isaac’s mother. The Almighty will understand your love for your child and for me.’ And he replied, ‘Sarah my love. The Lord gave us a miracle; now I must repay Him. It is not our place to question Him. Now I must go.’” AND ABRAHAM ROSE EARLY IN THE MORNING, AND SADDLED HIS ASS (XXII, 3).

 

Commentary:

            The primary co-text used in this first Midrash is Proverbs 31. In this chapter of Proverbs lies the poem Eishet Chayil. This poem is often recited on the Sabbath as an ode to the woman of the house and it tells of all the traits a woman of valor possesses. While the poem seemingly refers to all women, there is a palpable connection to the matriarchs in it. In the Midrash Tanhuma’s chapter on Chayei Sarah, it is written that Abraham cried out the Eishet Chayil poem as he lamented the death of Sarah. Thus the positive attributes of an Eishet Chayil were originally ascribed to Sarah. These attributes offer a glimpse into her character and lend support to the Midrash.

 

Midrash Doppelt- Genesis XXII

2. AND ABRAHAM STRETCHED FORTH HIS HAND, AND TOOK THE KNIFE TO SLAY HIS SON (XXII, 10). It is written, “Neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of they neighbour” (Lev. XIX, 16). Rabbi Yehuda says, “Upon learning of Abraham’s intentions for her child, Sarah followed their caravan. She hid discreetly in the distance, praying he would spare Isaac. AND TOOK THE KNIFE TO SLAY HIS SON. She came forth and cried, ‘Stop this! I beg of you. He is my only son. Do not make me suffer in my old age.’ He replied, ‘I suffer too. He is my son and I cherish him but I must obey the Lord.’ She replied, ‘Have you no shame? You stand above your favorite child with a knife. It is unholy. I have been a devoted wife to you and a faithful servant to the Lord. But, I must protest the justness of both God and yourself. I beseech you. Look your son in the eye. He weeps. He trembles. Look at me, your wife. I sob and cannot fathom my life without my Isaac. His blood will be on your hands. I beg you. Put down the knife.’ He replied, ‘I share your tears but the Lord has spoken and I must obey. I will console your pain and rebuild our home. He has blessed our generations and will ease our agony. But I must obey. Turn away your eyes.’” AND ABRAHAM STRETCHED FORTH HIS HAND, AND TOOK THE KNIFE TO SLAY HIS SON (XXII, 10).

 

Commentary:

            If one operates under the assumption of the first midrash that Sarah was privy to Abraham’s plan, the helplessness she must have felt becomes painfully apparent. Her husband was taking her son to an unknown place and intended to sacrifice him. Her maternal instinct to protect her son compelled her to act. The co-text used in this midrash is Leviticus 19:16. This verse condemns standing idly by as a neighbor is in trouble; kal va-chomer (a fortiori), if a son is in trouble, action is required.