Hello. I ask you to help us comprehend and understand (through the prism of a female and “political” modern secular view) the actions performed by Sarah in relation to Hagar. Hagar is an Egyptian and a slave, i.e. It is unreasonable to expect some kind of spirituality and worthy procreation from her. A pagan, accustomed to work and obedience, who left her people. Knowing this, Sarah, in principle, deliberately offered her servant to Abraham. Those. It is logical to assume that Hagar will become proud. And even understandable because: 1. limited and simple-minded; 2. devoted her life to a family not from her own family; 3. She carried the child for 9 months; 4. made Sarah's wish come true. Any woman (Sarah included) in such a situation is not immune from the yetzer ha-ra (bad impulse), especially Hagar (a non-spiritual “being” who follows her instincts like a small child or a blind kitten who has no freedom of choice, respectively, and the offspring are the same). Humanly speaking, I feel very sorry for the girl. A young woman who, despite leaving Egypt (from her people), had the prospect of starting her own family, even in a tribe foreign to her. But she dedicated her stay in a foreign tribe to realizing the desires of Sarah and Abraham. How can you justify Sarah in this, claim that she did the right thing by driving her and her child into the desert? The germ of the problem lies in Sarah's weak faith and lack of hope, not in the servant's ambitions. The arrogance that arose in the maid is the result of the illiterate act of her mistress. Moreover, Sarah had the gift of prophecy. If Sarah was not mistaken and this is the Creator's plan, then the consequences of this story, which greatly complicated the fate of the Jewish people, and the world as a whole, are necessary for the measure of Unity governance? A.

Answered by Rabbi Meir Muchnik


You ask an interesting question.

Let's try to understand Hagar more deeply, her character, capabilities and circumstances.

First of all, she was not at all a narrow-minded and simple-minded servant, accustomed to work and obedience. She was the daughter of Pharaoh (Rashi, Bereshit 16:1). Having seen the miracles that G-d sent to Sarah, Pharaoh said to his daughter: It is better for you to be a servant in the house of Abraham than a mistress in any other place.

But this seems to only strengthen your question: was it difficult to predict that she would become proud? And how could a proud princess even agree to be someone’s servant? What was Pharaoh thinking when he gave her as a maid, and Abraham and Sarah accepted her?

To understand this, let's try to compare Hagar with other handmaids of the foremothers. After all, Hagar was not unique in this regard. Both of Jacob's wives, Rachel and Leah, also had maidservants, Bila and Zilpah, respectively. And her mistress also gave each of them to her husband, Yaakov, hoping that as a reward for such dedication, she too would be worthy of bearing sons to her husband.

They were not afraid that the same thing would happen to Bilah and Zilpah as happened to Hagar: that, having become pregnant, they would become proud and give birth to the same problem sons as Ishmael, who would then have to be expelled, with all that entails? They deliberately followed the example of Sarah (Rashi, Bereshit 30:3). And at the same time, it wasn’t obvious that they were stepping on the same rake?

It looks like it wasn't. And indeed, nothing like this happened to Bila and Zilpa. They safely gave birth to sons (two each), who became full members of the Jewish family, the founders of the tribes along with the sons of Rachel and Leah themselves. Which, in fact, is surprising in itself and raises the question: after all, only Rachel and Leah are considered foremothers, and not their handmaids. How could the descendants of the handmaids, and not the foremothers themselves, be full-fledged Jews, members of the family? After all, Rachel and Leah are not their foremothers!

Particularly curious is what happened to Bila, Rachel’s servant. As you know, Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and lived with her more “soul to soul.” And after the death of Rachel, he, having grieved, moved his bed to the tent - Bila. Leah's eldest son, Reuven, was indignant: one can still understand that Rachel is dear to Yaakov more than Leah, but her servant?! However, it is clear from the Torah that it was Reuven who got excited here, and Yaakov acted quite appropriately. Moreover, since Yosef, Yaakov’s son by Rachel, was left without a mother, he was raised by Bila “like a mother” (Rashi Bereshit 37:10). Of course, with the knowledge of Yaakov. But Yosef was Yaakov’s favorite son and, as it seemed then, his main heir, the most promising and promising descendant. Yaakov entrusted his upbringing to a maid - and Yosef truly grew into a great righteous man (Yosef ha-Tzadik).

What is the secret of these maids?

Let's return to Abraham's family: he also had a servant - Eliezer. If Hagar’s problems can be associated with the fact that she is the daughter of not the most righteous pharaoh in the world, then look at Eliezer - according to the sages, he was the son of the despotic Babylonian king Nimrod. At least Pharaoh showered Abraham with gifts and Nimrod threw him into the fire! And Eliezer was openly assigned to Abraham as a spy to report on the activities of “a man who undermines the foundations.”

And yet, in subsequent chapters we see that Eliezer enjoys Abraham’s complete trust. He entrusts him with the most important mission - to find and bring a bride for Isaac, that is, to ensure the future of the Jewish people. And Eliezer copes brilliantly with the mission, showing deep faith in G-d, receiving His miraculous help - and demonstrating total devotion to Abraham. The sages say that Eliezer himself had a daughter and he was not averse to marrying her to Isaac. But, having received a refusal, Eliezer, nevertheless, faithfully went to look for the one whom G-d had actually intended for the son of Abraham.

What is the secret of all these servants?

Perhaps the clue lies in the interpretation of the nickname Abraham gave Eliezer: “Damesek” (Bereishit 15:2). The simple meaning is “Damascus”, i.e. the city he was from. But the sages interpret: dole u-mashke mi-torato shel rabo - he “drew and poured [to others] from [the well] of his master’s Torah.” That is, he adopted the Torah from Abraham and explained it to others. Eliezer could be trusted not only to carry out certain tasks in “secular” life, but also to teach the Torah of Abraham. But - only the “Master’s Torahs”. Eliezer could not produce “his own Torah.” He was unable to study it himself, to forge his own path. He could only learn from Abraham, adopt his wisdom.

Because This is the essence of a servant: he is dependent both physically and spiritually, he does not have his own path. But he can be very successful in accompanying the master on his journey. Become his “right hand” in all respects. Having renounced your “I,” you not only submit to the master physically, put your body at his disposal, but also give him your soul for education, become his “continuation.” (There is a good word bitul in the holy language.) And so adopt all the virtues of the master: his wisdom, his faith, his character, in general.

This was the secret of Bila and Zilpa. As handmaids of Rachel and Leah, they abandoned their “I” and turned themselves into “continuations” of their foremothers. They completely adopted their character, with all the advantages. Therefore, the sons they gave birth to became full-fledged Jews: biologically Rachel and Leah were not their foremothers, but spiritually they were! For they were born and raised by the handmaidens of their foremothers, their spiritual “continuation”. That’s why Yaakov, after Rachel’s death, moved to Bila’s tent: in the absence of the “original,” he could console himself with at least a “copy,” and soften the loss. Bila reminded him of Rachel herself in everything, and this was better than nothing - or than Leah, albeit a great righteous woman, but with a completely different character, on the contrary, sharply contrasting with the character of Rachel, which Yaakov never particularly liked, and now even more forced feel the loss even more. And Yosef Bila could be raised as a “continuation” of Rachel.

And even a man who came from a proud royal family, such as Eliezer, could abandon his original self and turn himself into an “extension” of his master. Of course, it's not that simple. But, apparently, Abraham had such “charisma” and it was so obvious that G‑d Himself was helping him through open miracles that it made a deep impression on everyone who happened to meet him. Yes, Nimrod threw him into the fire - but God miraculously saved him! What an amazing person! Even Nimrod was impressed. And for his son Eliezer, who found himself in the house of Abraham and left the house of Nimrod, it was all the more not difficult for him to completely fall under the influence of Abraham and submit to him. Not as a downtrodden servant, but as a sincere servant and follower, ready to go through fire and water for what he believes in.

Pharaoh and his daughter Hagar were also impressed and fell under the spell of Abraham and Sarah. To be a servant of the prophet of G-d, for whom He works miracles and in whose house you constantly see angels (Rashi, Bereshit 16:13), is holy, it’s cool! And Hagar stood in awe of Abraham’s wife, the righteous and beautiful Sarah. And, indeed, she adopted her character in many ways. The Torah reports that after Sarah's death, Abraham took Keturah as his wife (Bereishit 25:1). According to the sages (Rashi, ibid.), this is Hagar, Abraham married her again. And she was named after Keturah because “her deeds are pleasant, like the incense of Ktoret.” All this time, no matter what, Hagar remained faithful to Abraham and did not marry anyone else. So Hagar was a righteous woman who truly loved Abraham and was devoted to him. Where did she pick up valuable human qualities, loyalty? Presumably, not from Pharaoh, but from Abraham and Sarah. Like all the servants and maids in that house.

Therefore, by giving her to Abraham, Sarah could well have expected that everything would turn out as well as it later turned out with Bila and Zilpah. After all, even Eliezer, the son of Nimrod, who threw Abraham into the fire, became an absolutely devoted servant. Moreover, Hagar, the daughter of Pharaoh, who was initially less hostile, logically should have become like this - and, it seems, she did. Therefore, Rachel and Leah were not afraid to follow the same path later: according to logic and according to experience (with Eliezer), it should have worked - and it really did work. But Hagar still in some ways did not reach the level of the other maids, she did not completely renounce her “I”, the former pride and ambition of the Egyptian princess, which is why problems arose with both her and her son Ishmael.

Perhaps she was initially attracted to the idea of serving Abraham and His G-d not so much because it was holy, but because it was cool? That is, there was also a danger here of serving not sincerely, for the sake of the most holy goal (li-shma), forgetting about one’s self, but, on the contrary, for the sake of prestige (she-lo-li-shma). I, Hagar, the Servant! Sarah is an object of admiration, she should be imitated - and maybe even caught up and surpassed? I got pregnant with Abraham faster than Sarah - that's it! Maybe I’m now even more righteous than Sarah herself? And better suited for the great role of Abraham's partner in his sacred ministry? So there really was a temptation here. But every righteous person and servant has such a temptation, and truly great righteous people manage to overcome it. Abraham and Sarah themselves succeeded, and their servants also usually succeeded, such was the general mood in the house - sincere, selfless service to G‑d. Therefore, they did not expect anything else from Hagar. And in her, apparently, this imperfection was minimal; initially she fit in well, in a way that even Sarah could not foresee.

How Isaac was unable to initially foresee the scale of the problems with Eisav and sincerely believed that he could become a full-fledged Jew, since he was growing up in the same family as his righteous twin brother Yaakov. Isaac knew Eisav's character and imagined what problems might arise, but he believed that Eisav would overcome them and use his cunning and ability to hunt and obtain food in a good direction.

But once it became apparent that the problems were insurmountable, both Sarai and Isaac took drastic measures to prevent Ishmael and Eisav from becoming part of the Jewish line. The measures are painful, but at that stage they are already necessary. Isaac, realizing that by the Will of G‑d Yaakov deserved and received the blessing, unequivocally answered Eisav: I’m sorry, but there is no such thing left for you. And Sarah insisted that Abraham expel Ishmael along with his mother.

Yes, eventually problems arose with Ishmael that continue to this day. But at least expulsion is not a cause, but a consequence. According to the Torah, Sarah demanded that Ishmael be expelled when she saw that he was “amusing himself.” The Sages (see Rashi, Bereshit 21:10) explain: Ishmael claimed Isaac's share of the inheritance and shot arrows at him. The ancestor of the Arabs into the ancestor of the Jews. Already! The Jewish woman Sarah had previously expressed her readiness to share her house and even her husband with the ancestors of the Arabs, but the ancestors of the Arabs themselves did not really want to share, preferring to negotiate with arrows and missiles (although no, not yet with missiles). So what should the Jews do? Having suffered, they decided that there was nothing to do, they would have to take rather drastic measures... Abraham really did not like the idea - he was a “dove”, the personification of mercy, he loved everyone. And then act cruelly, like a “hawk”?! This is not Jewish! But God told him: listen to Sarah, she knows better here, nothing can be done. And don’t worry about Ishmael, I will make him a great nation, I will take care of him. Even when Abraham and his descendants have to take drastic measures against Ishmael, there will always be those who will sympathize with him and help him, with the whole world. Don't worry too much about him, he won't disappear.

So yes, the forefathers could not always fully foresee everything - after all, they are people, not gods. But the truth is that this really was G-d's plan. Two branches had to depart from the Jewish people, similar to it in many ways, but at the same time different from it - and often hostile to it, claiming its status. Feeling that they themselves are close to this, but still not there. Western and Eastern civilizations, each great in its own way, with partly Jewish roots and ideas, but still not Jewish, with problems and extremes that they cannot escape. These are also needed. For only the Jewish people are capable of full-fledged service to G-d, fulfilling all the many commandments of the Torah. Other nations are unable to do this, but they are able to accept and spread the two main “offshoots” of the Jewish religion, Christianity and Islam, which are less demanding, but convey the basic ideas about G-d, albeit incompletely, and with their distortions and extremes. For Jews they are therefore unacceptable, but for non-Jews they are the only possible way to spread these ideas about G-d throughout the world, the only way they can be perceived for now. And hostility towards Jews is a reminder: despite the potential attractiveness of these branches, the Jews themselves must remain themselves and fulfill their mission, and not assimilate - this will not work, they will not be accepted.

Such “offshoots” could only be created by the descendants of Jewish forefathers, who adopted the qualities of their forefathers partially, not completely, and therefore deviated from the purely Jewish path. Such were Eisav and Ishmael. The forefathers could not have intentionally raised such descendants. But it happened according to the Will of G‑d: the forefathers acted as they knew and could, and G‑d turned everything the way it was needed.

Best regards, Meir Muchnik