Parashat Lech Lecha (You Go) Genesis 12:1-17:27
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16
In this week’s Torah portion Sarai (Sarah) offers her maidservant Hagar to Avram (Abraham) in order that she could have a child vicariously through her. Obviously this was not the proper thing to do. Such a thought implies a doubt in the ability of HaShem Who had promised that Sarai and Avram would have a child. Whereas Avram believed this (See Genesis 15:6), Sarai attempted to fulfill the Word of G-d through physical means. The tension that Hagar’s pregnancy brought to Sarai was immediately felt. Sarai treated her harshly when Hagar became prideful that she had conceived so easily while Sarai could not. Eventually Hagar fled, but HaShem interceded and caused her to return and informed her that she would give birth to a son and his name would be Ishmael.
Ishmael was a direct response of G-d hearing the prayer of Hagar—that she would deliver a son, as the name Ishmael means “G-d will hear“. The question is why would G-d answer Hagar’s prayer since He knew that this child would become a people that would be such a source of hardship? The answer is that that HaShem did not cause Hagar to conceive in some supernatural manner. Verse four informs the reader that Hagar was already pregnant. In verse eleven HaShem simply confirms that what had already happened (conception) will come to its conclusion and a child will be born. The new aspect here is that the child himself will be called Ishmael—”G-d will hear”.
Why would HaShem Himself give this child a name such as this? The name Ishmael informs the reader what G-d wanted this child and his offspring to do (obey G-d); however verse twelve reveals that this child will not obey HaShem and he will be a source of trouble,
“And He will be an unruly man, his hand is against everything and the hand of everything is against him and before all his brothers he will dwell.” Genesis 16:12
In spite of the trouble that will surround Ishmael (the idea here is Ishmael’s offspring) he (his people) will rise to a place of prominence before other peoples. Once again why would G-d allow this? The answer is that the disobedience that Sarai began, HaShem allowed to have its full outcome even into the following generations. Hagar was obviously very glad about her pregnancy and because she was the one who was the mother of Avram’s son she felt closer to Avram than she did before she conceived. This change was not expected nor easily handled by Sarai. HaShem did not intercede in Sarai’s sin thereby ending Hagar’s pregnancy. She wanted the child and HaShem allowed her to give birth.
This is a lesson for us, that our disobedient actions often will run their course and bring sorrow on numerous other people.
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