Jun 28, 2010

"The Scent of Hagar and The Redemption of Sarah": A Reflection on Genesis 25:1

"The Scent of Hagar and The Redemption of Sarah": A Reflection on Genesis 25:1
(C) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

It is suggested that Abraham's prophecy paled in comparison to Sarah's
(Gen. 21:12). Sarah's harshness to Hagar (Gen 21:10) makes this hard
to accept. How powerful, then, to read the Kli Yakar's commentary on
Genesis 25:1, in which Hagar's and Ishmael's expulsions are righteous
and Hagar's return to Abraham as 'Keturah' cherished and holy.

Sarah sees Hagar's idolatry as a destructive and contaminating force.
The Kli Yakar, leveraging older midrash, sees Hagar's subsequent
exilic journey as purifying, and suggests that her fragrance deepened
with self-examination, that ultimately her scent, which Abraham
remembered well, took on sacred properties through her difficult path.
All this began with Sarah's instruction.

Abraham's journey, too, is compared to the uncorking of his particular
perfume (Breisheet Rabbah on Gen. 12:1), finally unleashed by God's
Call. That encounter renames, sends and releases Abraham to himself.
Who (if we subscribe to the midrashic vision of Abraham and Hagar's
reunification) is the source of Hagar's new name? As Keturah, or
"Sacred Fragrant Offering", she is the embodiment of transformation.
As is Abraham.

Might they, together, be the fulfillment of Sarah's prophetic vision
(Gen. 16:2) that Abraham and Hagar's unification could be a source of
great building? Might their combined scent be pleasing to the God 1ho
called them both, to Sarah who directed their paths (Gen. 16:2 and
21:10), and to we modern seekers who yearn for a more pleasing scent
from the encounters of Sarah's and Hagar's children?

Might that reunification remain an undiscovered fragrance living in
the recesses of memory, planted there by God, waiting for release?

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Chag Sukkot Sameach, dear friends.