Commentary - Year 1 Sabbath 13

Genesis 16:1-15   -   Isaiah 54:1   -   Psalm 12   -   Galatians 4:21-31


Tammuz 2, 5761/ June 23, 2001 

Sivan 30, 5764 / June 19, 2004

Sivan 30, 5767 / June 16, 2007

Sivan 30, 5770 / June 12, 2010

Sivan 30, 5773 / June   8, 2013

Tammuz 3, 5776 / July 9, 2016

Tammuz 3, 5779 / July 6, 2019


V'Saray eshshet  / Saray his Wife   SCRIPTURES should be read first


In the first eleven chapters of Genesis, we have looked at the first 2000 years of Earth’s history. We have seen Adam’s fall, murder, idolatry, the Great Flood, and the dispersion of the nations from Babel. This is known as the era of desolation.


Today’s portion begins thirty-six years into the third millennium. After twenty generations, Torah (God’s instruction) was mostly being ignored. But God chose Avram to start a renewal of Torah in a fallen world.


When Avram was 75 and Saray was 65, God sent them the first of ten trials: they were to leave their home, not knowing where they were going.  Now God was giving them greater promises than they might have imagined. This is a lesson for us to consider, that we should trust God when we can’t see what lies ahead in our lives.


(V.15:2) Avram to God: “What can You give me seeing I go childless?”

(V.15:4) Yahweh to Avram: “One who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.”


In chapter twelve we learned that Pharaoh wanted to add Saray to his harem, but as a result, he was given a disease that prevented intercourse with his wives and concubines. To appease God, he then gave Avram many gifts of animals and a maidservant – a daughter of one of his concubines – the young girl Hagar.

Midrash on v.12:16: “The word ‘maidservants’ is written defectively [without the letter ‘vav’], implying that he was given only one maidservant, Hagar, Pharaoh's daughter by a concubine (Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer: Midrash Hagadol). It may be that, as a princess, Hagar had servants of her own. All of them would have accompanied her to Sarah, thus accounting for the plural form” - Artscroll Tanach Series: Bereishis, page 451.


Saray, Avram’s wife (Chapter 16 – ten years later):

(V.16:1-3) “But Saray, Avram's wife had borne him no children” Avram was 86, Saray was 76. Hagar was now a young woman. Saray said, “Perhaps I shall be built up through her” (Hagar) – purposing to build up the Kingdom of God. This is exemplifying doing something “in God’s Name” – fulfilling God’s purpose , though in this case misguided. “Avram's wife Saray took Hagar” – that is, persuaded her with words. Saray gave her domain to her handmaid – she did not consider her own feelings, but acted solely for the sake of Heaven (Midrash HaGadol).

Proverbs 30:21-23 – “Under three things the earth quakes, and under four, it cannot bear up: under a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is satisfied with food, under an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant when she supplants her mistress.


(V.4) We may hear Hagar saying, “I am the real princess; I am the one through whom God is fulfilling His promises!” This is believed today by Arab Muslims, who claim that they are the Holy line through Ishmael.

(V.5) Saray cried to Avram, “The outrage against me is due to you!” (“You brought this on by saying I was your sister, and thereby getting this ‘princess’!”) “May Yahweh judge you for this!” Big boo-boo, Saray! The last request could really cost you!

Punishment is meted out first to the one who cries, and is more severe than for the one against whom justice is invoked (Talmud: Bava Kamma 93a). One of the things that call a man’s iniquity to mind is calling for Divine Judgment on one’s fellow man (Rosh Hashanah 16b). Therefore, Sarah predeceased Avraham. Matthew 7:1-4: “Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?

Avram replied, “She is my wife, what can I do? But you have not released her as your servant, so you may deal with her as you wish.”


Gossip has it, that this was the ultimate insult: When Avraham bound Isaac on the altar, it was through Ishmael and then Hagar that Sarah was told, whereupon Sarah had a heart attack and died. We never hear any more about Sarah’s life after the Binding of Isaac.


Psalm 12:5: “Because of the devastation of the afflicted (Hagar), because of the groaning of the needy (Ishmael), now I will arise,” says Yahweh; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.” Though Hagar’s despising of Saray may have resulted in God’s statement that every man would be against Ishmael.


Galatians 4: Hagar corresponds to the present Jerusalem, in slavery, with Avraham trying by earthly means to fulfill God’s plan. Saray corresponds to the Heavenly Jerusalem, with God’s fulfillment of His promise to Avraham by a miraculous Son. Working in futility for one’s own salvation is contrasted with trusting God for the promised salvation through His miraculous Son.


In other words:

The natural seed of Avraham – Hebrews / Israelites – are largely working for their salvation. In rabbinic writings, much is made of them being saved by ancestry and their own merit. Even Avraham is said to have been called because of his own merit. Thus the earthly Jerusalem is equated with Hagar and her son Ishmael, the natural seed of Avraham.


But those who are called by God’s grace – unmerited favor – are related to Avraham by faith. This congregation of heavenly Jerusalem is equated with Saray and her son of promise – Isaac, the miraculous son of Avraham.


Slavery here does not refer to the faithful observing God’s instruction – Torah. It refers to the faithless laboring to merit salvation. Otherwise, we read of slavery, in a negative sense, to sin (Romans 6:16), and in a positive sense, to our Savior (2 Timothy 2:24).


A thousand years after Avraham, David said (Psalm 12:1), “Help, Yahweh, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.


But Isaiah says (v.54:1), that we of the faith (Hebrew and gentile) should shout for joy: we will be more numerous than those natural descendents who stake their claim on their own merits.



"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who chose us from among all peoples by giving us Your Torah.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."


Reader 1* Amen 1 Now Saray, Avram's wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. 2 So Saray said to Avram, "Now behold, Yahweh has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her." And Avram listened to the voice of Saray. 3 After Avram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Avram's wife Saray took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Avram as his wife.


Reader 2* Amen 4 He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. 5 And Saray said to Avram, "May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May Yahweh judge between you and me." 6 But Avram said to Saray, "Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight." So Saray treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.


Reader 3* Amen 7 Now the angel of Yahweh found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8 He said, "Hagar, Saray's maid, where have you come from and where are you going?" And she said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Saray." 9 Then the angel of Yahweh said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority."


Reader 4* Amen 10 Moreover, the angel of Yahweh said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count." 11 The angel of Yahweh said to her further, "Behold, you are with child, and you will bear a son; and you shall call his name Ishmael, Because Yahweh has given heed to your affliction. 12 "He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers."


Reader 5* Amen 13 Then she called the name of Yahweh who spoke to her, "You are a God who sees"; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?" 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered. 15 So Hagar bore Avram a son; and Avram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Avram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.


"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who in giving us Yeshua, the Living Torah, has planted everlasting life in our midst.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."



"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who selected good prophets, delighting in their words which were spoken truthfully.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, Who chose the Torah, Your servant Moses, Your people Israel,

and the prophets of truth and righteousness."


Isaiah 54:1

Reader 6* Amen “Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; for the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous than the sons of the married woman,” says Yahweh.


Psalm 12    (to be sung)  For the choir director; upon an eight-stringed lyre. A Psalm of David.

1 Help, Yahweh, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. 2 They speak falsehood to one another; with flattering lips and with a double heart they speak. 3 May Yahweh cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that speaks great things; 4 who have said, "With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" 5 "Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, now I will arise," says Yahweh; "I will set him in the safety for which he longs." 6 The words of Yahweh are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times. 7 You, O Yahweh, will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever. 8 The wicked strut about on every side when vileness is exalted among the sons of men.


Galatians 4:21-31

Reader 7* Amen 21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Avraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.


Reader 8* Amen 27 For it is written, "Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor; For more are the children of the desolate Than of the one who has a husband." 28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman." 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.


"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Rock of Ages, righteous throughout all generations.

You are the faithful God, promising and then performing, speaking and then fulfilling,

for all Your words are true and righteous.

Faithful are You, Yahweh our God, and faithful are Your words,

for no word of Yours shall remain unfulfilled;

You are a faithful and merciful God and King.

Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, Who are faithful in fulfilling all Your words."

© 2004  Beikvot HaMashiach
(Followers of the Messiah)