Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Parshas Chaye Sarah 5778

The Family of Abraham
In the end of the parsha, the Torah concludes the story of Abraham even though he doesn't actually pass away until his grandchildren (Isaac and Esau) are born. The Torah writes (Genesis 25:7-10):
This was the total span of Abraham’s life: one hundred and seventy-five years. And Abraham breathed his last, dying at a good ripe age, old and contented; and he was gathered to his kin. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, facing Mamre, the field that Abraham had bought from the Hittites; there Abraham was buried, and Sarah his wife.
The question is who were his wives and children, and what happened to them?

The Wives of Abraham

The Torah mentions that Abraham had three wives: Sarah, Hagar and Keturah. Sarah was his original wife with whom he arrived in the Land of Canaan. Hagar was Sarah's servant from Egypt whom Sarah gave to Abraham as a wife when she was childless; and Hagar left Abraham's house with her son, Ishmael, when they were told to leave on Sarah's advice. Keturah was Abraham's third wife, whom he married after Sarah's passing.

Sarah was Abraham's full wife. As stated earlier, Sarah was Abraham's niece: Abraham's brother Haran had three children, two girls who married their uncles, Abraham and Nachor, and one son, Lot. Sarah was buried in the Cave of Machpelah.

Hagar was Abraham's wife but her status was not entirely clear. She was nopt a concubine, since her son Ishmael, could have inherited Abraham. According to many Midrashim, Hagar was an Egyptian princess, and a the daughter of Pharaoh. She was given to Sarah, either when Pharaoh tried to marry her or after he escorted both Abraham and Sarah out of Egypt. It is clear from the verses that she was the servant of Sarah, but not necessarily of Abraham. There are also some sources that say she was a granddaughter of Nimrod. The Torah and Midrashim do not tell us where she died and was buried.

Keturah is the third wife of Abraham but as the verses state clearly she was a concubine and not a full wife, this her children would not inherit. According to the Midrashim cited by Rashi, Keturah was actually Hagar whom Abraham took back after Sarah's passing. However, other Midrashim state that Abraham married one wife descended from each of the three sons of Noah, which would make Keturah from Japheth and a different person than Hagar. The Torah and Midrashim do not tell us where she died and was buried.

The Children of Abraham
According to the Torah and Midrashim, Abraham had 8 sons and possibly 1 daughter:
- With Sarah, he had one son - Isaac
- With Hagar, he had one son - Ishmael
- With Keturah, he had six sons - Zimbran, Midian, Medan, Jokshan, Ishbak and Shuah
- According to the Sages of the Talmud, he may have had one daughter (which the commentaries explain was from Hagar).

As the Torah continues to write the story of Isaac and his children, Isaac continues to live in the Land of Canaan and is eventually buried in the Cave of Machpelah.

Ishmael is sent away with Hagar from Abraham's house, however, he does come back at certain times including accompanying Abraham and Isaac to the Akeidah (with Eliezer), and helps Isaac to bury Abraham when he passes away. However, he lives in the desert and marries an Egyptian, with whom he has 12 sons (and 1 daughter). While the Torah mentions his passing in between the engagement and marriage of his daughter to Esau, as well as his righteous when he dies, his burial place is not mentioned.

The sons of Keturah get sent away before Abraham's death and do not inherit since they are children of a concubine and not a full wife. Nevertheless, we find that Midian specifically shows up later in the Torah during the stories of Joseph, Moses and Balaam. Midian is ordered to be destroyed by Moses but apparently survives and is mentioned later in the Book of Judges. It is assumed that these nations eventually disappear and get mixes with other nations during the reign of Sancherib.

However, according to the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 9:10), the children of Keturah get mixed with the children of Ishmael, and because the children of Keturah have a special commandment of circumcision, this ends up transferring to the children of Ishmael since they are mixed together.

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