Healing the Torah – Forgive us Ishmael and Hagar for the Error of Sarah and Abraham
I wrote a blog illustrating the importance of names beginning with the letter Yud. Two of the most powerful and significant of these names are beheld in the sons of Abraham. Isaac and Ishmael, written in Hebrew as follows.
This subject is a greatly painful one. It’s painful in the Torah, and it’s excruciating to see the state that exists between Jews and Muslims, the descendants of Isaac (Jews) and Ishmael (Muslims), especially within the Land of Israel. Within this topic we open up a magnanimous kernel of Messianic Kabbalistic wisdom waiting to be popped which may have some Jewish heads spinning. This is the idea that today we can heal the mistakes of old that our patriarchs and matriarchs perpetrated in Torah, even as they seemed to be God sanctioned. What??? How??? Please read on and discover for yourself.
Both of these names beginning with the Hebrew letter Yud are predictive names put into the future. The name Yitzhak – or Isaac, means “He will laugh” while the name Ishmael means “God will listen.” Since these two are the only two sons of Abraham, their names have great significance and the significance belongs together.
In case you don’t know the Torah tale, to make a long story short, Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah is barren. She wants her husband to have a child so she suggests he have a child (in case she never does) with Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden. They do. His name is called Ishmael and he is Abraham’s firstborn. When Hagar has Ishmael, Hagar begins to feel bad for Sarai (this has also been translated “to look down at her” or “lose respect for her”), which causes Sarai to react by treating Hagar badly. Hagar flees from Sarai (this is the first but not last time) but an angel of God tells her to go back to the tent. Then, 13 years later, God, in the guise of an angel, tells Abraham that Sarah will conceive. Abie laughs out of sheer joy – they say he had faith and believed it would be so. When he tells Sarah the angelic news, she laughs dubiously, like “Ha! Yeah right. In case you haven’t noticed, dearie, I’m 90. This womb ain’t never done nothing yet, so how can it now?” So there’s a whole lot of laughing going on. Perhaps for that reason, they decide to name the child Yitzhak, meaning, he will laugh.
|And the LORD remembered Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as He had spoken. Genesis 21:1 And Sarah said: ‘God hath made laughter for me; every one that hears will laugh with me.’ Genesis 21:6|
In other words, what a miracle God!! Let everyone who witnesses this miracle share in the laughter and laugh with me. It was Sarah’s request, her wish, her commandment. Laugh with me. And lo and behold, someone does indeed laugh, but the tale takes a dark turn which we shall see below.
|And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne unto Abraham, laughing. Genesis 21:9|
וַתֵּרֶא שָׂרָה אֶת בֶּן הָגָר הַמִּצְרִית אֲשֶׁר יָלְדָה לְאַבְרָהָם מְצַחֵק
Now, I will also share the translation from the English from the Stone edition of the Chumash (Torah) – “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne unto Abraham, making sport.” However, I wrote the translation “Laughing.”
If we look at additional translations, these can be anything from “making merry” to “poking fun” to “mocking.” I have never seen the Hebrew mitzahek translated into “laughing” but in this passage, there is no reason to eliminate the possibility that Ishmael was simply doing the traditional laughing. I know the oral tradition and the midrashim would have us believe Ishmael was mocking, making fun of, and that in Genesis 16:12 we see that Ishmael was predicted to be a wild ass of a man, against everyone and everyone against him, but the Hebrew from the Torah would not suggest any other form of vocal eruption different from the very kind that Sarah requested / asked / commanded. She had asked for those who witness the miracle of the birth to laugh with her. And so Ishmael did just that.
יִצְחַק -he will laugh (future tense)
מְצַחֵק – laughing (present tense)
The first Hebrew word we see above is “He will laugh” and it is the very same spelling of the same verb as the request Sarah makes for those to laugh with her about her miraculous boy. The second word, mitzahek means laughing, which Ishmael does, fulfilling Sarah’s wish. It *can* also be translated as mocking, as in making fun of someone derisively, but why was it interpreted that way when the Hebrew leaves no reason to take it out of laughing context and into mean mocking?
Let’s look at the story. There are two possibilities for Ishmael’s “mitzahek.” Either he is mocking and being a wild ass and is against even the newly-weaned infant Isaac, or he is having a moment of pure joy, clarity, and purity and his laughter is innocent and in keeping with Sarah’s request. Either way, Sarah has a choice to make and she chose… poorly. Now, this is touchy. Because Hashem seems to support Sarah’s choice. And that was then. It was meant to be, you can say. But in the light of love, there is a thick shadow veiling Sarah’s choice that has yet to be lifted.
It’s simple. Sarah had to have Abraham conceive of some child when she was barren. She didn’t want her hubby to know Hagar in the Biblical sense, but she took one for the team despite that being hard for any woman to do. Later, when she now has her own son, she felt; “Damn! I want my son to inherit Abraham’s kingdom, not my handmaiden’s son. For in him inheriting, my own son is not.” And that is what she said:
“Drive out this handmaid and her son, for the son of this handmaid shall not inherit with my son, with Isaac.” Genesis 21:10
We can understand the squishy feeling in the stomach that Sarah felt when she had to suggest Abraham make a baby with her handmaiden. That’s a big kick to any woman’s pride / ego and sense of intimate possession of her husband. But when she now is redeemed and has her own son, how much more does the stomach squish in discomfort at her son being second to the handmaiden’s? The story is not complicated. Sarah was jealous and she could not abide having Ishmael and Hagar hanging out in the tent.
But this bothered Abraham a lot, because Ishmael was his kid. God, however, told him not to worry and to listen to Sarah’s voice, because Isaac was meant to inherit Abraham’s seed and his kingdom. And so the story unfolded from there.
But there was wrong done to Ishmael and Hagar in that story that has not been acknowledged. Instead the Hebrew has been translated “mocking” or “making fun” in order to justify Sarah’s jealousy. The matriarchs and patriarchs often tend to be “off limits” for critique of their behaviour, especially where Hashem is seen to support the behaviour.
Who is to say that all these centuries of bad blood between Isaac’s seed (Jacob and all of Israel) and Ishmael’s seed (Ishmael became Islam), is not predicated on the wound that was inflicted to the laughing/mocking Ishmael? Ishmael was an older teenager by this time. Abraham was 86 when Hagar had Ishmael (Genesis 16:16) and he was 100 years old when Isaac was born, which makes Ishmael 14. Now, the laughing or mocking incident occurred when Isaac was finished weaning, which could have been 1-5 years later, so Ishmael would have been anywhere from 15-19 years old. He was an older teenager, which, at the time was a lot more mature than the snotty-nosed, nintendo playing tot of today. So let’s say he did mock and poke fun at the little Isaac. 15-19 years in the tent, but now you mock my other son, so now you’re out!! Does that really resonate? Is that a very magnanimous act? Is that good parenting? If we kicked out all our older children when they were mean to their baby siblings, what would the world look like today? And if one has a wild child with social ills, does he not need even more nurturing, and special attention and TLC to help him know he is loved? It certainly does not illustrate Sarah’s greatest moment to want both of them gone for Ishmael mocking, nor is it the act Abraham is renowned for, but the wrongful action is sanctioned by the Almighty in the story in the Torah. “Listen to your wife” Genesis 21:12
No one can argue that is the way things happened because they did – The Jewish people originate through the seed of Isaac down through Jacob.
Now here comes some Messianic Kabbalah interpretation to the Torah here. Just because God sanctions Sarah’s wish to kick out Ishmael and Hagar, does it mean that there is nothing to ask forgiveness about? Let’s put ourselves in Hagar and Ishmael’s shoes. How did it feel for Hagar and Ishmael to be given the boot? A little traumatizing maybe? Need a few trips to the shrink? Who is to say that the prophetic descriptors of Ishmael as being a wild man, who is against everyone and everyone against him was not CAUSED by Sarah and Abraham? That’s a Matrix-like-cook-your-noodle thought, isn’t it?
Religious Jews believe that God made the world imperfect so that we can heal it (Tikkun Olam). I agree. But now, how can we ignore the other statement that religious Jews hold dear and what it means combined with this first idea – namely that God looked into the Torah to make the world. Ahh!! So naturally, by simple logical deduction and reasoning, what we must conclude is that God made the Torah imperfect because the world is also imperfect so that we can heal both the world and the Torah!
If God looks into the Torah to make the world, and the world is imperfect, well, then, the Torah is imperfect and needs healing too.
And please mark my words well – This is to engender in us the acts of forgiveness, reparation, and reconciliation that are representative of our true nature and of the stuff of our Creator – Love. Everything is about Love. It is the most vital commandment of the Torah. It is the essence of Torah. Anything violating that must be recognized, and addressed. So even though God said to Abe and Sarah, it’s OK, Isaac will be the one to inherit, it does not render their action to kick Hagar and Ishmael out of the tent fine and dandy. We must heal that aspect of Torah and thus we heal our world. And THAT is part of the overall plan.
So I now, with a heart contrite and full of hope at a true reconciliation for my Yitzhak-Yisroel descended Hebrew brethren of Abraham, humbly ask forgiveness of Ishmael’s descendants, for the wrong that was done to Ishmael and Hagar, the righteous woman.
Ishmael, Islam, brothers of Isaac, or cousins (as the Muslims like to call us Jews when they’re feeling generous toward us), please forgive us for this harsh and heartless act we committed against the source of your seed.
It is not for nothing that this drama is unfolding in Israel between Jews and Palestinian Muslims. It is the arena that our common God – yes, Allah and Jehovah are One and the same, awaits patiently for us to figure out. I don’t know how far this will take us, but it’s a step. Hopefully, if it is a true source wound that has rendered Ishmael into the wild, hand-against-everyone person he has, at times, demonstrated himself to be capable of, he will look inside to his innermost fears, to the deepest depths of his heart, and recognize the wound he still carries from all those thousands of years ago. That every moment, every act Israel and Am Yisroel perpetuate in continuing to deny Ishmael a place in their tent, is a continual trigger to Ishmael to become the one whose hands is against everyone. And Israel will open its heart and recognize the error. There is responsibility here to be owned, so that what is seen are not enemies, but brothers, cousins, family. And the family feud will end. And love will reign greater between these scorned brothers than what we have seen in a long time.
A feud as great as this needs an arbitrator. A third party to oversee the quarrelling sons of Abraham. The US? Umm, no. Power cannot push a true peace. The UN? Ha ha ha. They’d tear Israel to shreds. Switzerland? Hmmm. Neutral. But not much heart or interest there. Canada? Maaaybe, we’re pretty politically correct, but can the role of peacemaker really be performed by any nation? Have we not all of our biases and political motivations? Is Canada, Switzerland or any other potential arbitrating nation not divided in itself between pro Israel or pro Palestinian? How many people can truly be said to be pro both sons of Abraham?
It would be unfair to administer the Law of Torah to bring peace, nor the rules of the Quran. There is only one true peace arbitrator that can fulfil this role. It is a party that is not truly a part of either of the peoples at question, but also not totally foreign to either of them.
The one to bring peace between the Sons of Abraham is Yeshua.
How will he bring Peace? When Israel asks for forgiveness for all the wrongs done to Ishmael, He lives in the hearts of those asking for forgiveness. When Ishmael accepts and asks forgiveness for all the wrongs done to Israel, He lives in the hearts of those granting forgiveness. It can be simply Yeshua working His love through these acts of forgiveness and reconciliation, or that, the Jewish people come to accept Yeshua as their Moshiach and they will see the true power He has as it lives in all of us to bring true peace and fulfill all of our deepest dreams.
Yeshua has been visiting many Muslims who are recognizing him as a vision of God / their saviour (search out this fact for yourself. It is odd. It is unmistakable. It is wondrous. Do a web search for ‘Muslims having visions of Jesus’). So these are some of the potential ways in which Yeshua bridges the gap between the sons of Abraham.
As each of us begins to remember who we really are, the I AM, the Ehye usher Ehye revealed to Moshe at the burning bush, we see it is in our realm of not only the possible, but the called for. Because, we are That we are.
Shalom Aleichem. Salaam Alaikum. Peace be with You.
Please also see the important link in the name Jerusalem – Yirushalayim in my blog here.