Thursday, March 12, 2009

Abram goes to bed with Hagar

What did you do for Purim Izzy? Did you have fun? Isn't the story of Esther amazing?

< = = = We chanted Megillot Esther and acted it out wearing crazy clothes borrowed from our parents. Benjamin dressed up like a girl wearing his sister's stuff and was voted most beautiful. I don't think I would be comfortable doing that, but he really pulled it off. My favorite part was when the left and right side of the room competed to boo the evil Haman the loudest. And Mrs. Schultz brought Hamentaschens, ho, those are good, I had never had those before, the sour cherry filling was my favorite. But why do we celebrate Haman at all on Purim?

Oh, no one is celebrating Haman, Hamentaschens means Haman's pockets. The idea is that his wealth transferred from him, who would plot against the Jewish people even unto death to Mordecai, Esther and the rest of the people who persevered and survived.

<= = = I have been doing my reading Mr. Storyteller and it sounds like we have a particularly juicy story today.

Yes, Master Cohen, straight out of the tabloids, but keep in mind we begin the birth of one of the modern nations. As you know since you have read ahead, Sarai, Abram's wife, had no children. So Sarai took her servant, an Egyptian woman named Hagar, Pharoah's daughter, and gave her to Abram so she could bear his children. "The LORD has kept me from having any children," Sarai said to Abram. "Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her." And Abram agreed.

<= = = Is it OK to do that? I mean he is married to Sarai, this sounds like cheating. Only, Sarai is initiating it, so it sounds like modern love. And Hagai is younger that Sarai, Abram must be psyched. And yet, he was so holy and righteous and all that, this is confusing.

Don't need to dig too deep Master Cohen. Yes it was cheating. Yes, Abram was psyched, he had seen Hagar around the camp for many years and yes, though Sarai was a lovely lady even as her age is advancing, Hagar is a younger woman. Yes, there will be consequences both then and on to your generation. And yes, in the sense of holy meaning set apart for God, Abram was. However, it is important that this notion of righteous because of his faith not be tied to Abram's actions whether good or questionable. What that passage means is because of Abram's faith, God chose to view him as righteous, God knew at the time, Abram would go to bed with Hagar. He chooses not to look or not to see. Yesterday we talked about the angel of death passing the houses that kept the ordinance of Passover and put the blood on the lintels of their houses. That many lusty Hebrews, you think there wasn't any questionable behavior going on in at least some of those houses? In fact, even if one of the Egyptians had put the blood over their door, they would have been spared and in fact some did and were. But, let's move on.

As we have said, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram first arrived in the land of Canaan.) So, proximity leads to touching, led to kissing and sure enough Abram slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant. When Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress Sarai with contempt. Now, with a child, Hagar thought she might assume the role of first wife. Then Sarai, fully aware she was in a one down situation at this point said to Abram, "It's all your fault! Now this servant of mine is pregnant, and she despises me, though I myself gave her the privilege of sleeping with you. The LORD will make you pay for doing this to me!, let the Lord choose between you and I."

And we see how clever the Hyksosian Pharoah and his advisors were, not only did they overthrow the government of Egypt for a season with a bloodless coup, but by giving his daughter Hagar to Sarai to be her handmaiden, he has tied his bloodline to the bloodline of Abraham. Pharoah knew, when the LORD inflicted him on account of having Sarai in his harem that Abram was someone very, very special.

Now Abram is in a compromised situation. He has been with Sarai for a long time and truly loves her and does not want to lose her. Sarai gave him the chance to bed Hagar, and it was fun, that was a night to remember, but now the outcome is not ideal. The two women of his life are fighting one another. The have known each other for a long time, they know exactly which buttons to press to drive the other woman crazy. There is no peace in the camp, productivity is starting to be impacted. There is no easy way out, so Abram replied to Sarai, "Since she is your servant, you may deal with her as you see fit." So Sarai treated her harshly, and Hagar ran away back to Egypt.

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