Hear Our Voice

The Congregation Shma Koleinu Blog.

“Context Clues” – Caring for the Stranger

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The amazing thing about the Torah is that it doesn’t pull any punches. Our patriarchs and matriarchs are great because of the extraordinary experiences of their lives, not because they always got it right! As a matter of fact, the Torah takes us to great pains to experience the ways in which they really miss the mark at times!

Try this little ditty from The Book of Genesis on for size:
Scene1: Sarah gives Hagar (her handmaiden) to Abraham (her husband) to be “built up through Hagar’s loins” as Sarah cannot become pregnant. Ishmael is born.
Scene 2: Then, a few years later, miraculously, Sarah does become pregnant with Abraham’s child and gives birth to Isaac.
Scene 3: Sarah is no longer happy to see Ishmael, as she does not want him to inherit HER son’s inheritance. So, she tells Abraham to send them away, to never be seen by them again.
Scene 4: Abraham does what he is told, saddles his donkey early in the morning and takes Hagar and Ishmael out to the wilderness, seemingly to die. Their one skin of water dries up and Ishmael’s cries rise to the Heavens. “And God hears the cries of the boy where he is.” God hears the cries of the tired, the poor and the hungry yearning to be free…” and saves them from their expulsion.

The name “Hagar” can also be pronounced, “Ha-ger” meaning “The Stranger.”
The name “Yishmael” means “God will hear.”

“Yishmael ha-ger” – “God will hear the stranger” even when their pleas fall on deaf ears. But, remember folks, we are God’s ears, God’s hands, God’s heart.


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