Shabbat Talmud Study: The Expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael


Shabbat morning, October 7, 8:30 – 9:30 am
Sometimes an ancient story that you have seen a hundred times jumps off the page in a new way when you see it using modern language and modern categories. Consider the unsavory story of the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael. Sarah orders it. God seems to endorses it.  Abraham performs it.  Seen through today’s lenses, the story is very troubling.
Sarah is white. Jewish. And in the idiom of the day, privileged. She has a husband and a house and resources. She has a safety net. She knows that she and her son will be provided for.
Hagar is of color. She is Hagar Hamitzrit, Hagar the Egyptian. In a home of white Jews, she is other. She is on the margin of society. She has no husband. She is poor, a maidservant. She is a single mother. She has the responsibility of raising her only child, Ishmael, without a father who is going to be present for him, without a home, without resources. Hagar and Ishmael are only in that tent at the sufferance of Sarah, and when she changes her mind and wants them gone, they are gone.
We read this hard, sad story on Rosh Hashanah day one, and we don’t have time during services to unpack it. This coming Shabbat, we will.
Race, class, gender all come together leaving us with questions. What is the message of this story?
What should we learn from it? How do we understand God’s voice here, telling Abraham: “whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says…” (Gen. 21:12)
See you on Shabbat at 8:30.
Chag sameakh,
Wes