Parasha Inspiration – Chayei Sara

וַיֹּ֧סֶף אַבְרָהָ֛ם וַיִּקַּ֥ח אִשָּׁ֖ה וּשְׁמָ֥הּ קְטוּרָֽה:

And Abraham took another wife and her name was Keturah.

Genesis 24:1

This week’s parsha introduces a very important concept within the historical narrative. Abraham takes a new wife. But who is this woman? Where did she come from? Both Genesis 24 and the Sages give us an explanation.

Genesis Rabbah explains that Keturah is actually Hagar, Abraham’s former concubine, and mother to Ishmael. The Sages tell us that the reason Hagar’s name is changed to Keturah is because she was centered with mitzvot and good deeds. So she was named after the Ketoret, the incense offering.

In 24:6, we see that Abraham’s concubines’ children were given gifts and sent away. However, there is an anomaly in the text. The term for concubines is missing the yud that is needed to make the term plural. It is what is called a “defective” spelling, not that the spelling is incorrect, but rather that the spelling is intentionally obtuse to teach us something within the narrative. In this case, the lesson being taught is that Abraham did not have multiple concubines, in fact, he had only one concubine, Hagar/Keturah. So instead of the spelling being made correctly plural, it is spelled as a singular, concubine.

Genesis 24:9 relates that Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham together. This reunification of the brothers is important to note. It is a foretelling of the final redemption, where Abraham’s children, that is, the children of Israel and the children of Ishmael, come together. That is, the sons of Sarah and Keturah reconcile in their faith and love of their father Abraham. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.