a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Jewish Geography Project:Va-Yera (Playing Catch Up)

Posted on: October 24, 2013

Va-Yera Genesis 18:1 Р22:24

This translation was taken from the JPS Tanakh

Chapter 20
1 Abraham journeyed from there to the region of the Negeb and settled between Kadesh and Shur. ld of Abimelech because of Sarah, the wife of Abraham.

Chapter 21
1 The Lord took note of Sarah as He had promised, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. 2 Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken. 3 Abraham gave his newborn son, whom Sarah had borne him, the name of Isaac. 4 And when his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded him. 5 Now Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 And she added,

Who would have said to Abraham That Sarah would suckle children! Yet I have borne a son in his old age.”
8 The child grew up and was weaned, and Abraham held a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

9 Sarah saw the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing. 10 She said to Abraham, “Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” 11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly, for it concerned a son of his. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you. 13 As for the son of the slave-woman, I will make a nation of him, too, for he is your seed.”
14 Early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them over her shoulder, together with the child, and sent her away. And she wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 15 When the water was gone from the skin, she left the child under one of the bushes, 16 and went and sat down at a distance, a bowshot away; for she thought, “Let me not look on as the child dies.” And sitting thus afar, she burst into tears…

17 God heard the cry of the boy, and an angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heeded the cry of the boy where he is. 18 Come, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and let the boy drink. 20 God was with the boy and he grew up; he dwelt in the wilderness and became a bowman. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

…34 And Abraham resided in the land of the Philistines a long time.

I’ve skipped a lot. This is a fairly large parsha in which a lot (Lot of things-Lot, get it?) happen. Read the entire Parashat here.

Abraham hasn’t traveled as much in this section. He’s been in the land of Canaan, which is modern-day Israel is a part of and the parasha ends with him in the “Land of the Philistines, which is around the Gaza strip. While he’s not moved around much, a lot of stuff happens.

What I find most interesting about this parasha isn’t really the geography, but the relationships both between Gd and people and between people. Abraham does some pretty interesting (vile) things here; he tries to pass Sarah as his sister again, he has a child in his old age, he exiles his son, Ishmael and he almost kills his son Isaac. Again, we read Gd’s promise to make Ishmael his own nation, but Isaac, too, is promised a great nation.

When I read this parasaha I often think of Siona Benjamin, the Jewish Indian artist who blends traditional Indian-style painting with her Jewish faith through provocative and thoughtful pieces that speak as much to the past as they do to current conflicts. I wonder why Torah pits these two women against one another and how or why their sons are today still “against” one another.

 

© Erika K. Davis unless otherwise noted.

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