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Parshah Halacha – Parshat Chayei Sarah

What we can Learn from Avraham’s Third Wife
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Parsha Halacha is underwritten by a grant from Dr. Stephen and Bella Brenner in loving memory of Stephen’s father, Shmuel Tzvi ben Pinchas, and Bella’s parents, Avraham ben Yitzchak and Leah bas HaRav Sholom Zev HaCohen.
In the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah we read (among many other things) how our patriarch Avraham married Keturah and fathered six children with her as the Torah says,[1] “And Abraham took another wife and her name was Keturah.”
Keturah was Hagar
Many of the commentaries[2] say that Keturah was the same person as Hagar.
There are several allusions in the verse that indicate this:
·        The verse says ויסף which means he continued.[3] Elsewhere[4] this word refers to a continuation of something that had already started.
·         Some say that the fact that Keturah’s lineage and birthplace isn’t described by the Torah indicates that she is a person whose identity is already known.[5]
·        Several verses later the Torah recounts[6] how Avraham “sent the sons of the concubines… while he was still alive (בעודנו חי)… to the land of the east.” The words “while he was still alive” seem superfluous since Avraham was obviously still alive. Therefore, the word חי is understood to allude that the concubine mentioned in the verse had once spoken to the living G-d (חי) and asked Him to consider her suffering. This is something Hagar had done (see Gen. 16:14).[7]
·        In addition, since Avraham influenced so many people to believe in G-d, he certainly must have influenced his own ex-wife Hagar to do so despite her temporary return to idol worship. As such, it is most likely that he would remarry her rather than marry a random woman.[8]
Keturah was not Hagar
Several commentaries[9] who explain the Torah on a pshat (straightforward) level) maintain that Keturah was not Hagar but another righteous woman.[10]The basis for their      opinion is obvious – she has a different name, and there is no compelling reason to say she was Hagar. In addition, these commentaries raise several questions concerning the opinion that Keturah was Hagar:
·        The word ויוסף usually means “and he added.” This indicates that Keturah was an additional wife to the ones Avraham had previously married.[11]
·        How could Avraham, who observed the entire Torah, marry Hagar who was Egyptian, when the Torah forbids a Jewish man from marrying an Egyptian woman?[12] (When Avraham married Hagar the first time, he did so by specific Divine command as relayed to him by Sarah.[13])
o  Those who say that Keturah was Hagar explain that Avraham was allowed to marry her as he was a convert who may marry an Egyptian.[14] Or once again, that he was instructed by G-d to marry her.[15]
·        The Torah says that Avraham sent away the “sons of the concubines –  בני הפילגשים” (plural). If Hagar and Keturah were the same person that word should have been singular (הפלגש (בני .[16]
o  Those who maintain that Keturah was Hagar say that the word פילגשם is written without a yud to indicate that there was only one concubine. (In our Sifrei Torah it is written with a yud.[17]) The reason that the plural form is used instead of the singular (פלגש) is to allude to the sons of Hagar from both her first and second marriage.[18]
Origins of Keturah
There are various opinions as to the origins of Keturah (according to the opinion that she was not Hagar[19]).
·        Canaanite
Rabbeinu Bachaye says that the reason the Torah doesn’t give the origins of Keturah is because she was a Canaanite. Since this nation was cursed,[20] the Torah would rather not mention it explicitly. Although Avraham had instructed Yitzchak not to marry a Canaanite, he was not particular about this for his own (third) marriage since he had already fathered his holy son Yitzchak from his righteous wife Sarah.
·        Other Nations
Others say[21] that Keturah may have been of Philistine or Egyptian origin. The Radak contends that she was most certainly not of Canaanite origin as Avraham would never have married a Canaanite.
·        Daughter of Yefet
The Midrash says[22] that Keturah was the daughter of Yefet.
Wife or Concubine?
In chapter 25, verse 1 the Torah calls Keturah a wife (“ויקח אשה – And he took another wife”). In verse 6, however, it refers to her as a concubine (“And to the sons of Abraham’s concubines”). In the book of Chronicles[23] she is once again called a concubine (“And the sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine”). The commentaries offer various explanations for this discrepancy. (As for the difference between a wife and a concubine, Rashi says that a wife has a ketubah [marriage contract] while a concubine does not. Radak says that marriage between a man and wife was accomplished with a Chupah and a wedding party but marriage between a man and a concubine was accomplished merely by the woman agreeing to be the man’s concubine.)
·        Wife
Some say that Keturah was a regular wife but that she is referred to as a concubine (i.e., of lesser importance) because she came from a family of slaves (the Canaanites).[24] Similarly, some say[25] that it is only the children who are referred to as “the children of the concubine” because Avraham treated them as secondary children by sending them away.
·        Additional Concubines
The Radak says that Avraham took Keturah as a wife. In addition, he also married additional concubines whose names are not given. (This doesn’t explain the verse in Chronicles.)
·        Concubine
According to the opinion[26] that Keturah was a concubine, the verse ויקח אשהshould be translated, “And he took a woman” not “And he took a wife.”
·        Wife without a Ketubah
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains[27] that the word פלגש (concubine) has two meanings in the Chumash. Sometimes it refers to a female slave whom the master of the house marries[28] while other times it refers to a regular wife who does not have a ketubah. Keturah was a regular wife in the sense that she was not a slave woman. (Even according to the opinion that she was Hagar, Avraham had freed her when he sent her from his house many years earlier.[29]) But she was a concubine in that she did not have a ketubah.
Lessons from the Marriage to Keturah
The commentaries glean many lessons from the story of Avraham’s marriage to Keturah concerning a second marriage.
·        Marry Off Your Child First
The Torah tells us that Avraham married off his son Yitzchak before he got remarried. This teaches us that one should take care to marry off one’s children (if they are of marriageable age) before finding a (second) wife for oneself.[30]
The Tosefta[31] says one should get remarried before marrying off one’s child. However, it is only referring to a case where one has not yet fulfilled the mitzvah of Peru URevu (procreation) i.e., he has not yet had a son and a daughter.[32]
·        Get Married Again
The Midrash says[33] that we learn from this story that if one is widowed (or divorced) one should remarry, even later in life, and try to have more children. In addition, a spouse provides companionship (as the verse says, “it is not good for man to be alone”[34])[35] and assistance in one’s old age.[36]
·        Don’t Be Picky
An additional lesson is that the second time around, one should look for a compatible spouse even if they are not from the same class of family as oneself. Thus, Avraham didn’t send a messenger to find a wife from his family as he did for Yitzchak. Rather, he married a righteous, local woman even though she was from a far lesser family than himself.[37]
May we soon merit to our remarriage with G-d, through the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days!
[1] Gen. 25:1
[2] Rabbi Yehudah in Bereishit Rabbah 61:4, Targum Yonatan and Yerushalmy, Rashi, Kli Yakar, see Chizkuni
[3] Chizkuni, Rabeinu Bachaye and Kli Yakar
[4] See Isaiah 8:5 ויסף ה’ דבר אלי עוד לאמר (“And G-d continued to speak to me saying”). Rabeinu Bachaye cites the verse ויוסף לדעתה which I have not found in Tanach. This may be a paraphrase of Gen. 38:26 see Rashi there.
[5] Gur Aryeh. He explains that, elsewhere, if the Torah mentions a woman who got married (e.g. Gen. 30:4 and 9) one would assume that she came from the land in which she got married. However, since Avraham was so particular that Yitzchak not marry a Canaanite, presumably he didn’t marry one either. Thus, her birthplace remains a mystery. This is solved if we say she was actually Hagar.
[6] Verse 6
[7] Bereishit Rabbah 61:4
[8] The Lubavitcher Rebbe in Likutei Sichot, vol. 15, pg. 174 and on. Cited in Biurim LePirush Rashi al hatorah, pgs. 147 – 149
[9] Ramban (on verse 6), Rashbam, Ibn Ezra, Radak, second interpretation of the Chizkuni and the first interpretation of Rabbeinu Bachaye
[10] Radak
[11] Bereishit Rabbah ibid as explained by the Etz Yosef
[12] Bereishit Rabbah ibid as explained by the Yad Shaul, cited in the Insights sections of the Artscroll/Mesorah Midrash Rabbah
[13] Pirush HaTur al HaTorah (on 25:1)
[14] Da’at Zekeinim
[15] Rabbi Yehudah in Bereisht Rabbah cited in the Pirush HaTur al HaTorah
[16] Ibn Ezra and Abrabanel
[17] See Biurim LePirush Rashi al HaTorah, vol.1 pg. 149 who quotes the Minchat Shai (Balak 23:9) that the sages knew the supernal secrets of the Heavenly court and if they disagree about the spelling of a word in the Tanach, each opinion is following one of the opinions in the Heavenly court.
[18] Levush Ha’Orah. See also Gur Aryeh
[19] See Gen. 16:1
[20] See ibid 9:25
[21] See Ramban and Abarbanel
[22] Midrash Yelamdeinu, quoted in Torah Sheleimah
[23] Divei HaYamin I, 1:32
[24] Rabbeinu Bachaye
[25] Ha’amek Davar
[26] The pirush of the Radak on Divrei HaYamim
[27] Likutei Sichot vol. 5, pages 231 and 232
[28] See Ibn Ezra on the verse here and Rashi on Gen. 22:20 where the children of a maidservant are equated with the children of a concubine.
[29] But see Targum Yonatan on Gen. 21:14
[30] Bereishit Rabbah 60:16
[31] Bechorot 6:8
[32] Torah Temimah
[33] Bereishit Rabbah 61:3 based on Kohelet 11:6
[34] Gen. 2:18
[35] Ha’amek Davar
[36] Radak
[37] Abarbanel
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom Umevorach!

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