31 May 2011

Ishmael's power source - Part 4

In Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer there is a midrash about the 9th test of Abraham: “Ishmael was born and grew up with a bow and arrow.  He would frequently hunt birds. One time he saw Isaac and tried killing him. Seeing that, Sarah told Abraham: "Such and such did Ishmael to Isaac. Rise and write a will to give to Isaac  everything that G-d swore to give to your descendants. I swear by your life, that this son (Ishmael) of a slave woman shall not inherit with my son, with Isaac. And write a letter of divorcement and send this slave woman and her son away from me and my son in this and future worlds. " Of all of the trials  that had befallen Abraham, this was the hardest, as it says (Genesis 21:11): "And it was very bad in the eyes of Abraham about his son." 

Rabbi Yehuda says that that the night G-d  spoke  to Abraham, saying: "Abraham! What Sarah told you is true. " Abraham got up early in the morning and wrote a letter of divorcement and gave  it to Hagar and expelled her (and her son) from him and from Isaac his son, from this and future worlds, as it says, "And Abraham got up early in the morning and took the bread and a skin of water ... "(ibid. 14) and tied it to her belt that dragged behind her for all to see that she was a slave woman and that if he wanted, he could find  his son Ishmael by the trail that the skin left on the ground so that everyone would know that she was still his slave". Thus  Abraham could still visit them and in  the merit of Abraham, water was not depleted in the skins. 

But  when Hagar got to the desert and started worshiping idol of her father's house, the water immediately stopped. It was then that it was revealed to them the source of water which was established with the creation of the world - before the first Sabbath.  "And they went and drank, and filled the skins" – this is  Miriam‘s Well from which the Jews in the desert drank water but the first to drink from it was  Ishmael! 

Ishmael took a wife from Moab named Isa. Three years later,  Abraham went to visit Ishmael. Before he left,  he swore to Sarah that he would not get off the camel. When Abraham got to where Isamel was living, he met  his wife and asked:  Where is Ishmael? 

She replied:  He went with his mother to bring grain and dates from the desert. 

Abraham responded:  Give me a little bit of water and a bit of bread, I’m very tired from the trip  through the desert. 

She replied:  No bread and no water. 

Abraham said to her:  When Ishmael returns, tell him  that an old man from Canaan was visiting and said that the doorpost at  home is in bad shape. 

When Ishmael came, his wife  told him what had occurred  and he kicked her out. Then he sent his mother  to look for a wife  for him and she took him a wife from her father's house and her name  was Ptuma.  After another 3 years, Abraham went back to visit his son Ishmael.  When he arrived, he asked Ptuma: Where is Ishmael? 

She replied:  He went with his mother to feed the  camels in the desert. 

Abraham then said to her:  Give me a little bit of water and a bit of bread, very tired is my soul because of the  trip through the desert. 

She did and then Abraham stood up and prayed for Ishmael and his house was filled with all good things and blessings. When Ishmael came home, his wife told him everything, and he realized that his father still loved him.

Our Sages tell us a Jew, even though he may sin, remains a Jew  whereas  Ishmael, when separated from the source, loses merit. All his power is based on belonging to the faith of Abraham and his connection to the aspect of Chesed (kindness). 

Thus we see that it is not sufficient to assume that all our strength lies in the fact that a Jew, in spite of sin, is always a Jew. Jews must act more like Abraham’s true offspring and the more this is done, the quicker will  Ishmael will be driven out of this and future worlds.

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