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Isaac and Esau

Written by Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu

Abraham throws a party to celebrate a bittersweet moment of completion. Isaac is weaned. No longer a dependant infant, he is a sturdy child, ready to stand on his own two feet. For Sarah, this is a painful separation. She knows she will never experience another pregnancy. No wonder she now sees Isaac’s future from a new perspective: her little man. Abraham’s celebration, and her sudden insight into Ishmael’s role Isaac’s life, propels Sarah to drive Hagar and Ishmael away. They will wander in the wilderness of Be’er Sheva, until Hagar finds her a wife for her son from among the Egyptians.

Why is this chapter also read on the morning of Rosh Hashanah? Is it because, as the Talmud says (Rosh Hashanah 10ab) that Sarah was so exceptional that she conceived on new year’s day? Or is it because the new year’s beginning also brings to mind three ultimate moments of separation: mother and child (Isaac), father and son (Ishmael) and of course, the two divided siblings. They grow up and live in close proximity, but they, and their mothers, will never meet again.

The stories we find in Torah have so much pain in them. May we also discover that pain and separation also have a place; in birth, in weaning, in each new beginning.

Shabbat shalom

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