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Parshas Chayei Sarah - What's a Good Reason?

By BJLife/Reb Dovid Fink

Posted on 11/01/18

After Yitzchak takes Rivka for a wife, we are informed that Avraham remarried.  (Chayei Sarah 25:1) The Pasuk states that his new wife’s name was “Ketura”.  Rashi tells us that Ketura was none other than Hagar, Sarah’s former maid servant and Avraham’s former wife/concubine who bore him Yishmael.  (Rashi 25:1)  This raises an interesting question.  Sarah had insisted that Avraham “drive away this maidservant”. (Vayeira 21:10) Indeed, as Avraham was reluctant to treat Hagar in such a manner, Hashem told him to “listen to Sarah your wife”. (21:12)  If Sarah correctly instructed Avraham to drive Hagar away, (with Hashem’s approval) why after Sarah dies would Avraham remarry her?


The question becomes even broader when we examine this Rashi in which it goes on to say “her name was Ketura because her deeds were as sweet as the fragrance of incense. (from the word “Ketores)” (Rashi 25:1) Which was it?  Was Hagar a bad influence, a woman who teased Sarah and claimed a superior status to which she was not entitled in Avraham’s home or a person whose “deeds were as sweet as the fragrance of Ketores”?  Moreover was Hagar appropriately “driven out” of Avraham’s home or more appropriately brought back in after Sarah’s death? 


The friction between Sarah and Hagar requires an explanation.  Remember, it was Sarah who suggested that Avraham take Hagar as a wife since Sarah was unable to give Avraham a child.  (Lech Licha 16:2)  Immediately after Hagar conceives, Sarah seems to regret this decision. (16:5) There are a variety of explanations for Sarah’s actions and seeming changes of heart.  Some say that Hagar taunted Sarah regarding her inability to have a child.  Others say that Sarah later observed Yishmael engaged in conduct for which she feared for Yitzchak’s safety.  Regardless, it was Sarah who was driving Hagar away.  And Avraham acquiesced, with Hashem’s blessing.


If Hagar had to go because of Yishmael’s bad influence than we would expect Avraham to have remarried Hagar after they had grown.  Instead, it is clear that Avraham did not remarry her until after Sarah had died.  Is it possible that Sarah was somehow, on some level, jealous of Hagar when she was able to become pregnant shortly after marrying Avraham?  The P’sukim’s simple reading certainly implies that to be the case.  And Avraham was nevertheless encouraged by Hashem to “listen to the words of Sarah” and drive her away. 


Perhaps, its not that complicated a lesson at all.  Hagar’s presence began to bother Sarah.  Maybe there was a good reason and maybe there was not, but bother her it did.  And that was enough.  Once Yishmael and Yitzchak had grown and Sarah had died, there was no longer any reason not to be married to Hagar.  So Avraham remarried her.  Nevertheless, the lesson is the same.  Regardless of the why, something bothering someone else is a good enough reason to change it – especially if the someone is your spouse.  We learn many things from Avraham and Sarah.  Maybe we should add this simple one to the list.