Midrash Sarah

Hannah Chung

Analyzing The Akeda in the feminist perspective as my class presentation, I became very aware of Sarah’s absence, or lack of presence, in the biblical story and in rabbinic literature.  As a story about Abraham and Isaac, it is even a wonder as to how it could be told without her perspective, her role as wife and mother being so important.  Also, Sarah’s omission from The Akeda is particularly a mystery and a true “gap” in the text, as she is present in preceding chapter Genesis 21 and in the immediate following verses of Genesis 23.  This Midrash is my attempt to give Sarah a voice and a place in the story.  However, it is important to note that I purposefully did not attempt to change the outcome of the story as a whole.

Midrash Sarah – Genesis XXII

1.  AND ABRAHAM PICKED UP THE KNIFE TO SLAY HIS SON (XXII, 10). It is written, “You shalt not murder” (Exodus XX, 13).  As soon as Sarah was informed by her servants that Abraham had left with Isaac, she set out to follow them.  She knew that Abraham had been distraught the past few days and her natural feminine instincts sensed that something was terribly wrong.  As she followed Abraham, maneuvering in a discrete manner so as not to be caught, she realized what he had set out to do. AND ABRAHAM PICKED UP THE KNIFE TO SLAY HIS SON. Just at that moment, Sarah cried out to stop the act. “Put the knife down! Stop this. Do you not see our son, our only son, before you?” And Abraham replied, “I cherish Isaac as much as thee Sarah, but I have been commanded by my Lord.”  Sarah answered “Why would our Lord command a deed so horrible? He surely does not want your hands bloodied so.  Please Abraham, put down the knife.” Abraham replied, “I must obey the Lord, Sarah. Please, let us have faith.” And Sarah cried out in agony, “God gave me Isaac as my joy, my laughter. Who are you to take that from me? Isaac is my son, my life. If you do this, I will die.” But Abraham was resolute: “Our son Isaac was given to us as a blessing from the Lord, through His utmost mercy, and now it is time for us to repay Him.  Many more blessings will come from our service of Him. Move aside Sarah.”  AND ABRAHAM PICKED UP THE KNIFE TO SLAY HIS SON (XXII, 10).

Midrash Sarah: Commentary

The co-text used here is Exodus 20, chapter to the 10 Commandments.  Exodus 20:13 “You shalt not murder” condemns the act of killing another human being.  Thus Sarah, in her efforts to prevent the sacrifice of Isaac, was simultaneously trying to protect Abraham from committing sin.  Sarah displays the virtues of mother and wife, as well as moral citizen, in her plea to Abraham.  However, while Sarah does have a voice in this Midrash, ultimately the original value concepts of Bitachon (trust in God) and Mitsva (being commanded; good deed) are upheld and weighed more heavily, as Abraham disregards her and continues with the act in progress.  Also, the assumption that Sarah died soon after the trip to Moriah holds.