By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
November 2, 2002
Avraham’s final acts are focused on Yitzchak. He attends to
his son’s marriage, and prepares to bequeath him his material, territorial
and, most importantly, his spiritual legacy.
Avraham marries again:
And Avraham proceeded (VA’YOSEF) and he took (VA’YIKACH) a wife,
and her name was Keturah. And she bore him Zimran and Yokshan and Medan and
Midian and Yishbak and Shuach. And Yokshan begot Sheva and Dedan; and the
children of Dedan were Ashurim and Letushim and Leumim. And the children of
Midian: Eifah and Eifer and Chanoch and Avida and Elda’ah; all these are the
children of Keturah. And Avraham gave all that was his to Yitzchak. But to the
children of the concubines (V’LIVNEI HA’PILAGSHM) who were Avraham’s did Avraham
give gifts, and he sent them away from Yitzchak his son while he was still
alive, eastward to the land of the East (Bereishit 25:1-6).
R. Avraham ben HaRambam (1186-1237) notes that Avraham fathered all these
children when he was well over 140! This demonstrates the greatness of Hashem’s
miracle in granting Avraham the ability to father children after he exclaimed,
“Will there be born [a child] to one a
Avraham sends away his other children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,
eastward, the direction of his birthplace. From there they become successful
traders in spices, gold and precious stones (see Yeshaya 60:6; Yechezkel 27:15,
The most straightforward way of understanding this closing chapter of Avraham’s
life is that Keturah is his third wife. Rashbam, Ibn-Ezra, Radak and Ramban
state that this is the case.
However, the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 61:4) records a view that Keturah is the
same person as Hagar:
R. Yehudah said, “This is Hagar”. Said R. Nechemiah to him, “But
it says And he continued” [suggesting an additional wife]! Said he to him,
“[VA’YOSEF means] by Divine inspiration he married her, as it says, (VA’YOSEF)
and Hashem continued to speak to me further” (Yeshaya 8:8).
Said he to him, “But it says, and her name was Keturah!”
Said he to him, “[This was not her name, but a description,]
that she was enveloped (M’KUTERET) by commandments and good deeds.”
Said he to him, “But it says, But to the children of the concubines [in the
plural] who were Avraham’s!” Said he to him, “It is written PILAGSHM” [without
the final letter YUD, suggesting that the plural form should not be taken at
Rav Yehudah argues tenaciously that Hagar, newly named, returned
to Avraham after the death of Sarah.
Why does Rashi accept that Keturah is Hagar is the correct interpretation,
despite all of R. Nechemiah’s objections?
Gur Aryeh (commentary on Rashi by R. Yehudah Loew ben Betzalel, the Maharal of
Prague, c. 1525-1609) notes that Keturah’s name is introduced without background
neither mentioning her father’s name nor her nation. Why would the Patriarch
take such a wife, especially after all the conditions he set for Yitzchak’s
wife, unless she is already known to us?
R. Ovadia of Bartinura (c. 1450-c. 1515), in his commentary on Rashi, and Keli
Yakar (R. Ephraim Shlomo of Luntshitz, 1550-1619) both say that VA’YOSEF . . .
VA’YIKACH must mean that Avraham took Hagar again, rather than that he married
another. This may be because the verb L’HOSIF (add, continue, repeat) is usually
followed by an infinitive. On the rare occasion that it is followed by a verb in
its regular form, it connotes a resumption of an activity after interruption,
such as in Shmuel I 19:21, Iyov 36:1, Daniel 10:18, Esther 8:3 and Divrei
HaYamim I 14:13. However, such a verb construction is never used in the context
of marriage, so here it suggests re-marriage.
Commentaries struggle with R. Yehudah’s assertion that PILAGSHM, although
plural, refers to Hagar alone. This is not the place to discuss the apparent
difference between the Midrash’s spelling and that which is found in all known
scrolls. However, we might suggest that this expression can be understood as a
description of status, similar to:
• BEN ZEKUNIM "child of old age" (Bereishit 37:3)
• BEN CHORIM "free man" (Kohelet 10:17)
• BEN CHACHAMIM "wise man" (Yeshaya 19:11).
Similarly, BNAI HAPILAGSHM means "the children of concubinage."
What is the status of Keturah/Hagar and their/her children?
In Divrei HaYamim (I 1:28-33), Yitzchak and Yishmael are called Avraham’s
children, while the others are called the children of Keturah, Avraham’s
concubine. Ramban says that, since Yitzchak was
singled out for exclusive inheritance
for through Yitzchak wiil offspring be considered yours (Bereishit
all other children are called "children of the concubines" in comparison, even
though Avraham married (VA’YIKACH) Keturah. Radak (R. David Kimchi, c. 1160-c.
1235) says that Avraham married Keturah, as he had married Hagar earlier, as a
full-fledged wife. The children of the concubines mentioned here refers to other
unnamed children from other unnamed women Avraham took as concubines.
The doubtful status of the BNAI HAPILAGSHM only underscores the
certainty of the status of Yitzchak.
A righteous man shall flourish like a palm-tree, like a cedar in Lebanon shall
he grow. Those that are planted in the house of Hashem, in the courtyards of our
G-d shall they flower. They shall still be fruitful in old age, vigorous and
flourishing shall they be, to show that Hashem is upright . . . (Tehillim
The Midrash applies these verses to Avraham:
Planted in the house of Hashem This is Avraham, whom the Holy
One blessed be He planted in the land of Israel. In the courtyards of our G-d
shall they flower This is Yishmael. They shall still be fruitful in old age
this is Yitzchak. Vigorous and flourishing shall they be These are
children of Keturah (Yalkut Tehillim 845).
Malbim (R. Meir Leib ben Yechiel Michael, 1809-1877) explains: A tree produces
fruit, but it also produces branches, flowers and leaves which aid the fruit’s
development. Similarly, Avraham produced Yitzchak, his crowning achievement, but
Yishmael and the children of Keturah also assist in furthering Hashem’s goal of
making the earth His kingdom.
Torah K'Torat Eretz Yisrael!"
In this week's portion, the Torah relates in extensive detail the purchase
by Abraham of the Mearat HaMachpela. Similarly, the Torah (Bereishit
33:19) details the acquisition by Jacob of a plot of land in Shechem -
which according to tradition was the burial place of Joseph - even
recording the purchase price of one hundred kesita. And in Divrei HaYamim-I
(21:22-26) there is a lengthy account of the purchase of the Temple Mount
by King David and his insistence on making full payment.
Midrash Rabbah (sec. 79) remarks that these three places - the Cave of the
Patriarchs, the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem, and the Temple Mount - whose
deeds of purchase are recorded in the Bible are safe from the gentile
accusation that "this is stolen land in your hands." This remark seems odd
in light of the events of our time. For it is precisely these three sites
that are at the heart of the current conflict, the Arabs claiming each of
these places as their own!
It may be suggested, perhaps, that the Midrash is addressing Klal Yisrael,
asking us to be aware that the Torah goes out of its way in each instance
to emphasize that our ancestors acquired each of these important places
through an elaborate public purchase. WE need to know that this is our
Land - our ancestors purchased it. We need not apologize to anyone. The
Torah tells us that we are rightfully returning to our ancestral home.
Rabbi Meyer Fendel