The Second Wives Club: Chayei Sara 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What kinds of activities have you engaged in later in life than you once predicted? Was this a welcome surprise, or an unwelcome development?

The final recorded actions of Abraham’s life involve a second wife and several new children:

The Pitch: “[Keturah] bore [Abraham] Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.” – Genesis 25:2

Swing #1: “[Keturah] reflects badly on [Abraham’s] relationship with the legendary matriarch Sarah. The same man who did not believe God’s promise about the birth of a son at age 99 was able to marry Keturah, get her pregnant with one child after another, shower and them with gifts and send them on their way — without feuding or banishment, without pain or threat of death in the hot, parched desert. He had learned his lesson and was an outstanding husband and father — the very opposite of his life with Sarah.” – Avraham Burg, Very Near to You: Human Readings of the Torah

Swing #2: “One must hear the crucial silence in this passage, whose very banality carries a message. … The names of Keturah and her offspring carry echoes of later geographic names. In etiological terms, the passage expresses the later Israelites’ sense that they are related, but somewhat distantly, to tribes in South Arabia.” – Jack Miles, God: A Biography

Swing #3: “Rav said, ‘This [Keturah] is Hagar.” – Bereshit Rabbah

Late-Inning Questions: Does Abraham’s new life chapter inspire the admiration of our commentators? Or do they react more with skepticism or even scorn? Does Abraham deserve a new chapter in his life? Does it matter whether he does or not?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: Thanks again to Matt Stewart of Jewish Family Services of Western New York for speaking last Shabbat regarding the imminent arrival of hundreds of Afghan refugees. Our next Drive-Up event, which will take place Sunday, November 21st, from 10:30 am-12 noon, will solicit items to help our new neighbors.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of new chapters, the postseason often shines a spotlight on redemption stories. Perhaps the story of Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek is one of the most inspiring; he went five years between Major League appearances, soldiered through independent leagues and side jobs, and now is one of the most clutch relievers in the game.

Shabbat Shalom!