HAGAR/HAJJAR - Another Perspective

Judith M., a member of Passover Village who corresponds with us from Israel, sends this teaching about Hagar (Hajjar in Arabic) from an interfaith study group in Israel/Palestine that includes West Bank residents, Moslems and Jews:
Our discussion centered on Hagar/Hajjar who is a central figure in the Moslem tradition which stresses her faith and dedication. In the Jewish tradition she is a minor figure around whom the Torah weaves a story of family tensions and challenges with G~d, faithful to Abraham and his entire family, by providing for all. The Islamic tradition stresses very clearly the dedication and faith of Hagar and Jewish tradition.

F. and A. spoke of Hajjar as a shining example of faith accepting her test of being cast alone with Ishmael into the desert at the will of G~d. Her time in the desert, her persistent search for water for Ishamel and the miracle which they experienced are the basis of an important part of the Hajj ritual at Mecca the very place where Hagar and Ishmael dwelled.

We heard about the visits that Abraham made to the region to visit his family and his involvement in making sure that Ishmael married a worthy woman from a good family around. This marks the beginning of the development of Mecca.

H.K. delivered a commentary on the Biblical story of Hagar highlighting the interpersonal relationships and feelings in the home of Abraham: Sarah, offering Hagar to Abraham to bear the promised son leaving Hagar, the biological mother, without any matriarchal standing. This is the suffering that Hagar was told to bear when she fled pregnant. The birth of Isaac then created a new source of tension which led to Hagar and Ishmael's dismissal to the desert. As G~d provided water for Ishmael, Hagar's worthiness is stressed by the revelation she received. The midrash points out that this is the only time G~d spoke to a woman.

Although the Hagar and Abraham's first born son are sent to the desert (with a Divine promise for the future) both the Bible and the Midrash keep these characters in mind. The midrash identifies Keturah, Abraham's second wife, with Hagar and the Bible recounts how Ishmael returns to bury his father with Isaac.
 These teachings parallel those that have surfaced in the Passover Village study group this year, and that form part of our Kavanah for this year's seder.

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