Chayei Sarah: A Path to Follow

In Genesis/Breishit 24:11-27 Eliezer first encounters Rebekah at a well, and her betrothal to Isaac ensues. Many commentators note that Jacob (Genesis/Breishit 29:4-20) and Moses (Shemot/Exodus 2:15-21) also meet their brides at a well. Robert Alter discusses this “type-scene” briefly in his Five Books of Moses* and extensively in The Art of Biblical Narrative.*
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Lekh Lekha: A Path to Follow

The Torah does not provide a lot of background for Abraham and Sarah. Before following the couple when they “go forth,” however, it can be instructive to consider what is available in the text and midrash regarding their extended family and their ancestors. Here’s a family tree with links to Wiki entries for many family members. Some are extensive and well-sourced; a few, including the page for Terah, are not.
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Lekh Lekha: Great Source(s)

Text of Terror

In her book, Texts of Terror,* Phyllis Trible compares the story of Hagar in flight from Sarah (Genesis/Breishit chapter 16) and the later incident — in next week’s portion, Va-yera — of her expulsion, with Ishmael, from Abraham’s household (21:9-21). Trible’s close reading of the text contrasts the first episode’s voluntary flight and hospitable wilderness (where there is water, for instance), with the second’s exile and inhospitable wilderness (leaving mother and child with no water). She also describes how Hagar — “belonging to a narrative that rejects her” — recedes from the tale: the recipient of blessing and revelation, in the first episode, Hagar is un-heard while God responds to Ishmael’s tears in the second.
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Lekh Lekha: Language and Translation

The Stranger’s Strange Words: a theology

Chapter 16 of Breishit/Genesis introduces the character of Hagar — as in stranger [ger] — who serves as Sarah’s maid and bears Ishmael to Abraham. In one of two episodes in which we find Hagar (and Ishmael) out in the wilderness, she meets an angel/messenger of God [malach yud-hey-vav-hey]. Translators note difficulty working out Hagar’s words after she sees God (and/or was seen by God) — ra-iti acharei ro-i — or, perhaps, as one translator has it, after she sees the back of God.
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Noach: Language and Translation

And all the earth was one language, one set of words. And it happened as they journeyed from the east that they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to each other, ‘Come let us bake bricks [havah nilb’nah l’veinim] and burn them hard [v’nis’r’fah lis’reifah].’ And the brick served them as stone, and bitumen served them as mortar. Continue Reading

Noach: Great Source(s)

‘…I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will remember my Covenant between Me and you and every living creature among all flesh, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh….’ Continue Reading