Parshat Vayera

The Expulsion of Yishmael

In this week’s parsha, Parashat Vayera, Sarah Imenu insisted that Avraham send away his first-born son, Yishmael. Sarah saw the son of Hagar “מצחק” and said to Avraham “לא יירש בן אמה הזאת” – that Yishmael should not be Avraham’s יורש.
Sarah’s behavior toward Hagar and Yishmael seems unjust, even extreme. Even more puzzling was that Hashem agreed with what seems to be a cruel and harsh punishment not proportionate to the crime. What could be so wrong about Yishmael “מצחק”? What were the negative qualities that Sarah saw in Yishmael, an observation that escapes Avraham?
The Siftei Chachamim writes that Sarah’s Ruach HaKodesh was unparalleled. She had a keen understanding in the realm of spirituality. Her Ruach HaKodesh was even superior to that of her husband’s. Perhaps then, inferring from this idea of the Siftei Chachamim, Sarah intuited that the nation of Yishmael as a whole would inevitably cause great pain to the descendants of her son, Yitzchak. As Hashem said to Avraham that “ביצחק יקרא לך זרע”, from Yitzchak will come the nation for which Avraham is known. In essence, Yitzchak was the son deserving of “פי שנים” – the double portion given to the firstborn son. For this reason, for the sake of the safety of her son’s descendants, Sarah wished to distance Yishmael and his influences from her Yitzchak.

Additionally, the Malbim claims that during the celebration of Yitzchak’s Brit Mila, as described in the previous pasuk, Yishmael was מצחק, mocking Yitzchak. The Malbim brings the Midrash about the prevalent rumors that spread at the time about the nature of Yitzchak’s birth. People joked that Yitzchak was the son of Avimelech, not Avraham, among the jokers Hagar. Sarah realized then that Yishmael’s was a learned behavior, one he acquired from his mother, Hagar. That is why the pasuk describes Yishmael as בן אמה הזאת, the son of Hagar.

Rashi takes a different approach. He says that there are two possibilities as to Sarah’s observations. According to Rashi, Yishmael was guilty of the three cardinal sins – גילוי עריות, ,שפחות דמים and עבודה זרה. To top that, Yishmael was also fighting with Yitzchak over the ירושה.

Rashi’s second reasoning is more reflective of the pshat, as it clearly states that Sarah did not want Yishmael to receive the ירושה. However, where did Rashi, a מפרש that is most famous for being faithful to “פשוטו של מקרה”, get his first explanation?

The root of the word מצחק is laughter. When do people generally laugh? When something is abnormal, when something is “יוצא ממנהג העולם מההמיות”. When the way we perceive things changes, when something that seems so morally askew in our mind is placed before us, it is almost funny.

Hashem instituted norms in the general society, put in place in the seven מצות בני נח. By committing these three iniquities, Yishmael made a mockery of those societal norms. By committing the sin of גילוי עריות he destroyed the sanctity of the family unit, the structure of two committed parents and children. By committing the sin of שפחות דמים, he terminated an existence that Hashem created, where He is the one giving and taking away life. By committing the sin of עבודה זרה, he disregarded Hashem’s oneness, the reality that there is no G-dliness in the sun, in the tree, in the stars. He abolished his father Avraham’s entire mission in life, which was to spread monotheism around the world.

Sarah saw Yishmael’s behavior, she observed his lack of morals and his dismissiveness of all that is sacred and knew that for the sake of her son Yitzchak, for the sake of his ירושה – the Jewish people – she had to do whatever it took to eliminate Yishmael’s negative influence.

The modern-day Yishmael is the same. The Arabs who lust for Jewish blood is evident not only in their horrific acts but also in their celebration on the streets. They continually try to riddle our nation with טמאה and צערה.
Sarah protected Yitzchak, the forefather of our nation from Yishmael, and ensured the safety of Yitzchak’s ירושה, and the survival of the nation of Israel. Hopefully, in the זכות of our national אמא, her dedication and devotion, Am Yisrael, the descendants of Yitzchak, will be protected by Hashem from all those who mean to harm us.

Student studying in MMY