We All Make Mistakes

In Parshat Lech Lecha, we read the story of how Sarah who was unable to conceive gave her handmaid, Hagar, to Avraham to serve as a kind of surrogate mother.


In Breisheet 16:2-3 we read: Sarai said to Avram: “Behold now, God has restrained me from bearing; go in, I pray thee unto my handmaid; it may be that I shall be builded up through her”. Avram listened to Sarai. And Sarai Avram’s wife took Hagar the Egyptian, her handmaid, after Avram had dwelt ten years in the Land of C’naan and gave her to Avram her husband to be his wife.


Once Hagar became pregnant she began to act as if she was better than Sarah.


We see this in Breisheet 16:4: And when Hagar saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.


We then read about how Sarah treated Hagar badly, causing her to flee in Breisheet 16:5: And when Sarai dealt harshly with her (vateaneha Sarai), she fled from her face.


What were the inuyim (afflictions)? In Breisheet Raba 45:6 we see that there is a difference of opinion as to what these inuyim were. According to Rab Aba Bar Cahana, “vateaneha” means that Sara did not allow Hagar to have marital relations with Avraham (the same way that on Yom Kippur one of the “inuyim” is that marital relations are forbidden). According to Rabbi Barchaya, Sara hit Hagar in the face with a shoe (another one of the “inuyim” on Yom Kippur is that we are not allowed to wear leather shoes).


How can it be that Sarah, our mother, would be so mean to Hagar?


You could say that Hagar was at fault since she started acting like she was better than Sarah when she was able to conceive and Sarah was not. However, the way that Sarah went about punishing her was over the top.


Nechama Leibowitz points out that Sarah may have bitten off more than she could chew when she gave Hagar to Avraham and may have gotten in over her head. Sarah could handle swallowing her pride as she gave Hagar to Avraham as a “surrogate mother”. However, once Hagar started looking down at her, Sarah reached her boiling point.


One lesson that we learn is that Sarah is a role model for us in many ways, yet nobody is perfect, all humans have flaws.


Avraham also had flaws which we see clearly in the Torah such as when he left the Land of Israel during the famine instead of trusting that God would provide for him as well as when he told Sarah to say that she is his sister instead of his wife.


When we see that the Torah is able to show the strengths and weaknesses of the Avot (forefathers) and Imahot (foremothers) they serve as even better role models as we are all human, we all make mistakes and we all have the power to do Tshuva (repent).