Did Yishmael Do Tshuva (Repent)?

Avraham passes away near the end of Parshat Chayei Sarah at the age of 175.


In Breisheet 25:8-9 we read: “Avraham expired and died in a good old age (seiva tova), old and satisfied, and he was gathered to his people. His sons, Yitzchak and Yishmael buried him in the Machpela cave, in the field of Ephron, son of Tzochar the Chitite, which faces Mamrei”.


Rashi states that the fact that Yitzchak’s name is mentioned before Yishmael teaches us that Yishmael did Tshuva (repented) and allowed Yitzchak to go ahead of him. This is the reference to “seiva tova”, the “good old age” which is mentioned concerning Avraham.


Ramban says that when Yishmael passes away, there is a scriptural account of Yishmael’s years since he was righteous, a man of repentance and therefore scripture tells of him as it does with all righteous people.


What did Yishmael do that was so bad?


In Breisheet 21:9 it says: “Sarah saw that the son of Hagar, the Egyptian that she had born to Avraham was mocking (mitzachek).”


Eben Ezra says that Yishmael was just playing around like all of the young boys. Sarah was jealous since Yishmael was older than Yitzchak who could not yet play around.


There are harsher opinions which Rashi brings that Yishmael was involved in idolatry, illicit relations or murder but none of these are in the text.


According to Radak, Yismael was making fun of Yitzchak since his parents were elderly when he was born.


Sarah’s reaction to Yishmael being “mitzachek” was (Breisheet 21:9) “Drive out this slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not inherit with my son, with Yitzchak.”


Sarah wanted to make sure that Yishmael knew that he wasn’t going to be the inheritor along with Yitzchak.


At Avraham’s funeral, we see that Yishmael understood his place by letting Yitzchak walk first. God’s covenant was not only with Avraham. The covenant was with Avraham and Sarah together and therefore their child, Yitzchak to be the primary inheritor.


Chizkuni points out that although Yishmael was older, he recognized that he was the son of the maidservant while Yitzchak was the son of Avraham’s first wife.


The fact that Yishmael was able to step back and acknowledge that it is Yitzchak’s place to walk before him shows that he was a good person. Should we expect any less? After all, Yishmael was Avraham’s son!