Midrash Meets the Story of Sarah

Bereishit Rabbah 39

“And the souls that they had made in Haran.” Said Rabbi Elazar ben Zimra: Even if every creature on earth conspired to create (out of nothing) even one mosquito, they could not give it a soul--and you say “the souls that they had made.” Therefore (they must be) they must be those who lived with them and converted. And it meant “converted” why did it say “made?” In order to teach you that each one who brings an idol worshipper and converts him, it is as though he created him. And why did it say that “they made” rather than “that he made?” Said Rav Huna: Abraham would convert the men, and Sarah would convert the women.

Bereishit Rabbah 45

...2. "And Sarai said to Abram, “Look, the Lord has kept me from bearing” (Gen.16:2) as follows: “Said she, I know the source of my affliction: It is not as people say (of a barren woman), “she needs a talisman, she needs a charm”, but Look, the Lord has kept me from bearing.”" , ...Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai said “Hagar was Pharaoh's daughter. When he saw the deeds on behalf of Sarah in his house, he took his daughter and gave her to him, saying, “better that my daughter by a maidservant in this house than a mistress in another house.” This is what is written: “She had an Egyptian handmaid whose name was Hagar.”” (In other words:) ha agrikh: “This is your reward.”And he went into Hagar and she conceived (Gen. 16:4). Rabbi Levi bar Hayta said: “She became pregnant at the first intimacy.” Said Rabbi Eleazar: “A woman never conceives by the first intimacy.” An objection is raised: surely it is written, So both of Lot's daughters got pregnant by their father (Gen. 19:36)? Said R. Tanhuma: “By an effort of will power they brought forth their virginity, and conceived at the second “act of intercourse”. The first act is what they did to themselves.” Said Rabbi Chanina ben Pazi: “Thorns are neither weeded nor sown, but they grow and spring up on their own. But how much suffering and effort for wheat to grow! Why were the matriarchs barren?” Rabbi Levi said in Rabbi Shila’s name and Rabbi Chelbo in R. Yochanan’s name: “Because the Holy One of Blessing yearns for their prayers and supplications, as it is written “O my dove, you on the clefts of the rock let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice”” Song of Songs 2:14: Why did I make you barren? In order to “see your face... hear your voice”. Rabbi Azariah said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan bar Papa: “So that their husbands might cling to them in their beauty.” Rabbi Huna in the name of Rabbi Hiya bar Abba said: “So that they might pass the greater part of their life without hard work.” Rabbi Huna and R. Avun in the name of Rabbi Meir: “So that their husbands might derive pleasure from them, for when a woman is with child she is disfigured and does not care for her appearance.” The ninety years that Sarah did not bear she was like a bride in her canopy. Ladies would come to ask how she was, and she would say to them, “Go and ask about the welfare of this wretched woman (Hagar)!” Hagar would tell them: “My mistress Sarai is not inside what she is outside: she appears to be righteous but she is not righteous, had she been a righteous woman, see how many years have passed without her conceiving, whereas I conceived in one night!” Said Sarah: “Am I going to argue with this woman?! I should argue with her master!...”'And Avram said to Sarai: “do it her what is good in your eyes!” (Gen. 19:6) He said to her: “what do I care about her well being or her harm? (But) It is written: “You will not deal with her as a slave since you humbled her” (Deuteronomy 21:14), and this one, after we made her suffer, we will enslave her? I don't care about her well being or her harm. (But) It is written “he shall not have the right to sell her to foreigners, since he broke faith with her” (Exodus 21:8) and this one, after we made her a master we will make her a slave? I don't care about her well being or her harm.” Then Sarai treated her harshly, and she ran away from her. Rabbi Aba bar Kahana said: “she forbade her from having sexual relations.” Rabbi Berachia said: “she slapped her face with a slipper.” Rabbi Berachia in the name of Rabbi Aba Bar Kahana said: “She made her carry water buckets and bath towels to the baths.” And she called the name of Ad-nai who talked to her “You are El-Roi” (Gen. 16:13) Rabbi Yehuda bar Simon and Rabbi Yochanan said, in the name of Rabbi Eleazar Bar Shimeon: “The Holy One of Blessing did not grant speaking with women, with the exception of that righteous one (Sarah), and even that had a particular reason.” Rabbi Aba said, in the name of Rabbi Beiri: “How many roundabouts He did in order to talk to her!” He said: 'no, you did laugh!' (Gen. 18:16) But it is written: “and she called the name of Ad-nai” who talked to her '“You are El-Roi”''! Rabbi Yehoshua Bar Nechemiah said: “it was through an angel.” But it is written: “And God said to her”(Gen. 25:23)! Said Rabbi Levi, in the name of Rabbi Eleazar, in the name of Rabbi Yosi ben Zimra: “it was through a name.” '“You are El Roi”' - said Rabbi Aivu: “You are the one who sees the sufferings of the persecuted.” 'Since she said: also, here (halom)], “I have seen after the One Who sees me.” She said: Not only I was granted a talk, but even royalty, as it is written: “You that brought me this far” (halom) (II Sam. 7:18). “Not only I was granted to see with my mistress, but even if my mistress were with me right now she would not have seen.” Another interpretation: “Not only I was granted to see with my mistress, but now even when I am alone!” Rabbi Shmuel Bar Nachman said: “this is similar to a lady to whom the king said “pass before me”.” She passed before him but was relying on her slave, and hiding her face, and she did not see the king - but the slave did.

Bereishit Rabbah 47:1

God said...,“Sarai your wife...” In Proverbs (12:4), it is written, “A woman of valor is a crown to her husband.” Rabbi Aha said, “Her husband was crowned through her, but she was not crowned through her husband.” Our rabbis taught that she ruled over her husband. In all places, the man gives orders, but here (Genesis 21:12), “In all that Sarah orders you, listen to her voice.” Said Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Korcha: The Yud that the Holy One of Blessing took from Sarai was given half to Sarah, and half to Avraham. Said Rabbi Shime'on Bar Yochai: The Yud that the Holy One of Blessing took from Sarai flew and posted itself in front of the Throne of the Holy One, and said: Master of the Universe! Because I am the smallest letter You took me out of the name of Sarai the Righteous!!” The Holy One said: “In the past you were in the name of a woman, and in the end of the name! Now I will put you in the name of a man, and on the beginning of the name, as it is written” “And Moshe called Hosea Bin Nun Yehoshua” (Numbers 13:16). Said Rabbi Mana: “Sarai was just (a princess) for herself, now she will be a princess for all the world.”

Bereishit Rabbah 53

AND SARAH SAID: “GOD HAS MADE JOY FOR ME; EVERY ONE THAT HEARS WILL REJOICE WITH ME” (Gen. 21:6). R. Berekiah, R. Judah b. R. Simon, and R. Hanan in the name of R. Samuel b. R. Isaac said: “If Reuben has cause to rejoice, what does it matter to Simeon? Similarly, if Sarah was remembered, what did it matter to others? But when the matriarch Sarah was remembered (gave birth), many other barren women were remembered with her; many deaf gained their hearing; many blind had their eyes opened, many insane became sane. For “making” (HAS MADE) is mentioned here, and also elsewhere, viz. And he made a release to the provinces (Est. II, 18). As the making mentioned there means that a gift was granted to the world,l so the making mentioned here means that a gift was granted to the world.” R. Levi said: She increased the light of the luminaries: “making” is mentioned here, viz. GOD HAS MADE FOR ME, while elsewhere it says, And God made the two lights (Gen. I, 16).“AND SARAH SAW THE SON OF HAGAR THE EGYPTIAN” etc - Rabbi Shimeon bar Yohai said: “Rabbi Akiva used to interpret this to his (Ishmael’s) shame,” Rabbi Akiba lectured: “AND SARAH SAW (THE SON OF HAGAR THE EGYPTIAN, WHOM SHE HAD BORNE TO AVRAHAM, MAKING SPORT.)” Now “making sport” refers to nothing else but sexual immorality, as in the verse, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought to us, came in to make sport of me.” (Gen. 39:17). This teaches that Sarah saw Ishmael ravish maidens, seduced married women and dishonored them. R. Ishmael taught: This term “making sport” refers to idolatry, as in the verse, “And the people sat to eat and drink and got up to make sport” (Exodus 32:6). This teaches that Sarah saw Ishmael build altars, catch locusts, and sacrifice them. R. Eleazar said: “The term “making sport” refers to bloodshed, as in the verse, “Let the young men, please, arise and make sport before us” (II Sam. 2:14)” Rabbi Azariah said in Rabbi Levi’s name: Ishmael said to Isaac: “Let us go and see our pieces in the field” and he would pick up the bow and shoot arrows, aiming in Itzchak's direction, while pretending to be playing (making sport), as it is written: “as a madman who casts fire-brands, arrows, and death; so is the man that deceives his neighbor”, and said: “I am just joking (making sport)”. And I (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai) say that this is to be interpreted to the praise (of Ishmael). This expression of making sport is only used as “inheritance”. In the moment that Itzchak our father was born all were happy. Ishmael said to them: “are you dumb? I am the first-born, I am going to receive double portion” (of the inheritance), that from the answer of Sarah our mother to Avraham “because the son of this maidservant will not inherit with my son, with Itzchak” you learn that he would not inherit “with my son” - even if he wasn't Itzchak - and “with Itzchak” - even if he wasn't my son. All the more so (this is true) “with my son, with Itzchak”.

Bereishit Rabbah 58

...“The sun rises and goes down”" (Ecclesiastics 1:5). Rabbi Aba bar Kahana said: “Don't we know that the sun rises and goes down? Rather (this is what it means): When the Holy One of Blessing causes the sun of a righteous person to set, he causes the sun of his fellow to shine forth. The day that Rabbi Akiba died, our rabbi (Judah the Prince) was born and it was written about him “The sun rises and the sun goes down.” On the day that our rabbi died Rabbi Ada Bar Ahava was born and it was written about him “The sun rises and the sun goes down.” On the day that Rabbi Ada Bar Ahava died, Rabbi Avin was born and it was written about him “The sun rises and the sun goes down.” On the day that Rabbi Avin died, his son Rabbi Avin was born. The day that Rabbi Avin died, Aba Hoshaya from Traya was born. The day that Aba Hoshaya died Rabbi Hoshaya was born and it was written about him “The sun rises and the sun goes down.” Before the sun of Moses set the sun of Joshua shone forth as it is written, “God said to Moses, take Joshua Son of Nun” (Numbers 27:18). Before the sun of Joshua set the sun of Itaniel son of Kenaz shone forth as it is said, “Itaniel son of Kenaz took it” (Judges 1:13). Before the sun of Eli the priest set, the sun of Samuel shone forth, “the lamp of God had not yet gone out and Samuel lay on the sanctuary of God” (1 Sam 3:3). Rabbi Yochanan said, “like a perfect calf.” Before the God causes the sun of Sarah to set, he causes the sun of Rebecca to shine forth. For first it says “Behold Malkah also bore children” (Gen 22:20) and after “and the life Sarah was one hundred years...””Rabbi Akiva was once sitting and lecturing, and the community (his students) was falling asleep. To arouse them, he said: “How could Esther rule over one hundred and twenty seven provinces? It should be that Esther, a descendant of Sarah who lived to one hundred and twenty seven, to rule over one hundred and twenty seven provinces.”And Avraham came to eulogize Sarah-From where did he come? Rabbi levi said: “He came to Sarah from the burial of Terach.” Rabbi Yossi said to him: “And did not the burial of Terach precede the burial of Sarah by two years?! Rather, from where did he come? From Mount Moriah.”

Bereishit Rabbah 60

“And Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah, his mother-” All the days that Sarah was alive, a cloud was connected (lit. tied) to the entrance of her tent. When she died, the cloud stopped (resting at her tent.) And when Rebecca came, the cloud returned. All the days that Sarah was alive, the doors were open wide. When she died, the wideness stopped. And when Rebecca came, the wideness returned. And all the days that Sarah was alive, there was a blessing in her dough, and when Sarah died, that blessing ended. When Rebecca came, (the blessing) returned. All the days that Sarah was alive, there was a candle that would burn from Sabbath Eve to (the next) Sabbath Eve, and when she died, the candle stopped (burning for so long). And when Rebecca came, (the week-long flame of the candle) returned. And as soon as (Isaac) saw her, that she did the deeds of his mother, separating her challah in purity and separating her dough in purity, he brought her into the tent. Rabbi Yudan said, “The Torah teaches you, that if a man has grown-up sons, he should marry them off first and then he should marry. Who do you learn (this teaching) from? From Abraham: first, “And Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother,” and afterwards, “And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah”.”

Ein Yaakov Glick Edition Rosh Hashanah 1:10

R. Isaac said: “A year which is poor (Israel appears humble) in the beginning, will be rich in the end (Israel's request will be granted). What is the reason for it? For it is written (Deut. 11, 12) From the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year; i.e., there are two parts in a year, the beginning and the end."” (Ib. b) K. Isaac said again: “A man is judged only according to his deeds at the time of sentence; as it is said (Gen. 21, 17) God heard the voice of the lad, as he then was.” Another thing R. Isaac said: “Three things cause a man's record of sins to be recalled. Three occasions cause the sins of man to be brought to mind : a threatening wall, calculating during prayer, and one who appeals to the Lord for judgment on his neighbor; for R. Chanin said: “Whoever appeals to the Lord for judgment on his neighbor is first punished; as we find in the case of Sarah, who said (Gen. 16, 5) I suffer wrong through thee, may the Lord judge between me and thee. And shortly after this we read (Ib. 23, 2) And “Abraham came to mourn Sarah and to weep for her.””” Another thing said R. Isaac: “Four things cause an evil decree which is passed on man to be torn (annulled). They are charity, prayer, change of name and change of conduct: Charity, as it is written (Prov. 10, 2) “Charity delivereth from death”; prayer, as it is Written (Ps. 97, 19) “They cry unto the Lord when they are in distress, and He saveth them out of their afflictions”; change of name, as it is written (Gen. 17, 15) “As for Sarai, thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be”: and the text continues saying: “Then will I bless her, and give thee a son” also, because of her change of conduct; as it is written (Jonah 3, 10) “And God saw their works that they had turned from their evil ways”; and immediately following: “And God bethought Himself of the evil He had said He would do unto them, and He did it not.”” Some add also the change of location ; as it is said (Gen. 12, 1-2) “And God said to Abraham, get thee out from thy land” (and afterwards) “I will make of thee a great nation”. But the former authority claims that the latter one was on account of the merits of the land of Israel.

Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 29:5

Rabban Gamaliel, the son of Rabbi Jehudah the Prince, said: “When our father Abraham was circumcised, on the third day he was very sore, in order to test him. What did the Holy One, blessed be He, do? He pierced one hole in the midst of Gehinnom, and He made the day hot, like the day of the wicked. He went forth, and sat down at the entrance of the tent in the cool of the day, as it is said, “And he sat at the tent door (in the heat of the day)” (Gen. 18:1). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the ministering angels: “Come ye, let us descend and visit the sick, for the virtue of visiting the sick is great before Me.” The Holy One, blessed be He, and the angels descended to visit our father Abraham, as it is said, “And the Lord appeared unto him” (ibid.). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the ministering angels: “Come ye and see ye the power of circumcision. Before Abraham was circumcised he fell on his face (before Me), and afterwards I spake with him, as it is said, “And Abraham fell upon his face” (Gen. 17:17). Now that he is circumcised he sits and I stand.” Whence do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, was standing? Because it is said, “And he looked, and, lo, three men stood over against him” (Gen. 18:2).”

Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 30:3

Rabbi Jehudah said: “In that night the Holy One, blessed be He, was revealed unto him. He said to him: “Abraham! Dost thou not know that Sarah was appointed to thee for a wife from her mother's womb? She is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant; Sarah is not called thy handmaid, but thy wife; neither is Hagar called thy wife, but thy handmaid; and all that Sarah has spoken she has uttered truthfully. Let it not be grievous in thine eyes, as it is said, “And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight”” (Gen. 21:12).”

Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 32:3

How do we know (this with reference to) Isaac? Because it is said, “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac” (Gen. 17:19). Why was his name called Isaac? Because Yad (the first Hebrew letter of Isaac indicates) the ten trials wherewith our father Abraham was tried; and he withstood them all. Zaddi (the second letter indicates) the ninety (years), for his mother was ninety years (at the birth of Isaac), as it is said, “And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?” (Gen. 17:17). Cheth (the third letter points to) the eighth (day), for he was circumcised on the eighth day, as it is said, “And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac, being eight days old” (Gen. 21:4). Ḳuf (the fourth letter of the name marks) the hundred (years), for his father was an hundred years old (at Isaac's birth), as it is said, “And Abraham was an hundred years old” (Gen. 21:5).