Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dotted Letters Example #1: Be-reyshit/Genesis 16:5, Parashat Lekh Lekha


Be-reyshit/Genesis 16:5, Parshat Lekh Lekha has a letter Yud which is naqud, dotted above, in the word "u-veynekha". This word can be found in the following Chumashim: Plaut p.111, Cohen p.76, Hertz p.56, Sforno p.77, JPS p.22, Jerusalem p.15, Stone p. 70...

וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרַי אֶל-אַבְרָם, חֲמָסִי עָלֶיךָ--אָנֹכִי נָתַתִּי שִׁפְחָתִי בְּחֵיקֶךָ, וַתֵּרֶא כִּי הָרָתָה וָאֵקַל בְּעֵינֶיהָ; יִשְׁפֹּט יְהוָה, בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶיךָ.

And Sarai said to Av'ram: 'This outrage (Hamas) against me is your fault: I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was lowered in her eyes: may G@d judge between us.'

“Va-tomer Sarai el Av'ram chamasi alekha – anokhi natati shif'chati be-cheyqekha va-teyre ki ha-ratah va-eyqal be-eyne'ah; Y'shepot YHVH beyni u-veynekha.”

Sarah intends her words to remain a private conversation between her and her husband as words between them should be of no concern to others. (Avot deRebbe Natan 30b)

Names in Tanakh are really roles; the expression of that person's neshamah/soul.
Sarai/Sarah = female ruler/noblewoman; to struggle, to wrestle, to overcome.
Av'ram/Avraham = Big Daddy
Hagar = the stranger/outsider

Sarah used Hagar as a means to an end. According to the code of Hammurabi, the common law at that time and place, Hagar remained Sarah's property and any children Avraham had through Hagar would legally be considered Sarah's. So Sarah was within her rights to beat Hagar for belittling her, which Avraham supported in the narrative. However, any wife would expect her husband to defend their relationship against another woman intruding on their marriage, which is why Sarah blames her actions on Avraham. Had he protected Sarah's vulnerability from Hagar, she wouldn't have had to take matters into her own hands.

That Yud is dotted because of agency - it's a yad, hand! This is a power struggle. And not just a cat fight between rivals, but a revisitation of the balance of a long, lovingly established marriage which, like all marriages, has its challenges.

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