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by Nissan Mindel

Talks and Tales


Library » History » Patriarchs, 12 Tribes | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Sarah, Rebeccah, Rachel and Leah, are the four Matriarchs (Mothers) who built up our Jewish nation. Sarah was the first Matriarch, and Abraham was the first Patriarch (Father) of our Jewish people.

The Torah gives us many more details about our Father Abraham than about our Mother Sarah. But from these details, together with the details we get from our Oral Torah (Talmud, Midrash, etc.), we are presented with a very clear picture of the great personality of Mother Sarah.

Sarah was the daughter of Haran, one of Abraham's two brothers. Her name, at first, was Sarai, but when the Almighty later changed Abraham's name from Abram to Abraham, He also changed Sarai's name to Sarah. Saran and Sarah both mean "Princess." She was regarded as one of the greatest princesses in the world (Brachot 13a).

Sarah also had another name - Yiskah ("Jessica") meaning "Seer," because she was a Prophetess and had the ability to see into the future. Another reason for the name "Seer" was that people used to gaze at her beauty (Meggilah 14a). Sarah was exceptionally beautiful, and all other women, by comparison with her, looked like monkeys (Baba Basra 58a) It is therefore no wonder that when Abraham and Sarah went to Egypt the Egyptians praised Sarah to King Pharaoh of Egypt and he wanted to take her and make her queen.

Sarah was exceptionally beautiful, and all other women, by comparison with her, looked like monkeys
As beautiful as Sarah was physically, she was even more beautiful in her nature. She was entirely free of sin, and she was exceptionally modest. Being well aware of the low morality of the Egyptians, and knowing that they would readily kill a man in order to take his wife, Abraham and Sarah decided to say that they were brother and sister.

(In this way, Abraham hoped his consent would be needed to give Sarah away in marriage, as was the custom in those days).

This was, actually, not far from the truth, since a grandchild is often regarded as one's child. Sarah was the grandchild of Terach, Abraham's father, and could therefore be regarded as his "Sister." Lot, whose father was also Sarah's father (Haran) and accompanied his uncle Abraham in all his travels, also kept this secret. Pharaoh was therefore justified in thinking that he could take Sarah to be his wife. But when Pharaoh and his entire household were immediately struck with most unusual wounds on their bodies, he at once realized that this was a punishment from heaven for his attitude towards Sarah. Indeed, he was told in a dream that Sarah was Abraham's wife. He then lost no time in asking for forgiveness from Sarah and Abraham, and sent them off with honor and with very many valuable gifts.

Pharaoh's daughter Hagar had become acquainted with Sarah when she was in her father's palace. Sarah had made such a great impression on Hagar, that she readily left her royal home to become a maidservant to Sarah. Sarah treated Hagar with respect and consideration. And when other princesses would come to visit Sarah, she would say to them: "Go and greet Hagar, the Egyptian princess, also. I don't want her to feel slighted or shamed."

Hagar, however, did not appreciate Sarah's kindness, and talked about her behind her back. She would say to the visiting princesses: "Don't think Sarah is such a saint. Why has G-d punished her so that in all the years she has not given birth to even one child?"

Sarah was exceedingly grieved that she had been unable to become a mother, She decided to make a supreme sacrifice and offer Hagar to Abraham to be his second wife, to give him a child.


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Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
(Plural form of "bracha.") Blessings. A Jew is required to recite a bracha before gaining any sort of benefit or pleasure such as eating or drinking (and usually afterwards as well); or before fulfilling a Mitzvah (commandment).
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
The day beforehand. For example, "Erev Pesach" means the day before Passover.
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
First Jewess, first of the four Jewish Matriarchs, wife of Abraham--the first Jew. Lived in Mesopotamia, and then Canaan, in the 19th century BCE.
Third of the three Patriarchs and father of the Twelve Tribes. Lived most his life in Canaan and died in Egypt in 1505 BCE. Also known by the name of "Israel."
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Third of the four Jewish matriarchs. Daughter of Laban, favorite wife of Patriarch Jacob, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Died while giving birth to Benjamin in 1557 BCE.
Fourth of the four Jewish matriarchs. Elder daughter of Laban, wife of Patriarch Jacob, and mother of six of the Tribes, including Levi and Judah.
Son of the Patriarch Abraham and half-brother of Patriarch Isaac. Ancestor of many Arab tribes.
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.