Wednesday, November 08, 2006

where he is

Parshat Va'Yeira

Avraham, at Sarah's behest, throws Haggar and Yishmael out of his house and sends them packing. We read about how they go through the desert and Yishmael falls ill and is dieing. Haggar distances herself from him so as not to se him in his death throes. An angel appears to Haggar and says that Hashem has heard her prayers and the child will recover. In 21:17 the angel says that Hashem has heard the prayers of the boy where he is.

Rashi explains "where he is" to be a reference to the idea that Hashem listened to his prayers and judged him in his current status, and ignored the fact that he would later be evil and cause trouble and do bad. His current actions are ok and therefore his prayers have been accepted.

But Rashi already told us in 21:9 that the reason Sarah wanted him thrown out of the house was because she saw him involved in idol worship, murder and inappropriate relationships. These are the three worst sins a person can be involved in! How can Rashi say that he was currently ok and being judged for now rather than later?

I do not have a good answer to explain Rashi, btu was thinking that this might be the reason the Ramban (and others) suggest a different, more basic, explanation. They say that it simply means he will be healed right where he is.

Anybody out there who can explain Rashi?


joshwaxman said...

Even midrash rabba, which Rashi cites in both instances, gives an explanation of צחק as inheritance. Now the midrashim can easily be in dispute. The portion of Bereishit Rabba 53:11 that Rashi cites makes Yismael out to be a Rasha, while in Bereishit Rabba 53:14, Rabbi Simon makes Yishmael out to be a tzaddik.

the question is: does Rashi try to be consistent, or does he cite nice midrashim that bring out points at each time. Especially when it is clear that what he is citing are midrashim? It depends on what one's assumptions are about Rashi's derech of parshanut.

However, a simple answer. The judgment of Yishmael now was such where he only did relatively "minor" acts, if you could call them that, on a personal scale. If so, a mother's pleas, and Hashem's promise to Avraham, might overcome these faults. What the angels were complaining about were not personal sins, but the fact that his *descendants* would eventually kill many of Benei Yisrael. And what this derasha is telling us is that *that* does not factor into the reckoning.

True, Rabbi Simon in his formulation in Bereishit Rabba appears to have taken Yishmael as a total innocent. But the overall message is personal judgment, in which Yishmael prevails, either just barely or obviously, as opposed to judgment based on what descendants might do.

Rashi might have been citing this midrash verbatim for the latter point, and did not notice the side-effect inconsistency, or else noticed but did not wish to mangle the existing language of the midrash he was citing.

Rafi G said...

interesting idea that Rashi might just cite different midrashim at different times to make different points even though they are inconsistent. I just always assumed he quoted midrashim that fit his understanding of the pesukim which would mean Rashi has to be consistent in some way. Interesting thought.

Chaim B. said...

Just to echo Josh, the Mizrachi usually assumes that Rashi has not problem citing midrashim chalukim, and applies the same principle here. Gur Arye is a good source for the second type approach.