Avraham’s Dilemma

At the end of Parshat Chayei Sarah (Breisheet 25:1-2) we read: “Avraham again took a wife. Her name was Ketura. She bore him Zimron, Yokshon, Medan, Midian, Yishbok and Shuach.”

In sentences 5-6 we are told: “Avraham gave all that he possessed to Yitzchak. To the son’s of the concubines that Avraham had, Avraham gave gifts. He sent them away from Yitzchak, his son, while he (Avraham) was still alive. He sent them eastward to the Land of the East.”

Why didn’t Avraham give his children blessings before he passed away the way that Yitzchak and Yaakov would later bless their children?

An answer can be found in Breisheet Raba 61:6: Avraham said to himself: “If I bless Yitzchak, the children of Yishmael and the children of Ketura will also want to receive that same blessing. But if I don’t bless any of my children then how is Yitzchak going to get his blessing?” In the end Avraham decided to leave the blessing for Yitzchak in God’s hands. Sure enough (Breisheet 25:11): “After Avraham died, God blessed his son Yitzchak…” A few chapters later in Breisheet 28:4 we see Yitzchak giving Yaakov the blessing of Avraham: “May God give you the blessing of Avraham to you and to your descendents with you, that you may inherit the land of your dwelling which God gave to Avraham.”

It is pretty clear that Yitzchak’s inheritance was the Land of Israel and it was not meant to be shared with his siblings.

What gifts did Avraham give his other children?

The answer is in the Talmud, Sanhedrin 91a: Rabbi Yirmiyahu bar Abba said: The word “gifts” teaches us that Avraham gave over to them the knowledge of unholy utterance.

According to Rashi, Avraham taught them the secrets of the unclean arts of sorcery and demonology.

The Be’er Sheva states that Avraham was trying to prepare them for their move to places in the world that were rooted in idol worship and wanted to show them what they would be encountering.

Gur Aryeh explains that Avraham educated his sons in how to defend themselves against the practices of these arts.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller suggests that Avraham taught them about the natural sciences. However, instead of teaching science to others, they used it to give the impression that there were occult powers performing the magic and instead of standing up against idol worship, they involved themselves in it.

They misused the gifts that Avraham gave them.

Yitzchak’s gift is the Land of Israel. It is our job as descendents of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov to embrace the blessing of the gift of the Land of Israel, appreciate it and never take it for granted.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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