Hagar’s oil burns Hanukah’s lamps

Parents love their children very much. Sometimes it isn’t easy to have children. Sometimes people have to wait for many years before they can have a child. That is what happened to Abraham and Sarah.

God had promised them a child. But 10 years passed and they remained childless. Sarah was a very loving person. She was kind, generous and very understanding. Sarah knew how much Abraham wanted to have a child. Since Sarah was getting older and older, she also knew that it would be harder and harder for her to get pregnant.

So after waiting for 10 years to have a child, Sarah told Abraham that he should have a child with Hagar, Sarah’s young maid. It wasn’t easy for Sarah to say this, but she was willing to because she was a kind and generous person.

When Hagar became pregnant with Abraham’s child she began to act very mean to Sarah. Hagar told Sarah that she could no longer cook and clean because she was pregnant. Indeed, although she was much younger than Sarah, Hagar made Sarah do all the cooking and cleaning.

While Sarah did all the work Hagar would lay on a couch eating sweets and painting her nails.

The only work that Hagar still did was to make olives into olive oil. Hagar would rub her skin twice a day with olive oil to keep it soft and smooth. Since this was the only housework that Sarah didn’t have to do; Sarah would bless Hagar every time she made olive oil.

This went on for months. Sarah did not complain to Abraham about the way Hagar was treating her because she didn’t want to disturb him. She also hoped Hagar would realize it was very hard for Sarah to do all the housework at her age. Even a kind, generous and understanding person has to have limits.

When Hagar was in her eighth month her belly became very large. Hagar told Sarah that she couldn’t bend over to paint her toenails anymore and she wanted Sarah to kneel at her feet and paint her toenails every week. Sarah refused. Even a kind, generous and understanding person has to have limits

Finally Sarah had had enough. She told Abraham that Hagar had been looking down on Sarah ever since she had become pregnant, and now Hagar despised Sarah completely.

Abraham told Sarah that she had let Hagar take advantage of her; and now she had to assert herself. When Sarah did, Hagar got very angry and ran away.

A few days later Hagar met a man at a well and Hagar complained to him about what had happened to her. The man advised Hagar to return home and stop treating Sarah so badly. It was not Sarah’s fault she had not become pregnant, and it was not due to Hagar’s virtue that she had became pregnant.

If you return to Sarah and treat her respectfully I promise you that you will give birth to a son who will become the founder of a large tribe of people who will live in freedom in the desert.

And since Sarah blessed you again and again for making olive oil, God will bless your son’s descendants who live in the desert with lots of oil.

In addition, olive oil will be used to make a continually burning lamp in a Temple for Sarah’s future descendants; and will be used in a special eight day celebration long after the Temple has been destroyed.

So Hagar returned home, and she no longer despised Sarah. Sarah, in turn, blessed Hagar. Hagar realized that the man who had given her this advice was a messenger from the God of Abraham. When her son was born he was named Ishmael, which means God will hear.

Hagar’s descendants are the Arabs who have been blessed with lots of oil.

Sarah’s descendants are the Jews who still celebrate Hanukah: the rekindling of the Temple’s continually burning lamp, to this very day.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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