“And God said to Abraham . . . ‘In all that Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice’” Genesis 21:12
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On so many levels, this verse is striking. It is the first instance where the Torah validates the voice of a female protagonist, with Rashi even commenting that this verse indicates that Sarah’s prophecy was superior to that of Abraham.
What is even more remarkable, however, is how this verse seems to be a tikkun — a repair — for the curses given in the Garden of Eden. Back in Genesis 3:17, we are told that the ground is cursed “because you [Adam] have listened to the voice of your wife”. But here in Genesis 21, listening to his wife is exactly what Abraham is told to do.
In the words of Judy Klitsner, of Israel’s Pardes Institute, this is an example of a “subversive sequel”, an episode in the Torah which retells a previous story, but offers a new ending. In the story of Adam and Eve, God’s relationship is with Adam and not with Eve. As a result of feeling distant from God, Eve tries to steal the fruit so she can become more like and closer to God.
The Abraham and Sarah narrative starts similarly. Once again, God speaks solely to the man, Abraham, with Sarah sidelined to merely overhearing messages from God. But this time, the ending is different. Instead of God cursing Abraham for listening to his wife’s voice, as was the case with Adam, God instructs Avraham to take note of his wife. Having continually passed Sarah off as his sister, this is a strong message to Abraham indeed.
If the Torah allows the “rewriting” of stories within it, then perhaps we, too, can find ways to take the familiar themes of our lives and rewrite our endings to include deeper connections with God and each