In Wise Men and Their Tales, a master teacher gives us his fascinating insights into the lives of a wide range of biblical figures, Talmudic scholars, and Hasidic rabbis.
The matriarch Sarah, fiercely guarding her son, Isaac, against the negative influence of his half-brother Ishmael; Samson, the solitary hero and protector of his people, whose singular weakness brought about his tragic end; Isaiah, caught in the middle of the struggle between God and man, his messages of anger and sorrow counterbalanced by his timeless, eloquent vision of a world at peace; the saintly Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, who by virtue of a lifetime of good deeds was permitted to enter heaven while still alive and who tried to ensure a similar fate for all humanity by stealing the sword of the Angel of Death.
Elie Wiesel tells the stories of these and other men and women who have been sent by God to help us find the godliness within our own lives. And what interests him most about these people is their humanity, in all its glorious complexity. They get angry—at God for demanding so much, and at people, for doing so little. They make mistakes. They get frustrated. But through it all one constant remains—their love for the people they have been charged to teach and their devotion to the Supreme Being who has sent them. In these tales of battles won and lost, of exile and redemption, of despair and renewal, we learn not only by listening to what they have come to tell us, but by watching as they live lives that are both grounded in earthly reality and that soar upward to the heavens.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of Religion eBook: Wise Men and Their Tales|
|Release Date: 01-16-2009|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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Wise Men and Their Tales
Ishmael and Hagar
A man, a woman. Abraham and Sarah. Who has not heard of them? Everyone loves them. They radiate goodness, nobility, human warmth. Who doesn’t claim kinship with them? Humankind is what it is because they shaped our destiny. He is the father of our people, she the mother. Everything leads us back to them. The promised land bears their seal. Faith—our faith—was kindled by theirs. A couple unlike any other, they inspire joy and hope. Tormented by our own troubles, we recall theirs, which give ours a transcendent meaning. Abraham, the first to be chosen, the first to choose God and crown him God of the universe; Abraham, synonymous with loyalty and absolute fidelity, a symbol of perfection. And yet . . . a shadow hovers over one aspect of his existence. In his exalted life, we encounter a painful episode that cannot but puzzle us, if not cause us to recoil. I refer, of course, to his behavior toward his maid, concubine, or companion, Hagar, and their son, Ishmael.
Let us read the text, shall we? It tells us that Sarah, poor Sarah, is barren. She cannot conceive. Unhappy above all for her husband, who desires a son and heir, she proposes that he have this child with his Egyptian servant, Hagar. Jewish women being good matchmakers, the shiddukh is successful. Abraham and Hagar are together, Hagar becomes pregnant—and that is when the problems start: the servant becomes disrespectful toward her mistress, who takes offense. Eventually, a persecuted Hagar takes flight. Proud, she prefers to die in the desert rather than remain a slave in Sarah’s house. By chance, an angel notices her and advises her to return home. Hagar obeys, goe