Avraham, Our Father: An Imagined Midrash-Soliloquy (Parsha Vayeira)

A day like all other days, here in this godforsaken desert! Or should I not say that, myself being the chosen one of the Invisible God, Maker of heaven and earth—or so He says, so He tells me. Imagine—commanding me, an old man, to perform that—that—covenantal-cutting on myself, and with a flint knife! How it stings and stings and—wait, Hagar—let me have some more of that watered-down wine mixed with spices—just a little, and a little more, to take away the pain; ah [he drinks deeply]—so. Let me lie back, now, against these camel-hair cushions, here in the cool darkness of the tent—[calls to Sarah, who is knitting in the tent-corner] O’ Sarah, I am not as young as I was, when I first beheld the plains of Charan, and thought that, perhaps, at seventy-five, I could live a shepherd’s life; and then, the Mysterious One appeared; first, in my dreams, and then, those Voices, voices, day and night, which would not go away, which would not leave me—[sighs] thank you, Hagar; you may go; I will lie back and close my eyes and rest awhile, during this hottest part of the day [yawns; beginning to doze, as old men will, he hums] for ‘God is my refuge and my fortress; my God in whom I trust; I do not fear the arrow that flies by day, or the destruction that wastes at noonday; the Lord is my dwelling-place, no scourge will come near my tent’…

What’s that? Three strangers, coming over the hill? Thank you, Ishmael—I must welcome them—Oof! Help me to my feet—I must hurry—why hurry, d’you say, Boy?—why, it’s a mitzvah, a holy deed, and one in which the Most High takes great pleasure, and so, therefore, so do I—help me to go now, then, and quickly!—

(Strange, now, that I suddenly possess the strength to run towards these men, and myself almost a dotard; and, as I run, the pain from—there, down below, seems to be healed—is a mitzvah then, the cure, O’ Most High?)

Good day to you all, good Sirs! Come to my tent, if you please—(they do not appear to be cutpurses, or robbers; just wanderers, like myself) I am Avraham by name; my wife is Sarah; then, there are Hagar, my serving-girl, and her boy, Ishmael—rest you, then, under the shade of this palm tree, and I will bring you water, in which to bathe your feet, and goats’ milk to drink, and, and—food—where are my manners? Food!—Sarah! Hurry! Knead dough, and bake matzot!

So, so—rest easy, gentlemen. What news of the world can you bring? How are Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, my old warrior comrades from the Wars of the Kings? And Melchizedek, the High Priest of Shalem, who blessed me, a few years back—how fares he? What news? Oh—you have news for me, for Avraham, the old nomad? Of what? A BABY? A baby to be born to us? O Sir, please do not jest with me—it has been years and years, and Sarah and I (though I love her like my life, never doubt it, and I know you for but this short time, I am happy to share this with you; there is something in your face so pure and holy, that makes me able to trust you)—that is, we had given up hope, though we never stopped yearning—what is that noise within the tent? Sarah! Were you laughing? It sounded like—oh, you dropped a pan—never mind, my dear—

What else? You have news from the Most High? You are not idolaters, like everyone else, all other people whom I meet in this open and lawless land? The Most High will destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? But my nephew Lot, that scamp, lives there! I must have words with the Most High, later, later—but wait, let us eat first—here are milk, and curds, and cheese—the boy will bring the roasted lamb when it is ready—but please, do not mock an old man—you say that we will have a baby? [Begins to cry] How, how marvelous! O’ God, I thank You, I thank You!

David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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