Avram, Sarai, Lote, and Hagar: The First Family of Judaism Speaks by David Hartley Mark

Hagar: I was never meant to be anyone’s concubine; I was the noble daughter of the priest of Osiris in our village. But then, the soldiers came. Pharaoh Amenhotep II, the Conqueror, destroyed my home and killed my family, on his way to battle the Seven Rebel Princes. When Avram saw me in the slave-market by the Nile, I covered myself with a veil—a veil? It was nothing more than rags—and tried to hide behind Serug, that giant Hivite plowman. I was trembling—who was this strange, dark man who smelled of goats, with his hard hands and big beard? The Egyptian men I knew had neither beards nor hair: they shaved it all. But when Avram paid Ekhtep, the slave-merchant, two gold coins for me, took out a flinty knife and cut my bonds, he smiled. I looked into his deep, brown eyes, all wrinkled from the desert sun—and I felt better, safer. This man, I knew, would be kind to me.

Sarai: So much to do, in this traveling circus Avram calls our family! That nephew of his—Lote—thinks himself some sort of prince; he never picks up after himself, never bathes or washes his hands, and thinks nothing of tramping sand and dirt into my nice, clean tent. I have my share of farm-chores, too: to gather the eggs from the chickens, milk the goats, and make sure that the pi-dogs are fed, or they will kill and eat the fattest sheep. All Avram and his lout of a nephew have to do is go on ahead of our caravan, and look for grass. I yearn to see some greenery in this wilderness, but our grazing beasts, these endless nibblers, these goats, sheep, and cows, chewe it all up, and we have to move again.

Lote: How long does Uncle Avram believe he can keep me under his wing, like some child? I have been working for him, for—for—ever since we left Ur-Kasdim, and then, Charan—leaving all my friends, all the comforts of city life—Ur alone had 12,000 people, a metropolis! And now, to be tramping all over this desert, tending to sheep not my own, and listening to Old Lady Sarai’s complaints, day and night, just because a fellow likes to drink a little once in a while—I wish that Hagar were my wife; yes, I do, but that won’t happen, now that Uncle has gotten hold of her; her belly is big with his child, while Auntie Sarai complains all the more; she’s barren as a goatskin drum. I must leave Uncle Avram, take my fair share of the flocks, and go. Every night, I hear the singing and dancing-sounds teasing my ears from Sodom and Gomorrah, those wondrous towns near the Salt Sea—that is where I would like to live. Yes, I must ask—no, demand—of Uncle, my hard-earned half, and be on my way….

Avram: How long, O’ Mysterious One? My love, my fair one, my Sarai—I see her, each day, becoming more dried and drawn and parched, like the flowers of this desert, lacking water, since we lack a child? You have promised us that we will become “like the stars of heaven, which cannot be counted, like the sands of the seashore, many, without number”? That is fine, Lord, a lovely thought, and I bless You—but I would settle for one, fine fat boy baby, whose sturdy legs would follow me and my flocks, to wander this wilderness, to enter the Promised Land of which You have spoken. Hagar will bear me a son, You have promised: will he be the one, the son for whom I yearn? That would not be fair to Sarai, my princess, my lovely. I seek You, Lord: in the sunrise, when the fiery orb comes up, flaming and fearsome to look at, as I imagine You, but a thousand thousand times brighter; in the sunset, when the day cools down, in the reds, pinks, and purples of coming night—show Yourself, O’ Lord! What will you have me do, that I might have a son of Sarai? A son, a son (weeps)….

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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