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Chumash-Chayei Sarah


(5738) Rashi (Gen. 25:1): "Keturah"; Explanation of the story of the Talmud (Zevachim 62b) concerning the sons of R. Tarfon's sister.

Zevachim 62b: "The sons of R. Tarfon's sister were sitting before R. Tarfon. Thereupon he quoted: And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Johani.(note: The last word of course is wrong) Said they to him: 'Keturah' is written. Then he dubbed them 'the children of Keturah'.(Rashi: ignoramuses, who could not discuss halachah)



1. In the verse (Gen.25:1)

“Avraham again took a wife and her name was Keturah”.

Rashi explains:

“Keturah, this is Hagar. She was called Keturah because her deeds were as beautiful as Ketores (the incense in the Temple) and because she "tied” (koshra) her womb" and did not mate with any man from the time she separated from Avraham”.

One must understand:

  1. What is the necessity from the simple understanding of the verse that “Keturah is Hagar”? On the contrary from the plain wording of verse: “Avraham again took a wife and her name etc.”, it appears that “took a wife” here implies a new marriage in addition to the previous ones (as it is actually asked in the Midrash: “Yet it states again took?)
  2. Since Rashi states the second reason with the word “Vav/and” (an adjoining vav/ vav haChibur)

- (In other words, Rashi writes: “She was called Keturah because her deeds were as beautiful as Ketores and because she tied her womb etc.” –

and (does not separate “because she tied her womb” with (a different) with an expression such as “another opinion/davar achair” (and so forth), it is understood that Rashi learns that this is

(Not two separate explanations (as it states in Midrash) why she is called Keturah, but rather)

two reasons in one explanation (פירוש).

This means that the name “Keturah” alludes to the two translations together –

  • an expression of Ketores (“her deeds were as beautiful as incense”)


  • an expression of tying (“she tied” (koshra) her womb”) –

One must understand:

How does Rashi know, according to the simple understanding of the verse, that she was called “Keturah” because of two reasons (not like the Midrash that these are two (distinct) explanations)?

  1. The question of the commentators on the verse (Gen 21:14): “She went and lost her way” where Rashi explains (that it means): “she returned to her family's idolatry”. How then does Rashi explain here that: “her deeds were as beautiful as incense”?

2. The explanation of this is:

The reason that Rashi is forced to state that “Keturah, this is Hagar” is a question (not just in that specific verse, but) in the general episode of Avraham and Hagar:

Rashi previously stated that:

“Avraham converted the men and Sarah converted the women”.

If we say that Avraham could influence people outside his household (פון דרויטן), then he certainly had an influence on the members of his household (even including Yishmael, who although started living a sinful lifestyle (תרבות רעה), nevertheless repented during Avraham‘s lifetime).

Therefore, the question arises:

How is it possible that Hagar “returned to her family's idolatry” and Avraham did not influence her to repent?

(We cannot say it is because Hagar lived far away from Avraham,

(As we previously learned that Avraham drove her, together with Yishmael, from his house) –

For at the Akedah, the situation of “Drive out this slave-woman and her son (ibid 10)” was already repealed, as Rashi comments on the verse “the two lads” – that it refers to “Yishmael and Eliezer” (and reasonably, Hagar stayed together with Yishmael)).

Therefore, Rashi states, “Keturah, this is Hagar. She was called Keturah etc.” In other words, it is indeed true (that they are the same person). Yet in calling Hagar by the name “Keturah”, the verse hints that now “her deeds are beautiful as incense”.  For she actually repented for “returning to her family's idolatry”.

Therefore, the words of Rashi in stating: “This/zu Keturah is Hagar“ (קטורה זו הגר) are precise and also fitting.

It is not “Keturah is Hagar” (הגר  היא ) like the expression: “(Kiryat Arba) which is/hi Chevron” (היא חברון) (and so forth).

If (Rashi would have written, “Keturah is Hagar” – an obscure expression (לשון נסתר) – it would have implied that here, in these verses, no one is discussing Hagar. She is like one who is “hidden”. However, by stating: “This/zu is Hagar” it means Hagar whom one is “facing” (לנוכח).

For Rashi is answering a complaint that is remaining in the “five year old”, namely ‘what happened with Hagar? How come we don’t find that she repented’?

Therefore Rashi states: “This/zu Keturah is Hagar“. In other words, the verse is actually speaking about the same Hagar that you asked and spoke about until now.

3. Rashi, however, cannot suffice with this reason alone. For although it is true that now, “her deeds are beautiful as incense”, yet, since there was a time when she “returned to her family's idolatry”, Avraham Avinu, who was the epitome of modesty (צנוע בתכלית), would not have later taken her for a “wife” – if in the interim, she would have “consorted with another man”.

(Specifically since the verse: “Avraham again took a wife” comes immediately after the verse “And Yitzchak brought her to the tent of Sara his mother etc.” and both Sara and Rivka were the epitome of modesty).

Therefore, Rashi states that: “and she tied her womb etc." This means that the name “Keturah” also alludes to that which “she did not consort with a man from the time she separated from Avraham”. Therefore, she was fitting to be taken as a wife by Avraham“.

4. According to the aforementioned, namely, that with the name “Keturah”, the verse is intimating that Hagar (through Avraham‘s influence) repented – one can explain, according to the inner aspects, certain particulars of the verse, which, at first glance, are not straightforward (at least according to Pnimiyut):

  1. Since “Keturah is Hagar”, how can the verse state: “Avraham again (took her for a wife)” (as the Midrash asks, in Par. 1)?

(According to Pshat, it is not a question. For even though “Keturah is Hagar”, since this was a new marriage for Avraham, the phrase “again” applies. Moreover, since Hagar was beforehand a handmaiden (שפחה) and now Avraham is taking her as a “wife” (אשה)

(Or at least as a “concubine/Pilegesh” in a manner of (wives have a Ketubah), concubines (are just) without a Ketuba )-

it is therefore an aspect of “again” in the taking of a wife.

However the wording: “Avraham again” is much more precise and straightforward if explained according to Pnimiyut, as will be discussed).

  1. Why are Hagar‘s “beautiful deeds” alluded to by comparing them specifically to “incense”?
  2.  Why does the Torah allude to the aspect that Hagar repented, specifically in the verse where it speaks of Avraham‘s taking her for a wife?

5. The explanation of this is:

In Chassidut, the difference between the Avodah of Avraham before his circumcision and the Avodah afterward it is explained:

  • Before Avraham was circumcised, he was called “Avram” which means “Av Ram” (exalted father) – he was elevated and detached from the world (as it states: “Ram al kol goyim/high above all nations”). His Avodah was in the levels of holiness itself.
  • However, after the circumcision his name was “Avraham” –Av hamon goyim/a father of a multitude of nations”. For, he also influenced “goyim/nations”. He elevated them to holiness.

This Avodah was performed through Sara, who separated the “impurity” (פסולת) from the nations and elevated their good and sparks of holiness. (Therefore, she said: “Drive out this slave-woman and her son”).

And the virtue that Avraham attained after the passing of Sarah consisted of that which: “Avraham again took a wife and her name was Keturah”, meaning that he caused Hagar (and Yishmael) to repent. In other words he accomplished a refinement also in the “impurity” (פסולת) that Sarah had separated (“Drive out/gareish”).

The explanation of this is:

The refinement in the “nations” that Sarah accomplished was only in Kelipat Noga (קליפת נוגה), which is a mixture of good and evil. The manner of refining this is through separating the “impurity” and evil and elevating the good that was intermingled there. Moreover, since this “impurity” contains no (revealed) good, one must, therefore, push it away/ (דוחה  -“Drive out/gareish etc.”).

However, the refinement of Yishmael and Hagar is not through elevating the good which is intermingled within them – for they do not possess any (revealed) good. Rather it is a refinement in a manner of addition/ הוספהlike (the concept of transforming purposeful transgressions, into merits (zedonot naaseh kzochiyos).

6. This is the explanation in the three distinctions that were mentioned (in Par. 5):

  1. The wording: “Avraham again took”

Because the aspect of transforming the impurity (the three impure Klipot) to good is an aspect of addition, as the Tzemach Tzedek translates the verse “May G-d add to me another son“ (יוסף ה׳ לי בן אחר) that it means that the aspect of “Yosef” – addition, is that which transforms an “other” (אחר) into a “son” (בן).

This “addition” is in two manifestations:

  1. In the world – where there is an addition and innovation in Creation. For according to the dictates of Creation willful transgressions cannot be transformed to merits.
  2. In Avraham – as it states: “and Avraham again took”. For the aspect of transforming the three impure Klipot can only be accomplished through the power of Atzmut (G-d’s Essence). For from the perspective of G-d’s Essence it is (as in the words of the Midrash) “(And G-d said, Let there be light…” (Gen. 1:3) these are the actions of the righteous.) But I don’t know which one of them He desired, the actions of these (the wicked) or the actions of those. Since it is written “And G-d saw the light that it was good…” He desires the actions of the righteous and not the actions of the wicked“.

Therefore, since at that level, willful transgressions are insignificant, the power emerges from there to be able to transform them also into merits.

This is the explanation of “Avraham again took a wife etc.”, namely that through Avraham’s addition of a higher power and level –which is taken from Atzmut – he was able to accomplish the refinement in Hagar (and Yishmael).

  1. “Her deeds were as beautiful (specifically) as Ketores”. For the aspect of the eleven spices of the Ketores, has the property, as is known, of transforming the eleven “crowns of impurity” (the faculties of Klippah) to holiness.
  2.  The purpose of “taking a wife” is for reproduction etc. Birth is an aspect of addition and innovation. With this, it is explained why the Teshuvah of Hagar, whose aspect is addition (as aforementioned) is specifically alluded to here, where it is speaking of “Avraham again took a wife etc.” For the purpose of this is (like the continuation of the Parsha) “and she gave birth to him etc.”

7. In connection with this verse, there is seemingly a very puzzling story in the Talmud:

“The sons of R’ Tarfon's sister were sitting before R’ Tarfon. (And they did not say anything. Rashi). He opened and quoted (a verse in order to elicit conversation. Rashi):

“And Abraham took another wife, and her name was Yocḥani (The last word of course is wrong in order to induce them to talk . Rashi).

They said to him: ‘Keturah’ is written. Then he called them ‘the children of Keturah’”.

It is not understood:

  1. Why is the Talmud relating this story at all? Especially since there is a maxim that even “in disparagement of an impure animal, Scripture does not speak”, How much more so then, is this with regard to the denigration of “the sons of R’ Tarfon’s sister”. One must therefore say that there is a “Torah” - a lesson to be found in this. What is the lesson?
  2. There are different methods how to induce others to begin conversing. One need not quote a verse improperly for this purpose!
  3. How, in general, does one utilize, for such a purpose, a verse from Torah?
  4. Why did R’ Tarfon choose to say “and her name was Yocḥani”. Seemingly, it would have been more fitting to say “and her name was Hagar”.

(For although this differs from the actual wording of the verse, it is however, true in content, at least according to the majority of the opinions.

And even according to those that oppose this view, they also maintain the maxim “both of these are the words of the Living G-d”

(Which is why Beit Hillel was able to preface the words of Beit Shammai, before their own opinion.)

(Note: The Talmud asks: Since both these and those are the words of the living G-d, why were Beit Hillel privileged to have the Halacha established in accordance with their opinion? The reason is that they were agreeable and forbearing, showing restraint when affronted, and when they taught the Halacha they would teach both their own statements and the statements of Beit Shammai. Moreover, when they formulated their teachings and cited a dispute, they prioritized the statements of Beit Shammai to their own statements, in deference to Beit Shammai.).

For, even this divergence from the words of the verse would have sufficient to induce them.

8. One can understand this by prefacing that which the Sages state:

“Whoever teaches his fellow’s son Torah Scripture ascribes it to him as if he had begotten him” (ילדו).

For through the study of Torah, one becomes a “new entity”. Therefore, it is “as if he had begotten him”.

Even though the simple wording of “whoever teaches his fellow’s son etc.” implies even if “his fellow’s son” already has an understanding in Torah. However it is, as is understandable, mainly so, regarding one who has not yet been capable of Torah study. In this case, the “teacher” effects an “innovation” in “his fellow’s son” (whereas if the son had already studied Torah, the “teacher” only adds to his prior knowledge and being).

With this, the difference in the wording in Rashi’s comments are understood.

  • On the verse:  (Num. 3:1) “These are the descendants of Aharon and Moshe”

Rashi writes:

“(Yet only the sons of Aaron are mentioned). They are called the descendants of Moshe ---because he taught them Torah. This teaches us that whoever teaches Torah to the son of his fellow man, Scripture regards it as if he had begotten him”. (כאילו ילדו)

  • However in the continuation of that verse:  “On the day that G-d spoke to Moshe”.

Rashi writes:

 “They became his descendants, (since he taught them) etc.” (נעשו אלו התולדות שלו)

In other words,

  • With regard to “the sons of Aaron”, Rashi uses the expression “they became” (נעשו) (not just “as if”)
  • Whereas, with regard to the general maxim: “whoever teaches etc.” Rashi just writes that “Scripture regards it as if he had begotten him”.

The reason for this is:

Since the “sons of Aaron“ are associated with the verse “On the day that G-d spoke to Moshe “, they had just begun the study of Torah

(“For he taught them what he had learned from the Al-mighty“)

from Moshe in a manner of novelty . Therefore they then became Moshe’s “descendants” (without the “as if”).

However, the maxim “whoever teaches etc.” includes all situations, and the common factor of all of them is that “it is as if he had begotten him”.

9. This is also the explanation in the aforementioned story

R’ Tarfon saw that his “nephews” were not at the stage of speaking (and understanding) words of Torah. And since they had a relationship to him, he wanted to effect in them that they should be conducive to understanding Torah – the (as if) he had begotten them.

To accomplish this he cited an example in Torah (from the word lesson) – “Avraham again took a wife etc. “. The purpose of this was (like the subsequent continuation) “and she gave birth to him etc.”

This is why  R’ Tarfon, did an act – “he opened and said”, in order to induce his nephews “(in order) that they should speak” words of Torah. The effect of “as if he had begotten them”.

10. According to this, it is understood why he said “her name was Yocḥani“:

The Talmud states in tractate Sotah states:

“A neighborly widow (אלמנה שובבית - who constantly visits her neighbors) is among those who “bring destruction upon the world”.

It then cites an example of this: “for example, Yocḥani bat Retivi”.

Rashi comments:

She was a sorceress, and when it came for a woman to give birth, she would close the woman’s womb with sorcery. After the woman started experiencing intense pain, she would say ‘I will go and beseech mercy for you. Perhaps my prayers will be heard’. She would then go and release her spell and the baby would emerge etc.”

This means that she wanted others to believe that the birth came about in a miraculous manner, as a result of her prayers.

One could say that this is why she was called “Yocḥani”, for the name, “Yocḥani” depicts an aspect of a miracle.

This is understood from the Talmud in tractate Berachot that states that:

“If one sees the name Huna in a dream, a miracle will be wrought for him. If one sees the name Yochanan miracles within miracles will be wrought for him.” (נסי נסים)”

(Note: The Hebrew word for miracle, Nes/נס, contains the letter Nun. Huna contains one Nun, Yochanan contain more than one Nun, alluding to miracles).

The name “Yocḥani” also has a special connection to the aspect of bearing children (in addition to what is told in tractate Sotah there). For it states in the verse: “These are the children whom G-d has graciously granted your servant” (הילדים אשר חנן אלקים את עבדך)

(Note: the word “chanan” is similar to the word Yochani”)

Therefore R’ Tarfon said “and her name was Yocḥani”. For he needed to accomplish an aspect that (was as if) he had begotten them, namely an aspect of birth (through and in Torah study) which is not according to nature and the normal order.

This is also the reason for the continuation of the story, that afterwards his nephews said,

“it is written Keturah”, R’ Tarfon called them the “sons of Keturah”.

If “it is written Keturah“

(Denoting tying (the closing of the womb) which is the opposite of “Yocḥani” which causes birth, as aforementioned)

the aspect of birth in Torah study would not have been effected in them. (In other words, the opening of the mind in the understanding of Torah). They would have just remained “the sons of Keturah (tied) – meaning having a closed mind which is not conducive to the understanding of Torah.

11. According to the above (Par. 5-6) in “Avraham again took a wife” according to the homiletic style of Torah in Rashi's commentary (Yayina shel Torah) that -

since Avraham needed to effect an addition and innovation (- birth) through transforming the three impure Klipot to holiness, there first had to be the “Avraham again” – namely an addition and elevation in Avraham’s status-

one can also explain according to Pnimiyut, why R’ Tarfon also cited the beginning of the verse “And Avraham again etc.”

(For seemingly since it would have been sufficient to just state “He took a wife and her name was Keturah“. (and they would have known which verse he means, since this is the only verse where it states “and he took a wife and her name was etc.)

In order that he should accomplish the “teaches his fellow’s son Torah”, which for his nephews was an aspect of birth and innovation. He needed to increase in his own level. With this power he could accomplish the birth and innovation in his nephews.

To this end, he cited a proof from a similar aspect that is in a verse of Torah: “Avraham again” (which subsequently enabled him to) “take a wife etc. “. This addition in Avraham’s status enabled him to “take a wife etc.“ (the purpose being (and) like the continuation of the Parsha – “gave birth to him etc.“), an aspect of birth and innovation, as aforementioned.

12. One can additionally explain (why he called them the sons of Keturah).

Ramban rules that:

“The descendants of Keturah who are the seed of Avraham. . are obligated to circumcise themselves”.

This means that through “Avraham again took a wife and her name was Keturah” – which is an aspect of innovation that is not according to Seder Hishtalshelut (as aforementioned Par. 6) that he accomplished that they would be “the sons of Keturah” and that they would be obligated in Mila.

“Mila” is the Roshei Teivot/acronym of “Who will go up to heaven for us“(מי יעלה לנו השמימה) (whose Sofei Teivot/final letters of the words are G-d’s- four letter name - הוי׳). It is higher than the level of Torah and the name of G-d. This means higher than Seder Hishtalshelut. (This comes through “You are to remove your heart's blockage“ (ומלתם את ערלת לבבכם)– the aspect of Teshuvah).

This is what is meant by “he called them the sons of Keturah”. R’ Tarfon evoked and imbued (קוראו ממשיך) within them the aspect of “birth” in Torah study, which is not according to Seder Hishtalshelut - similar to the actions of Avraham in “the sons of Keturah”.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Chayei Sarah 5737


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