VaYera' begins with Sarah's laughter at the announcement of her future maternity. Later she laughs in what seems a self-deprecatory manner at Isaac's birth and her nursing the child. Sarah also speaks. God listens. She insists that Abraham expel Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham resists. God insists that he listen to Sarah. Then Sarah goes silent—a traumatic textual aporia. Bereishit Rabbah and midrashic tannaim suggest a one-dimensional reading of a Sarah bereft at the impending sacrifice of Isaac. Yet, a close reading of VaYera' reveals a powerful woman of royal lineage and priestly powers who brings and withdraws fertility, emboldens and enriches Abraham, and demonstrates agency not typically assigned to biblical women. By considering Sarah not as handmaiden but priestess, not as possession but as princess, and not as victim but as victor, we recognize a Sarah whose passion for life, family, and love determined that a divine call to human sacrifice would not be her legacy. The Abrahamic deity would be worshiped with life, not death. God and Abraham may have listened to Sarah. We gain hope from her wisdom and remember our humanity in the face of inhumanity. As instruction for collective identity in the face of trauma, Sarah teaches us to laugh and to cry, to live and to love, and to act and to rejoice together.


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pp. 346-359
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