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Sarah

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Sarah is visited by the Archangel Gabriel; fresco by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo  (1696–1770)
Sarah is visited by the Archangel Gabriel; fresco by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770)

Sarah was the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac. According to the chronology of the Book of Genesis, Sarah, the daughter of Haran, lived approximately from 1802 BCE to 1675 BCE. This would have made her 127 years old at the time of her death. She lived in Ur before meeting and becoming the wife of Abraham. For many years she was barren but was promised a child by Yahweh and finally the Archangel Gabriel announced that she would conceive and bear Isaac. She is the matriarch of the Jewish people, as Abraham is the patriarch. Not only did she give birth to the entire nation, she was the first prophetess of Judaism.

She was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world (even more beautiful than Eve). She attracted the attention of the ruler and Pharaoh. Because Abraham feared that the Egyptians would kill him as Sarah’s husband, he told them that he is Sarah’s brother. The Pharaoh made Abraham very wealthy and gave him the woman Hagar in exchange for Sarah. Even though his infringement upon the marriage of Abraham and Sarah was unintentional, everyone in the ruler’s household except for Sarah was struck with a plague. The Pharaoh realized the truth and rather than killing or fining Abraham and Sarah, he ordered them to leave. The couple remained childless. Finally, Sarah allowed Abraham to conceive a child with Hagar, named Ishmael. However, there was strife between Hagar and Sarah and, ultimately, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away. Sarah and Abraham then relocated and an uncannily similar series of events occur. The local king takes an interest in Sarah because of her beauty. Again Abraham masqueraded as Sarah’s brother and is bestowed great wealth by the king. Again the king learns the truth and ultimately Sarah is returned unharmed. While her gift of prophecy is considered to be greater than that of Abraham, she laughed when Yahweh spoke to her directly and told her she would conceive a child at the age of ninety. After Isaac was born, the Hebrew women tested Sarah because they did not believe that Isaac could possibly be her son. She successfully nursed and raised him and, to this day, gives hope to women of advanced age who are having difficulty conceiving.

Sarah has mystical associations with the number 505 in the Jewish tradition of numerology, called “gematria” and she is associated with the Moon in Jewish astrology. In the Zohar (The Book of Radiance), a foundational text in the Kabbalah and Jewish Grimoire tradition, she is associated with the sefirot or understandable attribute of God, known as “chesed” or loving kindness. She is also affiliated with Sunday, wheat, the right arm or hand, the rituals of making bread, and purification baths. Sarah is celebrated during the New Moon holiday and the Jewish New Year holiday. Symbols of Sarah include the “hovering cloud of glory,” tents, and Sabbath candles. She is invoked in the prayers for lighting the Sabbath candles and in another prayer, called the “Akeidat Yizchak” ("The Binding of Isaac").

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