This Shabbat we will be discussing two very similar stories with a very important message to be learnt throughout history.
The first story tells us about Hagar and Yishmael, who were stranded in the desert without water. The result is that Yishmael dehydrates and his mother is unable to cope with the horrific scene of her dying son, so she leaves her son on his own.
The second story, which comes up in the Haftara, tells us about a woman who Elisha the prophet wishes to reward for her great hospitality towards him. Elisha finally decides to bless the lady with an only child. One day the child collapses in the field and eventually dies in his mother´s arms. The woman cries out to Elisha, who miraculously brings the child back to life.
A very fundamental problem in the story of Yishmael is, why is G-d saving the father of the nation which will be causing so much bloodshed and trouble to the Jewish people throughout history until this very day? This is in fact the question the angels ask G-d. An answer which is brought down by the Mefarshim is that G-d replies to the angels that he only judges a person by his present deeds and not by the deeds which he will do in the future.
As we know, the Haftara is always connected to the Parasha which we read. The connection this week is more than just two similar stories, but a deep and fundamental understanding to the importance of tradition which the Torah and Halacha emphasize so much. We see the way the desperate Jewish mother keeps her dying son on her lap with the hope that maybe there is still hope, and when he dies she still refuses to give up hope. Contrary to this, Hagar runs away from her helpless dying son, until G-d shows her the well.
The mother is the symbol of hope and optimism as well as our connection to our past which we continuously remind ourselves about, as it says in Mishlei: “Do not abandon your mother´s teaching”. When the terrible times come, and Yishmael has his hand raised on the Jewish people, which is undoubtedly the situation today, we will always have our Mother Rachel, who continuously cries for her children´s redemption until they will finally manage to overcome their enemies and return home to Israel. This is the comparison to the mother who so desperately watches her only son dying in her arms, and in her merit he is miraculously brought back to a new life.
However, Yishmael who is neglected by his mother may have had his life spared, but he will eventually be overcome whilst the Jewish people will regain their glory in Jerusalem and the Beit Hamikdash.