Torah Reading: Genesis 12:1-17:27
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:27-41:16
Aliyah #1: 16:1 - 16:6
Sarai (Sarah) is unable to have kids. She asks her husband Avram (Abram - Abraham) to have a child with their Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. In those days, Sarai would be able to raise such a child as her own. Being the terrible husband that he was, Avram obliges Sarai’s request. However, when Hagar becomes pregnant, Sarai becomes upset and blames Avram for now feeling “lesser than”. The Aliyah ends with Avram telling Sarai that she can deal with the situation however she’d like, prompting Sarai to begin mistreating Hagar, and prompting Hagar to run away.
Aliyah #2: 16:7 - 16:9
Clearly Hagar’s running away did not sit well with God, as this Aliyah opens up with an angel finding Hagar on the road and sending her back. Although the angel acknowledge’s Sarai’s harsh treatment of Hagar, the angel sends her back and asks her to put up with it.
Aliyah #3: 16:10 - 16:16
The aliyah begins with a promise from the angel to Hagar, that if she goes back to Sarai and puts up with her, then Hagar will be blessed with a large family of her own. Interestingly, it is the angel who names Hagar’s first child, and we learn his name with be Yishma’eil (Ishmael). Unfortunately, along with his name comes an unfortunate prediction of his future, that he shall be against the world, and the world against him. The aliyah ends with the fulfillment of this prediction as Hagar gives birth and names her child Yishma’eil. Avram is 86 years old at this point.
Aliyah #4: 17:1 - 17:6
Fast-forward thirteen years, and at age 99 God appears to Avram and established a covenant between them. God promises Avram that his children (although at this point he only has one child) will become great nations in the world, and that Avram’s household will be blessed with success and fortune. It is at this time that God renamed Avram as Avraham (Abraham).
Aliyah #5: 17:7 - 17:17
God continues God’s blessing of Avraham and commits the land of K’na’an (Canaan) to his future generations. The price for this blessing? That Avraham hold up his end of the covenant through the circumcision of himself and all future males in his family. It is in this section that God commands Avraham to circumcise all male children in every generation at the age of 8-days old. This tradition of circumcision at 8-days, today referred to as “Brit Milah”, is still practiced by Jews all over the world. In our Torah, the command extends beyond Avraham and his family but also to all male slaves who dwell with Avraham and reap the benefits of his relationship with God. The aliyah ends with Sarai also receiving a blessing. Her name becomes Sarah, and she is promised a son of her own. Avraham laughs at the thought that he, at age 100 (he’s only 99 at the moment), or Sarah, at age 90, could possibly bear a child.
Aliyah #6: 17:18 - 17:23
Just as an angel named Yishma’eil, so too does God now name Sarai’s future child and offers the name Yitzḥak (Isaac). God promises Avraham that both of his children Yishma’eil and Yitzḥak, will be blessed, successful, and have a large family. Yishma’eil is even promised 12 nations, a number that matches Yitzḥak’s grandsons later on in Torah. With such blessings on the table, Avraham circumcises his son and all his slaves.
Aliyah #7: 17:24 - 17:27
Our parshah ends with Avraham circumcising himself at age 99. Yishma’eil at this point is 13, and Sarah - although not explicitly mentioned, is likely 89.