“Why did you say, 'She is my sister,'
so that I took her as my wife?”
— Genesis 12:19
(The JPS Torah Commentary)
In Celebration of Sarai's
Marriage to Pharaoh
The birth pangs will come later.
God will see to it that they are orderly,
intensifying by degrees
each more nightmarish than its predecessor
blood followed by grotesque animals and sickness
and lethal hail and darkkness
and finally the climactic convulsion, blood-marked again.
The last cry of our Egyptian Motherland
will echo across time, the Torah says.
None will equal it in ghastliness.
And then the birth:
God will arrange the hardening, the final contraction
that will push us along the watery canal,
expelling us in a tight spasm
from the four hundred year womb
in which we grow bigger and bigger
until our seventy can be numbered in the millions,
until Pharaoh sees our bigness and the pains begin.
But now is the time for the palace dalliance,
the portent of destined deliverance.
Now amid the regal bedsilks
Sarai, the Great One,
receives her imperial husband
while Abram, husband-in-waiting
delights in Pharaoh's bountiful gifts,
the munificent endowment of their line.
After God's call the couple had hurried toward this liaison,
pausing only briefly in the Promised Land,
urgently pressing for this connection
as if they understood immediately the divine paradox--
that the seed of Abram and the fruit of Sarai will burgeon
in this matrix of otherness,
as if they know already
that in this royal house their Joseph will rule
and their Moses will prepare for his astonishing midwifery.
Elisheva Zilpa bat Sarah v' Raphael