“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.

Elizabeth Mark
Elisheva Zilpa bat Sarah v' Raphael