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Hagar is Keturah

By Rabbi Dovie Shochet

Commenting on the verse, “Avraham took another wife whose name was Keturah.”[1] Rashi comments that this was in fact Hagar who Avraham had previously separated himself from. As to the sudden change in name Rashi comments that she is called Keturah because her actions were as sweet as Ketores (incense).[2]

At first glance this Rashi seems puzzling. What indication is there in the Torah that Keturah is in fact Hagar? It is very possible that Keturah is a totally different person. This in indeed the position of the Rashbam, “According to the simple meaning of the verses, this is not Hagar.”[3] On what basis then is Rashi saying that Keturah is Hagar?

Rashi is bothered by a simple problem. How could it be that Hagar, after many years of living with Avraham and Sarah, an environment where the concept of monotheism was preached and practised could possibly [after her separation from Avraham] revert back to idolatrous ways?[4] Even Yishmael towards the end of his days did Teshuvah![5] Based on this, the Lubavitcher Rebbe answers that Rashi was therefore looking for a hint in the Torah that at some point, Hagar must have done Teshuvah.

This Rashi concludes can be accomplished if we explain that Hagar is in fact Keturah and the name Keturah reflects Hagar’s repentance.

At times in our lives we too may go astray from the path of Hashem, we might also find ourselves “worshipping idols”. Nonetheless, we must remember that we are the children of Avraham and Sarah, the founders of our very faith. Though at certain points in our lives this fact may be forgotten, it is nevertheless the simple truth that lives on within us. So no matter how far down the road someone may go, remember, it is never too late to turn back.

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