What follows is a midrash I wrote on retreat this past weekend. It's a story told from the point of view of Hagar, one of my favorite characters from the Hebrew Bible. Because the history of interpretation of Hagar's story has been deeply fraught throughout the centuries, and not least in the American context, I feel that it needs a bit of introduction before I post the midrash itself.
In the biblical story, Hagar is an Egyptian slave woman owned by Sarah, the wife of Abraham. When Sarah finds herself unable to conceive a child, she "gives" Hagar to her husband, and he sleeps with her and impregnates her. Hagar's son is Ishmael, considered the forefather of Islam. Sarah herself is later able to have a child through a miracle. This son is Isaac, the favored son according to Hebrew scripture, considered the forefather of Judaism.
Even a very cursory glance reveals a number of layers to this story, layers that are deepened by centuries of interpretation by three different faiths (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, which all have different takes on the story and its meaning), and further deepened by the stories used to defend certain practices.
Hagar is an African woman and a slave. In the American context, the passages about her, and especially the interpretation of the Sarah and Hagar story by Paul in Galatians 4.21-31, have been used to justify the institution of slavery and to justify racism both against blacks and against Arabs and Muslims (seen to be Ishmael's descendants, and thus the descendants of the "slave woman"). This is by no means a thing of the past. Furthermore, violence against women is a very real undercurrent in the Hagar, Sarah, and Abraham story: Hagar herself is used as a sexual object to give another woman a child, and even Sarah is considered worthless as a woman unless she is able to have a child.
All of these things should be kept in mind when interpreting the story of Hagar, because it has so often been used as a tool of violence and oppression in the past, and is still being used that way today.
And now, after that incredibly long introduction, I have one other important note, this one particular to my midrash.
I chose to write this midrash from Hagar's point of view, and I chose to write her as an asexual woman. Women have for most of recorded history been treated more as sexual objects than as human beings, and as an asexual myself, I feel a special affinity for my sisters in the past who have been defined solely in sexual terms (as Hagar is in her story), and used as sexual objects, even though sexual desire was not a part of their identity as they perceived themselves. But no one ever asked how they saw themselves. So this midrash is the cry of a woman who has been enslaved and defined as something that is not part of her own identity.
Finally, I should add that this is a work in progress, so any suggestions are welcome!( and here at last is the actual midrash )