The Legacy of Abraham: Part II

Although sensitivities in ancient times were certainly different, we can probably assume that any woman that could easily become a wife of a distinguished husband would never ever willingly choose to become a mere concubine of another man.  Yet, Timna did just that.  She was a scion of Seir, the patriarch of a royal family (see Bereishit 36:22).  She could have had a full-fledged marriage with anyone that she chose.  Instead, the Torah relates that she became a simple, relatively disadvantaged concubine of Esau’s son Eliphaz (ibid. 36:12).  What got into her?  Did Eliphaz somehow coerce or seduce Timna, or did she voluntarily enter into the relationship on her own accord and free-will?

According to Rashi (1040 – 1105), Timna was motivated by a desire to become part of the legendary Avraham’s family.  Originally or ideally, she had sought to marry-in to Avraham’s family.  Her interest in doing so is not documented in the Torah.  It most likely wasn’t the family fortune – although Avraham came back from his sojourn in Egypt with an extremely high Forbes ranking – since there were certainly plenty of wealthy families that she could she would be accepted into by marriage.   Besides, as a concubine she wouldn’t fully benefit from that wealth anyway.  Rashi explains, however, that it was because of Avraham’s great fame and renown that she wished to become a part of his family.  In the end, of course, Eliphaz was unwilling to marry her, possibly for this very reason.  Next to the distinguished lineage of Eliphaz whose great-grandfather was Avraham, her royal family origins were, relatively speaking, too unsophisticated.  But Timna was not deterred, and she decided that joining the family took precedence to being fully married and it was therefore worth settling for concubinage.

From the Torah itself, it is difficult to get a full impression of our founding father’s impact on mankind.  We can think of many celebrities that capture the world’s attention, due to their contributions, their lineage, or their wealth.  Hundreds of thousands of readers devour biographies about their lives and achievements.   Avraham may have become well known, to some extent, because of similar factors as well; he only became a cultural icon, however, because of his legendary spirituality.  Avraham the Hebrew enchanted his generation with his innovative wisdom, his obsession with kindness, and his deeply sincere connection with the Almighty.  Timna, who was touched and wanted to be involved on a personal level to at least some small degree, gives us a glimpse of the way the world viewed and revered Avraham in his time.  Although this fervor has died down over the millennia, Avraham’s descendants, at the very least, cannot forget his great legacy and can still look back upon their founding father with wide-eyed amazement.

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