For an explanation of the methodology of this series, see the introduction.

"And Abraham took another wife and her name was Ketura" (Gen. 25:1)

Peshat (basic meaning):

Her deeds were as beautiful as incense.

Rashi: "Ketura"; This is Hagar. She was called Ketura because her deeds were as beautiful as incense (in Hebrew, 'ketoret') and because she tied (in Hebrew, 'keshira'; in Aramaic 'ketira') her opening, for she was not intimate with any man from the day she separated from Abraham.

Remez (hinted meaning):

Baal HaTurim: It is proper that if a man's wife dies and leaves him with children of marriageable age, he should marry off his children before taking another wife. Another view: our Sages say that 60 pains come to the mouth that hears the sound of another mouth eating but themselves do not eat. [Eating is a metaphor for marriage and bread a metaphor for a wife. (Baba Kama 92b)]

Derash (interpretive meaning):

Ah, the power of teshuva! One [i.e. Hagar] can be born into a ruling family in the land of greatest impurity [Egypt], sold into slavery, later be banished, and then return and rise up to the level to merit to bond with the Chariot of the attribute of chesed/kindness -— our forefather Abraham!

Changing a name atones for transgressions.

Sod (esoteric, mystical meaning):

Zohar 133: "Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Ketura." Ketura is Hagar, for we learned that after Hagar separated from Abraham and whored after her father's idols, she repented and was associated with good deeds. For that reason, her name was changed to Ketura, which alludes to her good deeds. Then Abraham sent and took her for a wife. From this, it is understood that changing a name atones for transgressions, because her name was changed .

In the phrase: "Then again Abraham", what is meant by "again [he added]"? If you say that Abraham took another wife in addition to Sarah, this is not so. Rather, in the days of Sarah he had already mated once with Hagar and then drove her away because of the deeds of Ishmael. The word "again" means that he wed her again, a second time, because she atoned for her evil deeds. As a result, her name was changed.

The incense prayer is so high that it was offered in the Holy of Holies by the High Priest on Yom Kippur

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
The incense prayer—the Pitum HaKetoret--is our highest offering, so high that it was offered in the Holy of Holies by the High Priest on Yom Kippur. The holy Zohar (parashat Vayakhel) notes that it is a decree from G‑d that whoever reads and studies the matters of the incense offered in the Temple shall be protected from all evils of the world and will not be harmed that day in any way. This is why it is said three times a day, like the Ashrei prayer. 1 We count out the 11 spices on the fingers of the right hand, (Ben Ish Hai, Miketz First Year 8) to denote the importance that is attached to each of them as well as to add concentration. For if the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies with the wrong number of spices, according to Rashi he was subject to the death penalty. Maimonides even maintains that this penalty applies all year round.

Seeing that Hagar does teshuva and changes her name—and thus her mazel —to Ketura, related to ketoret/incense by Rashi - and for the Torah to hint to this comparison, speaks volumes about the spiritual level change for her. Kind of like Josef leaving prison as a common prisoner and in an instant, on the same day, ruling Egypt. And Ketura then bore Abraham six children, (see verse 2) children who were bequeathed gifts and then sent eastward. (See verse 6 and Abraham's Presents to the East.) The tradition2 links these children of aBRaHaM with the highest level BRAHMan caste of India. And the gifts were spiritual secrets (Rashi: verse 6), perhaps used by Yogis to this very day.

The name Hagar equals 208 (hei= 5, gimel = 3, reish = 200). Isaac, whose name too equals 208, brought her back to Abraham, who now represented chesed/lovingkindness after it sweetened the gevurot/severities.

What does that mean? When Abraham, the man of kindness, dealt with the opposite attribute of gevura and fear, G‑d testified: "For now I know that you are a G‑d-fearing person" and not only "Abraham who loved me". Only then, and after the passing of his beloved Sarah - the letters of her name (sin - reish – hei) all relating to the Name Elo-kim for gevura or yir'ah3 - could he reconnectto a "sweetened" version of Isaac in the form of Hagar (with the same gematria of 208), now as fragrant as incense.

All the above flows from the teshuva of Hagar, whose good deeds enabled the change of her name to Ketura, and who could kesher/connect with Abraham in her and his refined state.

Even our saints needed some tikun

Now, really, what does that mean? That even our saints needed some tikun/correction, a healing that could only result from bonding/ connecting/interrelating with an other. That when two come together we form colleagues. Dynamic Duos can conquer better than the Lone Ranger. That people can change through teshuva for the better. And we can build worlds and peace when we come together. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!


Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org, a project of Ascent of Safed (//ascentofsafed.com). All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.