Genesis 21: The Birth of Isaac
The association between this traditional Torah reading for the first day of Rosh Hashanah and the actual holiday is a subtle one. Rosh Hashanah is called the "Day of Remembrance," a theme that appears in the very first verse of the portion. When God "took note of Sarah," the Hebrew pakad is used. God remembers Sarah, but more so, God takes account of Sarah. This is the connection to Rosh Hashanah. On this day of Judgment God takes account of each individual, and will remember us for good--as God did with Sarah and Abraham. It should be noted that Genesis 21 is not read in Reform congregations, which begin Rosh Hashanah with the reading of Genesis 22.
This English translation is reprinted with permission from Tanakh The Holy Scriptures published by the Jewish Publication Society.
21:1. The LORD took note of Sarah as He had promised, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken.
21:2. Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken.
21:3. Abraham gave his new-born son, whom Sarah had borne him, the name of Isaac.
21:4. And when his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded him.
21:5. Now Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
21:6. Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter; everyone who hears will laugh with [literally "for"] me."
21:7. And she added,
"Who would have said to Abraham
That Sarah would suckle children!Yet I have borne a son in his old age."
21:8. The child grew up and was weaned, and Abraham held a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.
21:9. Sarah saw the son, whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, playing.
21:10. She said to Abraham, "Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac."
21:11. The matter distressed Abraham greatly, for it concerned a son of his.
21:12. But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued [literally "called"] for you.