In Bereishit 21, Avraham sends Hagar and Ishmael out with water. When the water is done, she sends him over to some trees and removes herself so as not to see his suffering. According to pasuk 16, she cries. [text from chabad.org]

16.And she went and sat down from afar, at about the distance of two bowshots, for she said, "Let me not see the child's death." And she sat from afar, and she raised her voice and wept. טז.וַתֵּלֶךְ וַתֵּשֶׁב לָהּ מִנֶּגֶד הַרְחֵק כִּמְטַחֲוֵי קֶשֶׁת כִּי אָמְרָה אַל אֶרְאֶה בְּמוֹת הַיָּלֶד וַתֵּשֶׁב מִנֶּגֶד וַתִּשָּׂא אֶת קֹלָהּ וַתֵּבְךְּ: ‏

17.And God heard the lad's voice, and an angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, "What is troubling you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the lad's voice in the place where he is. יז.וַיִּשְׁמַע אֱלֹהִים אֶת קוֹל הַנַּעַר וַיִּקְרָא מַלְאַךְ אֱלֹהִים | אֶל הָגָר מִן הַשָּׁמַיִם וַיֹּאמֶר לָהּ מַה לָּךְ הָגָר אַל תִּירְאִי כִּי שָׁמַע אֱלֹהִים אֶל קוֹל הַנַּעַר בַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא שָׁם: ‏

But the text never indicates that the boy cried! His mother did and yet the meforshim like Rashi point out that it was HIS prayers which were answered:

From here [we learn] that the sick person’s prayer is more effective than the prayer of others on his behalf, and is the first to be accepted. — [from Gen. Rabbah 53:14]

Why would the text overtly ascribe the crying to Hagar and then have that crying ignored, because unmentioned crying is more powerful?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Sep 20 '15 at 3:22
  • What do young children do when they are thirsty or hungry, but can't talk... they cry to make their needs known. Besides verse 17 also clearly shows that the troubling of Hagar was because of the crying of her son, but she didn't have to fear, for HaShem already heard (knew) of it. – Levi Jan 21 '17 at 17:24
  • @Levi - Yishmoel was not a young child. He was already a teenager when this happened. – ezra Mar 21 '17 at 3:46
  • @ezra did you derive this from the texts or another source? – Levi Mar 21 '17 at 5:35
  • @Levi - Bereshis 17:25 The bris of Avrohom and Yishmoel happened before the birth of Yitzchok. – ezra Mar 21 '17 at 16:07

Rav Hirsch says that Yishmael crying had already occured before Hagar threw him away

Hashem has already heard your child, there where he lies struggling. Had you put your trust in Hashem, had you not thrown your child there but laid him gently down, had you not left him but had you remained by him as becomes a mother, then you would already have seen the well, there just where he is.

Since Yishmael was already sick and dying of fever and thirst, he would have been crying about it already. His mother just ignored him and kept going until she could not take it anymore and then threw him away and went aside to mourn and wail because she thought that he was going to die.

My own thought about this situation, based on the explanation that she miscarried the first time she ran away follows. She reacted so strongly because the first time she miscarried. She may have thought that for Yitzchak to become the heir Yishmael too would have to die so that Yitzchak would be the eldest. That could be why she refused to respond the first time until the mal'ach spoke to her three separate times and had to be explicitly commanded by Hashem to see the well and give him the water. Note also that he immediately became well once he got the water from the well which is itself a nes.


Perhaps the answer is as follows.

Since she was crying on Yishmael's behalf it was considered as if he had cried. Thus the pasuk talks about Yishmael's voice, even while the soundwaves emitted from her mouth. She was his agent.

The Midrash is not saying he cried on his own behalf and therefore his prayer was more effective. The Midrash is figuring out the principle that a person's own prayer is more effective by a logical deduction.

The Midrash assumes the above interpretation of the pasuk. Says the Midrash, if what Hashem heard in Hagar was Yishmael, then surely Yishmael himself would have been heard.

The Midrash is noting that the Merciful chose to imply that the reason Hagar's prayer was answered was because Hashem heard Yishmael's voice in her. If so, how much more so if Yishmael himself had called out!


There is a saying by Rabi from Kotzk :
"A person who wants to pray but can't do it, that is the best praying".
This is what Ishmaael did.
He couldn't pray and god heard his "Internal" pray which is stronger than the verbal one by his mother.

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