Genesis 12: 10-20 part 2 of 2

(The following four paragraphs are copied from part one to enable part two to stand on its own.)

Hashem commands Avraham to go to land of Cana’an: And the Lord had said to Avram, Get out from your country, and from your family, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. Soon after Avraham arrives, though, a “severe famine” forces him to leave southward to Egypt.

As he approaches Egypt, he turns to Sarah, his wife, saying, now I know that you are an attractive woman; when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘It’s his wife’ and they will kill me and keep you alive. [He then instructs her:] please say that you are my sister, so that they will favor me because of you, and that my life be spared thanks to you.

As planned, Sarah says that she is Avraham’s sister, and, indeed, the Egyptians favor Avraham with gifts on account of her.

Sarah, though, is taken to the house of Pharoah, but Hashem inflicts him and his household with a “severe disease”, causing Pharoah to return Sarah to her husband unviolated.

Rashi, commenting on Avraham’s intent when saying that the Egyptians will favor me because of you, interprets, “they will give me gifts.”

Avraham’s plan bears fruit, and, indeed, ultimately, Pharoah treated Avram well for her sake; so he had sheep, and oxen, and male asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and female asses, and camels.

How, though, could Avraham Avinu have done this to Sarah in order to receive gifts, asks the Zohar?

The Zohar answers that Avraham knew full well that Sarah’s righteousness ensured that she could not be harmed, and goes on to explain in detail how in the merit of a good wife, a man receives “wealth and all things good”.

This explanation, however, seems, at first glance, insufficient: True, Avraham knew that Sarah would not be violated, but, nevertheless, Sarah’s abduction itself was a negative situation; how could Avraham have enabled it in order to receive gifts!

The Lubaviture Rebbe resolves the issue thusly: I shall bless you, Hashem says to Avraham, when commanding him to head out for Cana’an (verse 1); “with money,” adds Rashi interperatively. Indeed, there are reasons to conclude that Avraham held that his being forced out Israel had something to do with the fulfillment of this blessing. So when Avraham saw a natural opportunity to bring it about, he understood that it was his obligation to capitalize on it.

Perhaps Avraham should have had doubts, seeing as how not only he but also Sarah had to be involved? For this reason, the Zorah follows its answer with a detailed explanation of how wealth comes about through\because of the wife; Avraham knew the divine dynamic and acted on it. (Indeed this can also be seen with close reading of the Zohar’s wording.)

The Rebbe adds that it’s possible to take out of the forgoing an important lesson regarding the service of G-d: According to the Zohar, Avraham and Sarah represent, respectively and collectively, the soul and the body. And just as G-d’s promise to Avraham was fulfilled specifically through Sarah’s descent into the house of Pharoah, so too, the perfection of the soul is brought about, specifically, through it’s descent into and encounter with the physical world. And just as Sarah’s descent into the house of Pharoah brought her no harm, so too the body’s descent into and encounter with matters of the world will bring no spiritual harm to the person. On the contrary, the body’s descent into this world is for an ascent, namely, that the body, thereby, achieves its perfection.


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