A Relationship Under Pressure
Along with all the awe-inspiring and history-altering moments of Avraham and Sarah’s life, there is another, parallel story – the story of their relationship. It’s a more subtle story, certainly, and easy to miss. But it’s a story, I believe, that we were meant to notice.
A little bit of context that is all too easy to forget: Avraham and Sarah lived a hard life. Torn away from their families, Hashem promised blessing and abundance – but there was plenty of hunger, hardship and stress along the way. And all too often, these hardships placed a tremendous strain upon their marriage.
In Parshat Lech Lecha, when Avraham and Sarah traveled to Egypt during a famine, Avraham makes a strange comment to Sarah:
“הִנֵּה-נָא יָדַעְתִּי, כִּי אִשָּׁה יְפַת-מַרְאֶה אָתְּ”
Now, I just realized what a beautiful woman you are.
On a simple level, this is beautiful – our zeide Avraham is telling our Bubbe Sarah how beautiful she is (a good reminder for all of us!)! But what does Avraham mean when he says “I just now realized that you are beautiful”?
Rashi explains, astoundingly, that Avraham and Sarah were so modest that Avraham never realized Sarah was so physically beautiful! But it seems there is a formality, a distance between Avraham and Sarah.
Now, because Sarah was so beautiful, Avraham was afraid the immoral Egyptians would kill him and take Sarah as their own. And so he asks Sarah to present herself to the Egyptians as Avraham’s sister instead. Predictably, Sarah was taken by Pharaoh to be a part of his harem. Now it’s true that, in the end, God saved Sarah and returned her to Avraham. But the stress must have been terrible!
Years later, when […]