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A FAMILY AFFAIR

by Rabbi Herbert J. Cohen, Ph.D.    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

In this week's Torah portion, Abraham tells Pharaoh that Sarah is his sister, not his wife. The commentators explain that Abraham did this because he knew that, in a place where there is no fear of G-d, telling Pharaoh the truth would have meant that Pharaoh would kill him immediately so that he could marry her.

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In this week's Torah portion, Abraham tells Pharaoh that Sarah is his sister, not his wife. The commentators explain that Abraham did this because he knew that, in a place where there is no fear of G-d, telling Pharaoh the truth would have meant that Pharaoh would kill him immediately so that he could marry her. Saying that Sarah was his sister, however, would allow Abraham to buy some time in a very dangerous situation.

There is another reason, say our sages, why Abraham tells Pharaoh that Sarah is his sister. The Talmud (Tractate Baba Batra 110a) informs us that before a man marries, he should investigate the brothers of his bride. This is because the children of a union often resemble the brothers of the mother. Therefore, Abraham is subtly hinting to Pharaoh that he can learn much about Sarah's character by interacting with Abraham, her supposed brother.

This insight is echoed somewhat in the book of Exodus when the Torah mentions that the brother of Aaron's wife Elisheva was Nachshon. Rashi, the fundamental Torah commentator, comments there that when one marries a woman, he should check out the moral character of her brothers.

The underlying message in both passages is that when one marries, the person needs to consider not only the physical and spiritual beauty of his intended, but he must also consider family background, for it is family that influences in a powerful way a person's character and emotional makeup. Of course, physical attraction between spouses is important, but marriage blossoms only when this is combined with good character.

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Rabbi Herbert J. Cohen, Ph.D. has been the dean of the Yeshiva High High School of Atlanta for over 20 years.

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