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Abraham and Sarah, An Exemplary Couple

Published on Wednesday November 6th, 2019

On these refreshing autumn days, following the intense period of the High Holidays and the festivities of the month of Tishri, we begin to read the first chapters of the Book of Bereshit (Genesis) and come face to face with some extraordinary stories related to the spiritual and personal journeys of our patriarchs called the "Avot". We feel inspired by their exemplary and outstanding behavior which we seek to emulate and apply to our own lives!

The first and most famous of the Avot, Avraham Avinu, founded monotheism within a flagrantly idolatrous civilization. On these grounds, he was adopted by humanity as the father of all Peoples who believe in a single and unique God. Our forefather Abraham teaches us an outstanding lesson for life at the beginning of the portion of Lech Lecha!

Some of the verses in our parshah single out the exceptional beauty exuded of Abraham's wife, Sarah. Now, when Avraham and Sarah arrived in Egypt, they feared being abused or murdered by the Egyptian people, whose ill behavior and dissolute customs were infamous. So, Avraham said to Sarah: "Tell them you're my sister, so we can spare our lives".

My sister, my bride, the wife-sister ...

This immensely profound remark enunciated by our patriarch inspires me to make the following comment: we know that the Torah strictly forbids a union between a man and his sister. However, our wife must eventually become like a "sister", as intimacy and closeness transform the marital bond over time. The sister-wife is an ideal a Jewish couple strives to achieve in. A successful couple is evaluated, at a certain period of its development, by the level of familiarity and closeness which makes them like a brother and sister raised together under the same roof. This happens because of the consolidation of the bond they share over time and the millions of common denominators between them!

But when the Torah points out that Sarah was "beautiful," Avraham says, "Now, I know you're beautiful! " And our Sages comment:" True, Avraham already knew that Sarah was beautiful, but only now did he realize just how beautiful she was. Up until that point he had never focused on her beauty."

So, here is a second very important lesson to draw from this story: of course, it is incumbent upon a husband to look at his wife before he marries her. However, focusing on every detail of her external appearance is not recommended! In fact, the exemplary modesty and restraint shown by our patriarchs is once again hinting at how we should conduct ourselves. If a man and a woman want to marry, it is enough that they accept themselves as they are. But to become a truly harmonious couple, they must respect one another.

Respecting Others, According to the Torah

But what is the Torah definition of "respecting one another"? Well, firstly it means respecting the privacy of another. And so, one should avoid focusing on every "detail" as one would study an object or a picture, objectifying the other as an inanimate object or a trophy to parade in public. The Torah is much more demanding in this respect: it stresses that true beauty is inside and that physical appearance - which must obviously not be neglected - is only a projection of this primordial interiority!

If I chose this teaching, amid the numerous and immense teachings of our patriarchs, it is to unravel to our readers one of the very palpable problems that trouble couples in our generation. They not only need to show esteem for one another, but especially properly respect one another ...

Avraham and Sarah came to the fore, at the beginning of the Bible story in the first book of the Torah, Bereshit - also called the "Book of the Generations" - to teach us how to do this.

Let us wish all young and old couples reading these lines, a fulfilling life of happiness and success.

Rav Yosef-Chaim Sitruk - © Torah-Box

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