Bible-Personalities-Sarah and Pharaoh
The Midrash teaches that the 15th of Nisan is the anniversary of Sarah being brought to the house of Pharaoh (Bereishit Rabbah 12:15): “Her husband’s heart trusts in her, and he shall lack no fortune.” Who is this woman? The Midrash (Tanchumah, Chayei Sarah #4) explains this verse based on the following story:
“And there was a famine in the land; and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was sore in the land. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife: ‘Behold now, I know that you are a fair woman to look upon. And it will come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see you, that they will say: This is his wife; and they will kill me, but you they will keep alive. Please say you are my sister; that it may be well with me for your sake, and that my soul may live because of you.’ And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. And the princes of Pharaoh saw her, and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And he dealt well with Abram for her sake; and he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels. And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram, and said: ‘What is this that you have done to me? why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say: She is my sister? so that I took her to be my wife; now therefore behold your wife, take her, and go your way.’ And Pharaoh gave men charge concerning him; and they brought him on the way, and his wife, and all that he had. And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the South. And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.” (Genesis 12:10 – 13:2)
The Midrash says, “Her husband’s heart trusts in her,” refers to, “Please say you are my sister; that it may be well with me for your sake,” and, “he shall lack no fortune,” refers to, “And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.”
If the Midrash wanted to explain the verse from Proverbs as cause and effect; ‘he who trusts in his wife shall lack no fortune,’ should it not have used another verse to describe Abram’s new wealth; “And he dealt well with Abram for her sake; and he had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and men-servants, and maid-servants, and she-asses, and camels,” the verse that explicitly says that Abram received these riches “for her sake.”
The example of trust seems drastic: Abram trusted that Sarai would put herself at risk for his sake. He trusted that she would cooperate with his risky plan. Is she considered a Woman of Valor only if her husband can trust in her to such an extent?
I always read this story as an expression of Sarai’s trust in Abram: she trusted that he knew what he was doing, and that God would protect her as He had her husband. Yet the Midrash turns this all on its head. Abram is the one who trusts in Sarai and it is in her merit that he became wealthy. This raises another issue, which is that. god promised Abram that he would make him wealthy and had not mentioned anything about the merit of Sarai. Why did God bring about Abram’s wealth only through his trust in Sarai?
We mentioned in “Wife For Sale,” that we learn true love of God through our relationship with our spouse. Perhaps this verse is teaching us that the reverse is true as well: We must be able to apply everything in our relationship with God to our relationship with our spouse. We are constantly reminded how our homes must be a haven for the Shechinah, the Divine Presence. That will only happen if our home is a reflection of our relationship with God.
Abram trusted in God when he began his journey backed by God’s promises. He trusted that he would have children, that his reputation would benefit despite his being a traveler, and that despite his travels, would become wealthy. Abram had to learn to trust his wife as he trusted God! His blessings could only be realized if Abram’s home reflected the power and passion of his relationship with God.
The Eishet Chayil, the Woman of Valor, nurtures such an environment. She engenders such trust, and creates endless possibilities for blessing.