Lech Lecha: Honoring Your Wife

The entire nation is facing local elections right now, which is a pretty big deal.  For us, it means we will be having a new mayor for the first time in 30-something years.  Each city has a mayor to vote in along with a city council, which is party-based and is determined by what percentage of the vote each party receives.  In our city we’re not running anybody for mayor, since we are a minority, but we do have our own party, which has 3 seats in a 15-seat (I think) city council.  For the kids, this is fun, since they go out and put up posters and stickers and whatnot.  They’re also up-to-date on what’s going on with whom, what and where. 


The leading mayoral candidate has been working hard.  We’ve seen him around trying to win votes, always followed by two lackeys to do his bidding.  When I say "bidding," I mean it.  The night after Simchas Torah, there was additional dancing and music, and he came to join for a bit to try to get the religious vote.  My son had the "honor" of holding his hand in the dancing and saw him say to one of his minions, “Massage,” and he immediately got a quick shoulder massage.  I tried that later at home with my wife . . . it didn’t work.  I guess I’m not mayor material.


Famous question that always bothers me in this parsha:  When Avraham went down to Egypt, Sarah was taken to be Pharaoh’s wife, then was released, and Avraham was sent away with tons of riches.  After the war with the Kings, Avraham returns and the King of Sodom offers him presents, which Avraham refuses, lest the King of Sodom takes credit for enriching Avraham, instead of Hashem's doing it.


It seems rather contradictory, no?


Thankfully, I saw an original answer from Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein.


When going down to Egypt, Avraham realized what was going to happen when they saw how beautiful Sarah was.  Therefore, he asked her to say that she was his sister, “that it may go well with me for your sake.”  “For YOUR sake . . .” is the key phrase.  In the end of the story we see that pasuk says, “He treated Avram well FOR HER SAKE.”  Rashi points out that it should have said, “Pharaoh treated Avram well . . .,” instead it said, “He treated Avram well . . . .”


Regarding Egypt, Avraham wanted to teach a very important lesson.  “R’ Chelbo said, ‘A person should always be careful of his wife’s honor, for there is no blessing in a person’s home except in the wife’s merit, as it says: ‘And He treated Avram well for her sake’” (Bava Metzia 59a).

Regarding Pharaoh, Avraham had no problem taking gifts, since he was teaching the importance of the bracha of Shalom Bayis (peace in the house) and of honoring one’s wife.  It wasn't a case of Pharaoh giving Avraham gifts; it was Hashem's repaying Avraham for giving honor to his wife. With the King of Sodom, there was no lesson to be learned, so there was no need to take his gifts.


With that, I wish you all a great Shabbos!  I have to go do the dishes now . . .


Michael Winner