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SAID Rabbi Jehuda: "Observe that as Abraham went down into Egypt without the divine permission, he caused his descendants to suffer four hundred years of bondage. He should first have obtained this and all would have gone well. From the first night of his entrance into Egypt, he had to suffer on account of SaraSara = Sarah, his wife, as it is stated, 'And he said unto Sarah his wife, behold now I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon.' Did he not before know this; that she was such, and if so, why did he use the word 'now.' It was because up to then the conjugal life of Abraham had been so pure and chaste that he had not gazed upon and beheld her face to face. It was only on approaching Egypt, Sara raised her veil, when her beauty became manifested to Abraham. Another explanation is, that during the fatigue and wearisomeness of a long journey the human body becomes shrunken and enfeebled, but with Sara it was not so, for she had retained her beauty of feature and form without the slightest change or diminution. Observing this, Abraham used the word quoted. A third and most likely reason is what has been traditionally stated, that Abraham then beheld the Shekina or divine glory and presence about her that so affected him with a feeling of joy and delight that he exclaimed, 'I see that thou art fair to look upon.' Knowing also the manners and customs then prevailing in Egypt, he considered how to avoid the taking of Sara from him and therefore said unto her, 'Say I pray thee that thou art my sister.' This word sister (achath) has a two-fold meaning, one literal, the other allegorical or mystical, as in the verse, say unto Wisdom, thou art my sister.' (Prov. VII. 4.) By Wisdom is here meant the Schekina, who is also called sometimes a sister. In inducing Sara to say thus, Abraham was guilty of causing her to prevaricate and utter a falsehood, as the Schekina was really with her, and becomes as a sister to every human soul that enters on the divine and higher life, It is further added, 'that it may be well with me for thy sake, and my soul shall live because of thee.' These words were

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addressed by Abraham to the divine glory, their meaning being, 'that the Holy One may through thee do good unto me and my soul preserved and saved'81b-82a as it is only through the grace of the Holy Spirit that a man on quitting earth life is accounted worthy of everlasting life."

Said Rabbi Yessa: "Though Abraham knew of the luxurious manners and unchastity of the Egyptians, yet he was not afraid of taking his wife thither, because the Schekina was with her and therefore he felt no apprehension of the future."

Said Rabbi Jehuda: "'And the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.' Abraham had concealed his wife in a coffer, which when opened by the Egyptian excise officers there flashed forth a light as bright as that of the sun, and therefore it is said, 'she was very fair.' What they really beheld was a form other than that of Sara that remained visible after they had brought her out of the coffer. This explains the somewhat pleonastic and similar expressions: 'the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair,' and 'the princes also of Pharaoh saw and commended her before Pharaoh,'Gen. 12:15 because, as tradition asserts, they beheld the Schekina abiding with Sara."

Said Rabbi Isaac, "Woe unto the evil minded and unbelieving souls! who know nothing, nor care to understand the doings and acts of the Holy One, therefore they perceive not that every event that takes place in the world is arranged and ordered aforehand by him who sees the beginning and the end of all things ere they come to pass, as it is written, 'Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done.' (Is. XLVI. 10.) Observe, if Sara had not been brought before Pharaoh, he would not have been visited with great plagues, similar to those that afflicted the Egyptians in after years. In both cases the same term 'gedolim (great)', is applied to them. 'And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his household with great plagues (negaaim gedolim) and the Lord shewed signs and wonders great (gedolim) and sore upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household.' (Deuter. VI. 22.) From the use of the term 'great' we may infer that the plagues inflicted upon Pharaoh in the time of Abraham were the same in number if not in character as those in the time of Moses, and in both instances were done during night time."

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Said Rabbi Isaac: "It is written, 'But thou, oh Lord, art a shield for me, my glory and the lifter up of my head.' (Ps. III. 4.) David said these words unto the Lord, 'Even though all men should stand up against me, I will not fear, for thou art my protector (a shield before me)'. Remark here the use of the word 'a shield (magen).' David at one time said unto the Holy One, 'Ruler of the world, wherefore is it no form or prayer of benediction is found ending with my name like that of Abraham which the children of Israel address to heaven, and concluding with 'Blessed be thou, oh Lord, protector of Abraham.' To which the Holy One replied, 'Abraham by enduring great protracted trials, proved himself faithful and perfect.' Then said David, 'If this be the reason examine me, oh Lord, and prove me and try my reins and my heart.' (Ps. XXVI. 2.) After his sin in connection with Bathsheba, David remembered these words he had said unto the Holy One and exclaimed, 'Thou hast proved my heart, thou hast visited me in the night without finding--oh, that I had never spoken! I said try me and thou hast proved me; try my reins and my heart as by fire, and thou hast done so and found me not as I wished or ought to be. Better if I had kept silent and not demanded to be tested and tried.' Yet, notwithstanding David's weakness and frailty there is now a prayer of benediction concluding with, 'Blessed art thou, oh Lord, protector of David.' This is why he said, 'Thou, oh Lord, art my protector (magen), my glory and the lifter up of my head' which he appraised more than his jewelled crown and kingly sceptre."

Next: Chapter LXXXVI. Kabbalistic Cosmology