Every year I struggle with what to write about for Parshas Vayeira. The amount of material and amazing ideas covered in this parshah will, b’ezras Hashem, take us many more years of Divrei Torah to cover. This year, however, the decision was made for me. Currently, I do not have as much time to learn Parshah during the week as I have in the past so I searched for a shorter Dvar Torah to write up. While short, this vort is just as great.
As part of his travels, Avraham traveled down to Garar along with Sarah. When he arrived there, Sarah was again whisked off to King Avimelech, same as when they went to Mitzrayim. Hashem comes to Avimelech in a dream and tells him that Sarah is a married woman and he should return her to Avraham. In the morning, Avimelech confronts Avraham and asks him why he did not tell him that Sarah was his sister? Avraham gives him two answers. The first is that he saw clearly that the people of Garar had no fear of Hashem and would not have hesitated to take Sarah even if he said that they were married. The second answer he gives is, “וְגַם אָמְנָה אֲחֹתִי בַת אָבִי הִוא אַךְ לֹא בַת אִמִּי וַתְּהִי לִי לְאִשָּׁה” “And also, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife” (Bereishis 20:12). Avraham’s brother was Sarah’s father; Rashi explains that since grandparents can be called parents to their grandchildren, Sarah could also be called a child of Avraham’s father, Terach.
The Ramban asks a simple question on this second answer of Avraham. When Avimelech is asking Avraham why he would say Sarah is his sister, he is asking him why he let him think that Sarah was not his wife. When Avraham answers that really she could be called his sister, how does that answer the question? Avimelech does not care what she can be called, just why Avraham allowed him to be put in that situation in the first place!
The Ramban answers by explaining Avraham’s thought process. Avraham was telling Avimelech with his first answer that he did not know if the people of Garar feared Hashem since back then most countries did not. Therefore, he had a system in place with Sarah that wherever they went they would call themselves brother and sister. If the visiting country did not attempt to take Sarah initially, calling Sarah his sister also provided Avraham with one extra safeguard. If the country was indeed a God-fearing place, then if the inhabitants had any interest in Sarah, they would ask her “brother” for her hand. Since Avraham was indeed her brother, he would have been responsible for this. Once Avraham saw that the people took Sarah without asking him anything, he saw that they had no fear of God and did not attempt to tell them that Sarah was really his wife as he feared they would kill him. So really the fact that Avraham was really Sarah’s brother is important as it allowed him to be the one responsible for her future and he could then deny any person who came to court her. However, Avimelech took that choice out of his hands as the second the people found out she was not married, they took her away.
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