Wednesday, November 01, 2006

realistic solutions

Parshat Lech L'Cha

We experience Avram and Sarai going down to Egypt due to a famine in the Land of C'naan. As they approach Egypt, Avram devises a plan. He fears for his life, as Sarai is an exceptionally beautiful woman he expects that the Egyptians, desiring Sarai, would have him killed so she would be husbandless and then they would take her for marriage.

In 12:13 Avram comes up with a plan that, "Say you are my sister, thereby they will be good to me for you, and will let me live because of you."

Avram did not want to say they were married because that would put him in danger. They would desire Sarai and if she was married, they would kill her husband to release her from her marriage. By saying she is his sister, they would take Sarai but not kill Avram.

Was Avram so selfish and self-absorbed that he was only concerned about his own safety, and not of Sarai's? Was he so greedy that his concern was first "they will be good to me" which Rashi explains they will give me presents on your behalf even before he says "and they will let me live"?

I found the S'forno which seems to answer this question, at least in part. The S'forno explains that Avram said of we say we are married they will kill me and take you. By saying you are my sister, they will not kill me and they will also not take you. They will beseech me and ask for your hand in marriage and offer gifts as a bribe and goodwill so I will allow them to take you.

But I do not think that is enough to answer the question. Avram should have expected it to be dangerous for her even with the claim that she is a sister. Why? Because we see they claimed she was his sister and yet in 12:15 we see that they still took Sarai. Did Avram predict incorrectly?

I suspect that Sarai being taken by the Egyptians was a fait accompli, and Avram recognized that. He knew that no matter what he did, she would be taken. The only way to avoid it would be not to go down to Egypt, but that was not an option because of the famine spreading in the Land of C'naan. Instead of looking for an unrealistic solution to the problem, he looked for the best way to protect the two of them. By saying they were married, they would kill him and Sarai would be lost for good. By saying she is his sister, they would have no reason to kill him, even if they forcibly take her, and then he would still be around to fight for her release.

Take the lesson from Avram - don't waste your time searching for unrealistic solutions.

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