perception-or-reality

Amongst the many fascinating events that we read about in this week’s Parsha, is the encounter of Avraham and Avimelech.

After the destruction of Sodom, Avraham went to Gerar. Due to fears of being killed so that his wife would be available, he claimed that Sara was his sister. As soon as Avimelech heard of her, he kidnapped Sara with the intention of taking her for a wife. But before anything could happen, G-d came to Avimelech in a dream and informed him that he has taken a married woman. G-d made it clear that if Sara is not returned, Avimelech will die. But if he does return her, Avraham will pray for Avimelech and he will live.

When G-d came to Avimelech in a dream and commanded him to return Sara to Avraham, G-d explained the reasoning. The reason  Avimelech should return Sara was because Avraham is a Prophet – “כי נביא הוא”. This seems to be odd. Why is the fact that Avraham was a prophet, the argument to Avimelech to return his kidnapped wife? It seems, that if Avraham was not a prophet, perhaps Avimelech would have been permitted to keep Sara.

Rashi explains that since Avraham was a prophet, he knew that Avimelech did not touch Sara and therefore he prayed on his behalf. So that explains it on a somewhat elementary level.

However, the Sfas Emes beautifully reveals a deeper lesson.

We find the story surrounding the birth of Shimshon in Sefer Shoftim. The Navi elaborates how Manoach and his wife were childless.  After some time an angel came to Manoach’s wife and told her that she will have a son. The angel proceeded to give her instructions on how she should conduct herself explaining that the child will be a Nazir and will save the Jewish people from the Plishtim. She went and told her husband that an ish Elohim, a prophet, came  to her and appeared like an angel. As the story goes on, we find that Manoach referred to this angel as an ish Elohim until he confirmed that it indeed was an angel.

Based on this, the Sfas Emes suggests that when Avimelech saw Avraham, he honestly thought he was an angel. With that logic, Avimelech naturally assumed that Sara was not his wife and she was available for marriage. Therefore, G-d, upon instructing Avimelech to return Sara, explained his reasoning with the argument that Avraham is merely a prophet, not an angel, and therefore Sara is legitimately the wife of Avraham, so he must return her.

Many times in life we see things one way and it appears as if we can take advantage based on our perception. Sometimes we need to remember “ ”כי נביא הוא that not everything is as it appears and we must switch perspectives. We must learn the lesson of Avimelech and perceive reality correctly, in the way G-d sees it. Even though at times that may seem like the opposite of what is occurring.

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