As we know, Abraham was truly a great man. However, there is another – less obvious but nonetheless very important – aspect to him that shows his true greatness but is often overlooked.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Lech Lecha” (Genesis 12:1-17:27), and it is a distinct and special reading. This is because in it talks about “Aliyah” — when Abraham who was told by God to leave his home and make his way to the Land of Israel.
This week’s reading also contains the famous promise of Genesis 12:3 that “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” In other words, God will be good to those who are good to the Jews.
Although there is much to talk about in terms of Aliyah, immigration, and life in Israel (from Abraham’s time to ours!), I would like to focus on an aspect of Abraham that is often overlooked. When Abraham arrived in the Land of Israel and set up camp, the verse tells us “Vayet Ohalo,” which means “and he pitched his tent.” It is noted, however ,that the word “Ohalo” (“his tent”) is spelled in an unusual manner, with the letter “hay” at the end, instead of what should be a “vav.” When “tent,” or any noun for that matter, concludes with a “hay,” it comes to convey “belonging to her.” As such, those words truly read “and he pitched HER tent,” meaning his wife’s.
Abraham pitched Sara’s tent before he pitched his own.
Honoring one’s wife (OK, and husband) is something most of us don’t do enough. Abraham wasn’t just about building a nation and preaching God and monotheism to the whole world. His greatness began at home with the way he treated his wife. The sages tell us that we must treat our wives better than we treat ourselves. We must honor her more, speak gently to her, and be sure to buy her gifts, especially before the holidays.
The Talmud tells us that that those who treat their wives well will be blessed with wealth. And indeed, Abraham was incredibly wealthy! Why is that? Why is the reward for treating one’s wife well, “wealth.” Why not some other blessing?
It is explained that a wife works hard to take care of the home and raise the children and she wants to be appreciated for that. When her husband shows appreciation and recognizes her hard work, she feels encouraged to do more for her home and family. So too, as they say, “a happy wife equals a happy life.” Although the blessing of wealth is indeed meant to be taken literally, perhaps there is another way of looking at wealth.
When a husband and wife have love and peace between them, a concept known as “shalom bayit” in Judaism, it is the most valuable blessing that can be bestowed upon a home. It is worth a million bucks. Although there may indeed be some kind of spiritual supernatural connection between being good to your wife and financial wealth, it is not the only type of wealth that is out there. Wealth has its worth, but love and peace in the home is priceless.
Abraham was not great merely because he walked with God, built a nation, and gave the world a religion based on the One God. Abraham was great also because he still remembered to treat his wife with respect. Sometimes it’s the little things that bring on greatness. What an important message for us! We can all use a little more Abraham in our marriages.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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