Saturday 7th November 2020 20th Cheshvan 5781
PARASHAT VAYERA וירא FFOZ
Torah: Genesis 18:1-22:24; Haftarah: 2 Kings 4:1-37; Gospel: Luke 17:28-37
Marital Advice from Sarah and Abraham Saturday
When Sarah heard the Angel of the LORD announce that she was to conceive a son, she laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (Genesis 18:12). Peter commented on this verse of the Torah, telling wives that they should submit to their husbands "just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear" (1 Peter 3:5-6). Peter found it significant that Sarah referred to Abraham as “my lord.” He looked at the marriage of Abraham and Sarah as the ideal and model marriage, and he encouraged disciples to emulate Abraham and Sarah A wife should submit to her husband freely and voluntarily, “not being frightened by any fear.” In other words, a worthy wife submits to her husband out of love and respect, not because she is afraid of him. Simon Peter taught that husbands should not demand submission from their wives with threats or stern and angry words. Instead, a worthy husband lives with his wife “in an understanding way, showing his wife “honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). Peter urged husbands to treat their wives as peers, not subordinates, “so that your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). The prayers of a man who does not treat his wife with respect and dignity as a fellow heir (i.e., equal partner) will not reach heaven. Simon Peter concluded his advice on marriage as follows:
To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)
Sarah referred to Abraham as “my lord,” but God told Abraham, “Whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her!” (Genesis 21:12). In the Hebrew idiom, “to listen” is to obey. Abraham was lord over Sarah, but in His service of God, he was subservient to his wife. This husband-wife relationship illustrates the Master’s kingdom principles of headship: “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all” (Mark 10:43-44).
Kingdom leadership is far removed from the rigid, authoritarian, dictatorial standards whereby men are expected to lord it over meek and spineless women. The biblical model of a healthy marriage calls for mutual partnership where the man leads by service to Messiah and his wife. Although Sarah laughed to herself in the privacy of her tent, the LORD knew. He asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’” That was not what Sarah really said. The LORD omitted her words about Abraham: “My lord being old also.” Why did God leave out those words?
The Midrash Tanchuma explains that God omitted the words that Abraham might find hurtful:
In the matter of our mother Sarah, the Holy One, Blessed be He, misrepresented her words … for the sake of peace. Why did He do this? So that Abraham would not resent her and thereby cause animosity between Abraham and Sarah. (Midrash Tanchuma, Shoftim 18)
This story teaches that one must be exceedingly careful to maintain peace between a husband and wife. A person should never speak derisively to someone about that person’s spouse or relate any negative information that might cause friction or otherwise diminish a man’s respect for his wife or a woman’s respect for her husband. Instead, a person should mention only the virtues of a person’s spouse to engender love between a husband and a wife.