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Starting in Genesis 12:13 Avraham and Sarah deceive Pharaoh into thinking that Sarah was not married. It seems from the verses that Avraham and Sarah understood that if Pharaoh thought Sarah was unmarried he would take her as a consort. My question is, given that adultery is one of the seven Noahide laws and one of the 3 transgressions for which one must give up one's life rather than violate, for what reason or by what right did Avraham and Sarah perpetrate this ruse? Shouldn't Sarah, under fear of rape/adultry have disclosed her relationship? And, shouldn't Avraham allowed himself to be killed, or perhaps at least wait until his life was threatened, before putting Sarah in that predicament?

  • Rape does not fall under adultery because the woman is thought to be passive, see Ester's story. Now, is Avraham allowed to put his wife to rape in the first place - I don't think it is Halachic. But keep in mind that half the things that our forefathers did were עת לעשות לה' הפרו תורתך - overriding Torah for G-d's sake. – Al Berko Feb 1 at 10:40
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Rav Hirsch explains on Lech Lecha 12:13 that they were actually in less danger this way than if they had admitted that they were married.

After all that occurred in Egypt and in the land of the Philistines we can conclude that - to which European countries in our modern times may not be without analogy - virgins, unmarried women were more protected against the prevailing immorality than married women. And add to that, a stranger! In both cases, married or unmarried, Sarah's honour was in danger. But, as a married woman the danger would be imminently threatening. One simply kills the objecting husband and rapes the wife. In the case of an unmarried girl accompanied by her brother one hopes to get her through the favor of that brother. In any case this way takes longer, postpones the matter, and in the meantime Hashem can help.

The Egyptians (even the nobles) would have thus, restrained themselves while they tried to get Avraham to agree. Once Par'o expressed an interest, they would have withdrawn and been careful not to offend someone that Par'o wanted to favor. Avraham was successful until Par'o decided to stop playing around and kidnap Sarah.

If Avraham had not taken this tack from the beginning, he would have been unable to make the claim later.

The point Rav Hirsch is making is that one is allowed to take steps in order to avoid being forced into a position of יהרג ואל יעבר. In the way the culture of the time behaved, what he did was to prevent them from being faced with rape/adultery in the first place. Even after she was kidnapped and taken to the palace, Par'o first tried to appease Avraham. Then Hashem intervened so that Sarah was never placed in the יהרג ואל יעבר situation.

  • You say "less danger" but it falls under יהרג ואל יעבר as the OP suggested! – Al Berko Feb 1 at 10:36
  • Actually no. It is a way of preventing being put in that position in the first place. @AlBerko. – sabbahillel Feb 1 at 14:28
  • @AlBerko The point Rav Hirsch is making is that one is allowed to take steps in order to avoid being forced into a position of יהרג ואל יעבר. In the way the culture of the time behaved, what he did was to prevent them from being faced with rape/adultery in the first place. Even after she was kidnapped and taken to the palace, Par'o first tried to appease Avraham. Then Hashem intervened so that Sarah was never placed in the יהרג ואל יעבר situation. – sabbahillel Feb 1 at 19:35
  • If Avraham knew it, why didn't he go to his homeland instead? Oh, that's a good question to ask! – Al Berko Feb 2 at 16:55
  • @AlBerko Avraham had been commanded to go to Canaan. He had to stay close until the famine was over. Also he would have been subject to a second attempt to kill him. Also, there Sara was known to be his wife so he would have been subject even more to being killed so Sara could be raped. – sabbahillel Feb 3 at 0:55
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The Zohar (part 1, 81b-82a) says that Avraham saw the Shechinah with Sarah, and therefore knew that she'd be safe:

רַבִּי יֵיסָא אָמַר יָדַע הֲוָה אַבְרָהָם דְּכֻלְהוּ מִצְרָאֵי שְׁטִיפִין אִנּוּן בְּזִמָּה, וְכֵיוָן דְּכָל הַאי יָדַע אַמַּאי לָא דָחִיל עַל אִתְּתֵיהּ דְּלָא אַהֲדַר מֵאָרְחָא וְלָא יֵיעוּל לְתַמָּן. אֶלָּא בְּגִין דְּחָמָא שְׁכִינְתָּא עִמָּהּ:

And the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 32:5) adds that her experience there enabled the Jewish women during the Egyptian exile to be protected from arayos:

רַבִּי הוּנָא בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי חִיָּא בַּר אַבָּא אָמַר שָׂרָה אִמֵּנוּ יָרְדָה לְמִצְרַיִם וְגָדְרָה עַצְמָהּ מִן הָעֶרְוָה, וְנִגְדְּרוּ כָּל הַנָּשִׁים בִּזְכוּתָהּ.

  • לא סומכים על הנס - one is not allowed to count on a miracle, this invalidates the whole point of learning something useful from the Torah. 2. The second Midrash - how did Sarah stay away from Arayos exactly? What did she actively do? – Al Berko Feb 2 at 16:57
  • @AlBerko The definition of נס vs. טבע varies depending on one's level. Is it סומכין על הנס to go out when it's -20° F, where the cold can kill? Not if you're wearing a warm coat, because the natural laws with which we're familiar tell us that this will prevent you from freezing. Same way, for those on a level to perceive that the Shechinah is with them, it is just as "natural" that this will protect them from harm, whereas for those who can't perceive that, it would indeed be סומכין על הנס. The more so given the Midrash's statement that there was a constructive purpose in doing this. – Meir Feb 4 at 20:45
  • As for (2) - Etz Yosef there says that she stayed away from Pharaoh, and ordered the angel to hit him (פירשה ממנו והיתה אומרת למלאך שיכה בו). – Meir Feb 4 at 20:49
  • I understand, but if so he would go full way - saying the truth. It's not serious using it half way - Now I trust in G-d, no I don't. – Al Berko Feb 4 at 20:50
  • @AlBerko First of all, that would put Avraham himself in danger (והרגו אותי ואותך יחיו); he didn't see the Shechinah with himself, after all. Second, elsewhere (sefaria.org/Zohar.1.111a?lang=he, in connection with the episode with Avimelech) the Zohar in fact says that אחותי היא refers to the Shechinah accompanying her (אמור לחכמה אחותי את). – Meir Feb 4 at 21:09

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