THE MATRIARCH’S ABDUCTION

And as it is written: וינגע ה’ את-פרעה נגעים גדלים ואת-ביתו על-דבר שרי אשת אברם “And the L-rd plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife”[1]. As the Torah brings in this holy parsha, due to a severe famine in the land, Avram and his family had to travel to Egypt where there was an abundance of resources. The patriarch Avram was a wise and righteous man, and he had already had contact with Hashem, which spiritually elevated him even more so. His perception of reality was advanced, so in order to prevent possible problems before entering Egypt, he requested his wife Sarai to affirm being his sister and not his spouse. Avram knew that the Egyptians were idolaters and that they were not guided by any moral code that would stop them from kidnapping Sarai if they knew she was Avram’s wife. Now, as his sister, perhaps they would leave her alone. However, when the Egyptians saw Sarai’s extraordinary beauty, she ended up being taken captive to Pharaoh. And he desired her. Still, ולאברם היטיב בעבורה Ule’Avram heitiv baavura, “And he dealt well with Avram for her sake”[2], for he presumed[3] that such kind dealings would be enough to calm the patriarch’s feelings, so he would judge him positively, although his wife had been captured. In fact, Pharaoh gave Avram much cattle and slaves in the hopes to bribe the feelings of the holy man. Yet, Avram knew from divine inspiration who in fact was this evil master of the occult. A hint to that, the gematria of this pasuk is 600, the same numerical value as שקר sheker, “lie”. The Torah narrates that it was then that Hashem punished the Pharaoh and his house for having just thought of touching the holy matriarch, chaz v’shalom. And Rashi explains על-דבר שרי al-devar Sarai, “because of Sarai etc.”, as such: “Through her word [came the punishments]. She instructed the malach/angel: הך hach, ‘Strike!’, and then he would [obey and] strike them”. See, Pharaoh was connected to the “forces of externality” (“Evil”) which only exist through a minimal nourishment given “behind one’s back/posterior” (אחוריים achorayim) of Holiness[4], as hinted when he begins speaking to Avram: ויקרא פרעה Vayikra Faro, “And Pharaoh called …”, with gematria atbash 633, the same as achorayim. And the Torah continues revealing Pharaoh’s astonishment, who then said: מה-זאת עשית לי Ma-zot asita li, “What is this that thou hast done unto me?”[5], with the reshei tevot/acrostic (מזעל) that forms the expression ע מזל ayin mazal, signifying “the ‘Divine Nothing’ [Hashem] is the spiritual root”. And the end of this verse למה לא-הגדת לי כי אשתך הוא Lama lo-higadta li ki ishtecha hiv, “Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?” has the sofei tevot/final letters האתייךא, with gematria 927, the same as ממקור ישראל mi-mekor Israel, “from the fountain of Israel”. As such, Pharaoh’s perplexity hid his understanding about Avram and Sarai, that “Hashem is the spiritual root from the fountain of Israel”. Although Pharaoh was terrified by the plagues that afflicted him, still he did not recognize Hashem, the G-d of Avram. Quickly, he sent them to be escorted out of Egypt, as the Torah relates[6]. Now, the reshei tevot of the verse וינגע ה’ את-פרעה נגעים גדלים ואת-ביתו “And the L-rd plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues” is ויאפנגוב, with gematria albam 589. This is the gematria (sofit version) of ואבימלך ve’Avimelech, “And Abimelech”. Moreover, in the sequence of this pasuk, the reshei tevot of על-דבר שרי al-devar Sarai is עדש, with gematria atbash 109, the same as gematria of ואבימלך ve’Avimelech, “And Abimelech”! In a secret level, the Torah alerts us about a character that until now had not appeared: Abimelech. More so, another hint regarding the future appears here, as the gematria of הך hach, “strike” is 505, that being the same numerical value of שרה Sarah, but not שרי Sarai – the matriarch’s name up to this point in the Torah’s narrative.

And so time passed, and after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah[7] Avraham and Sarah journeyed again[8]. Therefore, they went to Gerar, in the land of the Philistines. However, before entering this land, Avraham sensed that something needed to be done to prevent, hopefully, his wife Sarah form being approached by this people. The Philistines (Heb. Pelishtim) were known by their great sensual indulgencies and adoration of the entire Canaanite pantheon. Now, the name פלשתים Pelishtim derives from the Hebrew root pei-lamed-shin, signifying “overdoing it”. Over-indulgence in the sensuality of this world renders a person spiritually closed and “clogged up”, impervious to Divine inspiration and insensitive to the inner reality of life and its experiences. Avraham knew this, for Hashem was at his side, divinely inspiring him. And it was then thatאבימלך מלך גרר Avimelech melech Gerar, “Abimelech king of Gerar[9] sent his men to take and bring Sarah to him. The gematria of this verse is 598, the same as איש-מרמה ish-mirmah, “deceitful man”[10], a secret regarding his nature. Although Avraham again could not stop the abduction of Sarah, Hashem was with him and his wife. Therefore, Hashem appeared in a dream to Abimelech saying he would die for having taken Sarah against her will. In fact, “Abimelech never came close to her, המלאך מנעו ‘because he was hindered by an angel’”[11]. The king of Gerar then spoke to Hashem claiming his Noachide righteousness, which kept him away from transgressions. However, Hashem told to him that without His intervention, indeed he would have sinned. Hashem then orders Abimelech to return Sarah to her husband, and He calls Avraham a prophet, saying he would pray for Abimelech so the plagues would cease. As such, perturbed with these experiences, Abimelech tries with wisdom and reason to defend and gain favor for his position with Avraham, thus affirming his purported righteousness: ויקרא אבימלך Vayikra Avimelech, “And Abimelech called…” with gematria albam 1200, the same numerical value as two times שקר sheker, “lie”. The Torah continues revealing the astonishment of Abimelech, who then said: מה-עשית לנו Me-asita lanu, “What have you done unto us?”[12], with reshei tavot לעמ la’Am, “to the people”, for Abimelech was very much bothered that Avraham suspected that his people had taken his wife, being that this was forbidden by the Seven Laws of Noach – a capital crime. Thus responds Avraham: כי אמרתי רק אין-יראת אלקים במקום הזה Ki amarti rak ein-yirat Hashem bamakom haze, “Surely the fear of G-d is not in this place”[13]. The reshei tevot of this verse (כאראיאבה) has gematria avgad 365, prophetically revealing the number of negative mitzvot given to Israel at Sinai. For a place where the fear of G-d really exists, none of these commandments are transgressed. Therefore, Avraham, a name with gematria 248 (as the number of positive mitzvot), represents the completeness in the Divine service that only a prophet has, as alluded by 365 + 248 = 613 mitzvot. The Torah brings Abimelech’s the wisdom and reason, however Avraham does not concede to it, because he knew that despite these inferior wisdoms, Abimelech and his people did not have fear of G-d. In fact, the holy Zohar says, “Abimelech and his people worshiped the stars and constellations. And Abimelech was an astrologer”[14]. He and his people were not true Noachides, although they thought of themselves as such. It is for this reason the pasuk ends: והרגוני על-דבר אשתי Vaharaguni al-devar ishti, “And they will slay me for my wife’s sake”, with gematria ordinal 172, the same numerical value as two times the Name אלקים Elokim, which is associated to the severe judgments. Everyone that finds himself in a dangerous situation, his merits are examined[15]. Since they were not Noachides, then Avraham feared for his life.

At last, the moral here is that, where the fear of G-d is absent, wisdom and abstract knowledge of the law are not enough to overcome the evil inclination. And for a truly righteous man, all of these realities are revealed and he always influences them, even while keeping a calm and peaceful posture, for ה’ ילחם לכם ואתם תחרשון Hashem yilachem lachem veatem tacharishun, “The L-rd shall fight for you, and you shall hold your peace!”[16], with gematria ordinal (plus five for the kolel of each word) equal to 243, the same numerical value of אברם Avram.

 

[1] Bereshit 12:17, Lech Lecha.

[2] Bereshit 12:16.

[3] Since common woman were devalued in his society.

[4] As if throwing food to an enemy from the back.

[5] Bereshit 12:18.

[6] In verse 20.

[7] Bereshit 19:24-25, Vayeira.

[8] To distance themselves from Lot (Rashi in loco).

[9] Bereshit 20:2.

[10] Tehilim 43:1.

[11] Rashi on Bereshit 20:4. This hindrance came in the form of a deep darkness, hinted by the milui gematria of מנעו being 328, the same as חשך ”darkness”.

[12] Bereshit 20:9.

[13] Ibid. 20:11.

[14] 140b, Toledot.

[15] Talmud, Shabbat 32a.

[16] Shemot 14:14.

 

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