When my wife gave birth to twin girls 20 years ago, we did not realize what pattern she was setting in motion. Baruch Hashem, my twin daughters both got married this past year. The oldest twin just gave birth to twin boys last week! We believe that this week’s parsha provides us some guidance regarding our future relationship with our new grandsons.
In Parshas Lech Lecha, Avraham and Sarah travel to Egypt. Avraham tells Sarah he is worried that since she’s so beautiful, people there may kill him so they can marry her. He asks Sarah to tell everyone she is his sister (not his wife). Further, Avraham adds on another reason for the request: “In order that they should be good to me and I will live on your account.” Rashi says this means “they will give me presents.”
Could it be that at this dangerous time, Avraham is thinking about what he can do to receive presents?? Indeed, this is what happens! Pharaoh gave Avraham massive amounts of presents.
Why did Avraham want presents?
Here, Ramban lays down the fundamental principle of “ma’aseh avos siman lebanim”—the actions of the Patriarchs were models for their children. All the actions of the patriarchs were not just occurrences and challenges for their own personal lives but were enabling and empowering all klal Yisrael to be able to endure and overcome various challenges. Avraham went into exile in Egypt, and later so did the Jewish nation. In his exile, Avraham was preparing for his future generations to be able to withstand and endure their enslavement.
The presents Avraham was attempting to receive were for the purpose of gaining esteem in the eyes of the Egyptians as head of a special people that is unlike those found in Egypt. Rav Isaac Sher explains Avraham was interested in bringing people closer to Hashem. Yet, how could he be credible as an outsider, a foreigner? He realized his success lay in his being a respected man of means. Hence the need to receive presents. Similarly, in Tehillim (76:12) it says the nations of the world will give presents to Moshiach. Why does Moshiach need presents? Rav Sher says by giving Moshiach presents, the nations will connect to him and they will respect him. Moshiach will then be able to influence them positively.
Rav Yaakov from Lissa cites another example of “ma’aseh avos siman lebanim.” Avraham realized Egypt was an immoral society. Rashi points out that in the plague of the “first” born, many people died in each home! Why more than one? Rashi explains that the first born from each union of the wife in a household died. In order to protect his children from this decadent and licentious influence, Avraham told Sarah to pretend she was not married. When Egyptians, including Pharaoh himself, would offer to marry her, she was to withstand the challenge and maintain firm boundaries no matter what. By following through in maintaining those boundaries, Sarah gave the strength to her descendants to live in purity throughout their challenging years in Egypt.
Avraham and Sarah had a profound impact on the souls of their millions of descendants. We can do the same. Every day, as parents, we are modeling for our children. Every test we pass, every temptation we pass up, strengthens our children…and all their generations to come!
Just recently, my sister-in-law found a letter my wife and I wrote to my mother-in-law, Rebbetzin Singer, a”h. When our twin daughters were born, some 20 years ago, Rebbetzin Singer came to Eretz Yisrael for three weeks to help us. This letter was a thank you note to her. As I read it, I could not help but feel deep emotions, thinking of my own children who will be moving into our home for a month with their twin boys.
With an almost prophetic pen, my wife wrote, “Baruch, the girls and myself are so grateful for everything and I really don’t know how to thank you. All your future great, great, great-grandchildren will thank you because you just taught me what it means to be a mother! If only I can follow in your footsteps. Mommy, thank you for being a role model for me and my girls.”
May Hashem give us His blessing to be proper role models for our children (and my new twin grandsons!).