[First posted on The Times of Israel at: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/glorious-modesty/]
Ibn Ezra Genesis: Vayera
“Modesty forbids what the law does not.” -Seneca
Our Matriarch Sarah is considered to have been one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived. Her beauty was so extraordinary, that even into her eighties monarchs sought to possess her. Her husband Abraham, fearful of being assassinated on account of his wife, by men that would covet her, came up with the subterfuge of pretending she was his sister. This did forestall any murderous intentions, but let the kings claim her with limited trouble.
God intervenes directly, protects Sarah from the paws of amorous rulers, and arranges for Sarah to be returned to Abraham untouched. Avimelech, the King of Grar (the second monarch, after Pharaoh of Egypt, to go through the frustration of claiming Sarah, only to have to give her back to Abraham), bestows a gift upon Sarah (“ksut einayim”), translated as “a covering for the eyes.” There are multiple interpretations of what this means.
The Ibn Ezra (to Genesis 20:27) explains that it was some unique type of headdress, which on one hand covered Sarah more, so that it would be harder for men to gaze upon her beauty, but on the other hand was a sign of prestige, signaling to others that she was a noble woman.
Ibn Ezra further theorizes that Avimelech’s extraordinary gift included something (it’s not clear to me if it’s an object, a protective force of slaves, a law and/or a press release) that allowed Sarah to drop the pretense of being Abraham’s sister, and made public the fact that they are married and that she is not to be pursued. Now, Abraham’s existence and presence as her husband would be Sarah’s defense against inappropriate interest in her.
I’ll refrain from any further wishes or comments, as the last time I wrote on this subject, I got some heated responses. Everyone draw their own conclusions.
To Shoshi Taragin and Gidon Kupietzky on their engagement. Mazal Tov to them and their families!
To Scientific American Magazine. They reported about a study that reinforces what Jewish law has implied for a very long time: Platonic relationships are mostly a one-sided phenomena.