And it came to pass, when he caused to come near to arrive in Egypt..." (Gen. 12:11) Rabbi Elazar said, "when he caused to come near [to Egypt]"? whereas it should have stated, 'When he came near.' Why does it say, "when he caused to come near?" This is similar to the verse, "And Pharaoh caused to come near..." (Ex. 14:10) that he brought Israel to repent. The same applies here, so "caused to come near" he brought himself [i.e. his heart and his essence] to come near to G‑d as should properly be. [Since he was nearly] "arriving in Egypt" [it was necessary for him to discern between Holy and secular, and between light and darkness, so he needed to go down there to Egypt] to observe those [low] levels [of external forces in their chambers in order to better] keep his distance from them [in thought] as well as from the behavior of the Egyptians. [Abraham connected himself more closely to G‑d so as not to stumble in Egypt's evil ways.]

Rabbi Yehuda said, Come and see! Since he went down to Egypt without consent [i.e. since G‑d said, "Go for yourself to the land of Canaan", he should have asked for permission to leave and not have gone to Egypt even though there was famine in Canaan, and since he left] his offspring were enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years, as it is written: "and Abram went down to Egypt" [meaning that he went by his own decision]. It does not say 'Go down to Egypt!'

...he was in misery all that night because of Sarah.

And also because of this, he was in misery all that night because of Sarah. [He was punished for the sake of Sarah because he did not get consent from the Supernal Sarah, the Shechinah, for he also caused Her to be in exile in Egypt because She stayed with him there.] "And he said to Sarah his wife: 'Behold, now I know that you are a beautiful woman to look upon'". (Gen. 12:11) Until then Abraham did not know that she was a "beautiful woman to look upon"? This has already been explained (Baba Batra 15a) that until then he did not look at Sarah’s physical form, because of their excessive modesty with each other. But when he "came near to arrive in Egypt," she became revealed, and he saw her.

Another explanation for why he was aware [that she was beautiful] since most people's appearance suffers from the hardship of the journey, but Sarah remained beautiful and her appearance did not change. Another explanation of the words, "Behold, now I know..." is that Abraham saw the Shechinah [the image of G‑d] accompanying Sarah. For this reason, Abraham felt confident [that no bad would befall her] and said: "She is my sister."

The phrase "she is my sister" has two meanings. The first is literal [Sarah was the daughter of his brother and thus called "sister']. The second is figurative, as in the verse, "Say to wisdom; You are my Sister" (Proverbs 7:4) [for the Shechinah is called the "Lower Wisdom" and "my Sister"]. It also is written: "Please say that you are my Sister." (Gen. 12:13) And it is also written: "[Israel said to Moses] speak You [referring to the Shechinah] to us." (Deut. 5:24) In speaking to the Shechinah [who appeared over the head of Sarah], he said: "That it may be well with Me [G‑d who is tiferet, will give bounty] to Her, and also "my soul shall live because of You," [for the sake of Shechinah] for, as a result of this [through the Shechinah] a person is elevated up to the path of life [tiferet, from whence he draws life]. a result of this, a person is elevated up to the path of life...

BeRahamim LeHayyim:
We are to ask: when will I merit to see the Divine Presence? When will my actions be like those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Must I live a completely upright existence? Do the right thing always?

What is amazing in the above selection is that one teacher says that we all got punished because Abraham "went down" spiritually to the low level of Egypt without G‑d's consent. And yet there he saw the Shechinah!

The Shechinah is with us in exile! She is right beside us always, speaking in our ear, "If we would listen to Her voice!" And in our lowliness, she is with us! For when we say daily before standing to speak to G‑d "who humbles the haughty, and lifts the lowly, withdraws the captive, liberates the humble, and helps the poor" we are to intend that the Shechinah is indeed with us. We then stand to praise G‑d. But before this praise, we acknowledge that She is bonded with us, even at our lowest point.

Some feel that the 2nd night of Passover — which some treat as just the instant replay, the Memorex version — is even higher than the first, for the Shechinah is with us (outside of the Land of Israel).

How can we keep this consciousness, always? How can we open our eyes to the amazing surrounding light? How can we open our hearts to our Beloved, and say to Wisdom, You are my sister?

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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