There was a famine in the land. Abram went down to Egypt to stay there for a time, since the famine in the land had grown severe. As they approached Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "Look, I know you to be a woman of beautiful appearance. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife,' and they will kill me and allow you to live. If you would, say that you are my sister, so that it may go well with me for your sake, and through you my life will be spared." (Gen. 12:10-13)

"Say that you are my sister…": Spiritually, Abraham signifies the soul and Sarah the body. Sending Sarah into the "lion's den" reflects the idea that it is not enough to serve G‑d with the soul alone, depriving the body of its physical fulfillment. Rather, the body must be sent into the dangerous air of "Pharaoh's house" - i.e., engage in physical pursuits, such as eating, earning a living, and marrying. When a person engages in these pursuits and not only emerges unscathed by them but succeeds in spiritualizing them, therein lies the greatest benefit for both body and soul. The body must emulate the holiness of the soul…

However, in order to successfully contend with the physical world, the body must emulate the holiness of the soul. A person's love for G‑d can be an expression of his soul's closeness to G‑d or of his body's distance from G‑d. The soul's love of G‑d is like that of a sister for a brother: natural and consistent. The body's love for G‑d, on the other hand, is like the love of one spouse for another: not innate, and therefore theoretically terminable. True, the body's love for G‑d, like spousal love, is more dramatic and powerful, precisely because the inherent distance between lover and beloved allows them to bond with concomitant intensity, to "become one flesh" (unlike sibling love). Nevertheless, in order for the body to succeed in its mission, it must remain conscious of the advantage of the constancy of the soul's love of G‑d. Thus: it must enter "Pharaoh's house", but pose as a sister rather than a wife. (Likutei Sichot, vol. 20, p. 40-44)

"…so that it will good for me on your account": Abraham understood that his sojourn in Egypt was to play a role in the fulfillment of G‑d's promise: "I will bless you and make your name great," which included monetary success. (Rashi ad loc.) He also understood that this would happen through Sarah. As the sages* say, "Blessing is present in the home on account of the woman, as it is written, And he treated Abram well on her account."(Bava Metzia 59a) Abraham also saw an angel walking before Sarah; said he: "She is protected, not I." [Zohar 3:51a, cited in Igrot Kodesh, vol. 2, p. 181. Likutei Sichot, vol. 20, p. 39]

* Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn points out that it is specifically Rava who makes this pronouncement, since as the Arizal explains, Rava and Abram share the same soul (Likutei Levi Yitzchak, Igrot Kodesh, p. 377).

Spiritually, Abraham recognized his descent to Egypt as a means to elevate the sparks of holiness there. That is what he meant by "so that they will give me gifts": the wealth of Egypt would enter the realm of holiness. (Likutei Sichot, vol. 20, p. 39) This served as a precedent for the wealth-laden exodus of the Jews from Egypt some 400 years later. (Likutei Sichot, vol. 5, p. 61. See commentary to Exodus 11:2)

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