Parashat Lec Lecha: Learning About Marriage From Abraham Abinu
The Torah in Parashat Lech-Lecha writes about Abraham Abinu’s experiences after settling in Eretz Yisrael, and we read that when he reached the land, "Va’yet Aholo" – "he pitched his tent" (12:8). The word "Aholo" ("his tent") in this verse is spelled unusually, with a letter "Heh" at the end, instead of "Vav," as though it says, "Aholah" – "her tent." The Rabbis conclude on the basis of this spelling that Abraham made a point of pitching his wife’s tent before pitching his own tent.
The Sifteh Hachamim commentary explains the reason for Abraham’s conduct based upon the Gemara’s exhortation, famously codified by the Rambam, that a man must treat his wife with greater honor than he gives himself. Abraham, a man of great piety and distinction, recognized and fulfilled his obligation honor his wife more than himself, and this dedication to his wife’s honor is expressed in his decision to pitch her tent before his.
The Gemara tells that the sage Rabba once said to his students, "Give honor to your wife so that you will become wealthy." The reward for honoring one’s wife, it seems, is wealth. Rabba proves his point by citing a Pasuk later in Parshat Lech-Lecha, where the Torah says that Abraham became wealthy in Egypt "Ba’aburah" – "because of Sara" (12:16) – indicating that he received wealth on her account, because of the respectful way he treated her.
Why would this be the case? What connection is there between honoring one’s wife and money?
A wife works hard for her husband and children, and naturally feels a strong desire to be appreciated. When her husband compliments her and treats her with respect, this bolsters her self-esteem and self-worth; she feels valuable and important. And thus the husband is rewarded with "value," with wealth. If he makes a point of ensuring that his wife feels valuable, then he will be blessed with "value" in the form of financial success.
When we think of Abraham Abinu, we instinctively associate him with his extraordinary acts of piety – jumping into the furnace to avoid worshipping idols, leaving his homeland to settle in a foreign country, and being prepared to sacrifice his only son. Yet, the Torah makes a point of spelling "Aholo" and "Aholah" to tell us about the respect Abraham showed to his wife, because this, too, is an important part of Abraham’s greatness. Besides the "great" things, such as defying Nimrod and Akedat Yishak, what made Abraham a Sadik was also the "little" things, his everyday conduct, such as treating his wife with respect and consideration. This, too, is something we must learn from Abraham Abinu. We are to gain inspiration not just from the "major" events of his life, but also from his standard, day-to-day conduct. And the example he sets for us begins in the home, with the way we speak to and treat our spouses – with respect, sensitivity and consideration.