We have told you many stories about Abraham, but not so many about his wife Sarah. But Sarah was just as great as Abraham. She had all the great qualities that Abraham had. She was wise and kind, and a prophetess. And G-d told Abraham to do as she says. So let us follow Abraham and Sarah, as they leave Ur of the Chaldees, where Abraham had been thrown into the burning furnace by the command of king Nimrod, but had been saved by a wonderful miracle of G-d.
For a time, Abram (as he was still called), hid in the house of Shem, Noah's son, for he did not want to rely on miracles in case Nimrod should decide again to take his life. One day his father Terah came to visit him. Terah was a different man now. He was sorry he had brought so much trouble upon his son Abram, and he also knew that Abram was telling the truth about the One G-d. And so he said to Abram: "My son, let's go away from this country, for you are in danger here. I know that Nimrod has not given up the idea of killing you. I will go with you, too."
The whole family now went away: Terah, Abram and his wife Sarai (later, called Sarah), Terah's grandson Lot and his family, and all their possessions, and the many faithful servants and friends who followed Abram from the moment he came out alive from the burning furnace. They all headed for the land of Canaan. On the way they came to Haran and saw that the land was good and fruitful there. So they decided to stay there.
Abram and Sarai soon became known in Haran as very fine people. They were kind to all, they were very friendly and helpful. Abram always tried to make peace among people, he taught them how to live happily, he told them to get rid of their idols and demons, and trust in the One and Only G-d, the Creator of heaven and earth. And what Abram did for the men, Sarai did for the women, for she was just as kind and as wise. Abram's tent was always full of people, who came to refresh themselves, and to listen to his words of wisdom; and so was Sarai's tent always full of women who came to enjoy her hospitality and listen to her, and learn how to live in happiness and peace with themselves and with each other.
One day G-d told Abram to leave his land, and his father's house, and go to another place, so that other people might also learn all that he and Sarai had to teach about the right way of living. Abram took his wife and his nephew Lot and they went to the land of Canaan. This was the land that G-d promised to give to his children, who would one day become a great nation. Abram wandered about the land, and wherever he came he told the people about the One G-d, and showed by example how to live a good life. He did not stay very long in one place, and moved farther south, until he came to the border of Egypt. He knew that the people of Egypt were wicked, and when they would see Sarai they would want to take her to their king, to Pharaoh. So he made a large box in which Sarai could hide from the Egyptians. When the Egyptian officers saw the large box they were very curious to know what was in it. They said to Abram, "Everybody must pay a tax for anything they bring into this country. If you have barley in that box, you must pay the barley-tax."
Abraham agreed to pay the tax.
"But perhaps you have wheat there?" the officers said. "The tax is more for wheat!"
"I will pay you the tax for wheat," Abram said.
"But maybe it is full of spices? There is a very high tax for spices," the officers continued.
"Very well; I will pay you the tax for spices," Abram said, anxious to get rid of them at all costs.
Now the Egyptian officers really became curious, and opened the box. They had never seen such a beautiful face before; it was more radiant than the sun which they worshipped. They led Sarai away, and brought her to King Pharaoh to make her his queen. But Sarai did not want to be queen; she wanted to go back to her husband. So she prayed to G-d with all her heart. Suddenly an angel appeared with an iron rod and began to strike at Pharaoh such painful lashes, that Pharaoh was glad to send Sarai back to Abram. He also gave Sarai his daughter, the princess Hagar, to be her personal maid for the rest of her life.
Abram and Sarai returned to the land of Canaan. G-d blessed them with great riches, so they built inns and hostels on all the main roads, so that wayfarers should find food, water and a place to rest on their way. They charged no money, and all were welcome. Many weary and hungry travelers found food and shelter in these inns. "How can we thank you, Abram, for your kindness?" they said before leaving, and Abram would reply, "Do not thank me; thank G-d, the Creator of all these good things." And the good Sarai was taking care of the women and children, and when they wanted to thank her for her hospitality, her reply was the same as Abram's: "Thank G-d, Who feeds and sustains all living creatures."
In Beer-Sheba, where Abram and Sarai made their home, they built a very big house, with entrances on all four sides. On each side of the house there was a huge sign: ALL WELCOME!
Around the house Abram planted a wonderful garden and an orchard with most delicious fruits and berries.
Most wonderful of all was a magnificent palm tree, which seemed to know every wayfarer that came near it. If an honest and good man would sit down under its shade, the tree would spread forth its branches to shield the visitor from the burning sun, or wind. But if the visitor happened to be a bad man, the palm tree would lift up its branches and give the man no protection. But whenever the tree would act that way, Abram would come up to the visitor and show him especial kindness and attention. He would tell the visitor about G-d, and about G-d's kindness to all. All the wickedness would melt away in the heart of the bad man, and goodness and kindness would fill it instead. Then the palm tree would spread forth its branches over the man in a friendly way.
All the time Sarai was busy with the women folk, and long after all visitors were gone, or had retired to sleep, Sarai would sit up in her tent, making dresses and things for the poor and needy. When everybody was fast asleep, there was still a candle burning in Sarai's tent, where she was sitting doing some hand-work, or preparing food for the next day. So G-d sent a special Cloud of Light to surround her tent. For miles and miles around, the Cloud of Glory could be seen hovering over Sarai's tent, and everybody said, "There dwells a woman of worth."
Abram and Sarai became very famous. From near and far, men and women came to Beer-Sheba to find help, good cheer and comfort, which was given to all, free, by Abram and Sarai. The men and women wanted to thank them, but always they were told to thank G-d instead. "But where is this G-d?" they would ask, looking around them, for they only knew idols.
"His glory fills the heaven and earth," came the reply, and away went the visitors blessing the G-d of Abram and Sarai.