When Avraham goes down to Mitzrayim he attempts to save his life by hiding his true relationship with his wife, Sarah. He instructs her to agree that she his “sister”. After Avimelech is punished by Hashem for taking Sarah, Avimelech brings a complaint to Avraham and says, “Why did you bring this on me” (Vayera, 20:9-10) Why did you lie to me and claim she was your sister. To this Avraham responds with a single line. “I saw that there is no fear of G-d in this place and I assumed you would kill me to take my wife.” Years ago I learned these P’sukim with my father who raised an interesting question. “Fear of G-d”? Is that the only reason that you refrain from killing a man to take his wife? What about civilized people? What about basic morality?
My father answered that that is precisely right. All of what we call “basic morality” and a “civilized people” stems from a recognition on a fundamental level of the existence of Hashem. Without that Hakara, there are no “basic morals”. Indeed, that is why atheists and anti-creationists so zealously cling to their G-dless view of the world. Without Hashem, everything is free game. No pesky morals within which we must conform our conduct. Surely in Mitzrayim where there was no fear of G-d, they would kill a man to take his wife.
Years later, a few months before his P’tirah, we again were exchanging ideas on this particular Pasuk. In the context of this Vort, I pointed out the following: This Pasuk was meant as an indictment on the Mitzrim. They would actually kill a man to take their wife!! Look around at our society today – they don’t even kill a man now to take his wife. People consort with each other with little or no regard for marriage at all!! Our society is not concerned if someone is married. We are even lower than the Mitzrim!!! At least they understood that one does not consort with a married woman. Compared to our “advanced cultural society”, the Mitzrim look good!! Frightening!!
The world has made significant progress on many fronts. Science, medicine, conveniences have all grown by leaps and bounds in the last century. But as we began to tear away at the moral foundation of our society – from prayer in school to abortion rights to refusing to identify people as male and female, our compass as people has become ever more challenged. Our basic morals do come from our Torah and the more distance between us and its teachings, the less we resemble something which is Godly.