Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman
The Midrash expounds the verse, “Yodeiya Hashem yemei temimim. Hashem knows the days of the perfect ones.” The Midrash says this refers to Sarah, who was perfect in her actions. A similar Midrash says this refers to Avraham, who was perfect. The difference between the two Midrashim is that the word ‘actions’ is mentioned in connection with Sarah.
There is another intriguing statement mentioned in the Midrash quoted by Rashi, “Kol asher tomar elecha Sarah shema b’kola.” Whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her voice. Rashi says that we see from here that her prophecy was superior to Avraham’s. This is surprising as the Torah mainly focuses on Avraham and not on Sarah.
The Shem Mishmuel explains that there are three levels of the soul, nefesh, the biological soul centered in the body; ruach, the emotional soul located in the heart; neshama, the intellectual soul found in the brain. Tamim really means perfection of one’s body, emotions, and intellect. There are mitzvot that relate to the body such as brit milah, mitzvot dealing with emotions, such as not to be hateful or covetous, and mitzvot of the mind such as studying Torah. The Torah aims to help every Jew achieve perfection on a triple level.
Marriage creates a single entity. Two half souls merge. However, the Zohar says the soul is concentrated within man and woman in different ways. The physical and emotional part of the common soul is expressed more in the woman and the intellect is in the man. Both half souls have all three qualities. It’s just a question of where the emphasis is. The wife is called akeret habayit, the pillar of the home. She is mainly involved on a physical level with the children and the managing of the home. She is also more in tune with the emotional needs of her family.
The intellectual aspect is more pronounced in the man. Men gravitate to study. “V’shinantem l’vanecha,” the obligation to teach Torah to children is primarily the father’s. Mishlei says, “Shma bni mussar avicha.” The father must teach his children the intellectual Torah. “V’al titosh Torat imecha.” The mother must teach her children middot. She, more than the father, shapes their character, which is primarily formed in the early years.
The Gemara says that when there’s a difference of opinion between a husband and wife, milei d’shmaya (heavenly matters) are decided by the husband while milei d’alma (worldly matters) are the wife’s prerogative. Perhaps the Gemara means that if the issue is related to something physical or emotional, it is mila d’alma and a woman will understand better. But if it involves the intellect, it’s the husband’s call.
Avraham was the soul of the original Jewish family. Sarah was the body. Avraham was the ish hasechel (man of intellect). Sarah expressed the emotional and physical aspect of their marriage. The Torah says, “V’hinei ba’ohel.” Sarah was in the tent. She was the foundation of her home. She had emotional control of the family. A woman’s role is having the strength and discipline over her emotions to be able to make those difficult decisions.
The Shem Mishmuel explains that prophecy is an emotional experience, an emotional connection with Hashem. Sarah was greater in prophecy because she was more in tune with her emotions. Therefore, Hashem told Avraham, “Whatever she says listen to her.”
Avraham’s tests were on the intellectual level. Akeidat Yitzchak seemed like an illogical absurdity. How could Hashem, the source of life, take an innocent life for no reason? But nonetheless, Avraham went ahead and did it. That was his greatness. He sacrificed his intellect, his most precious aspect, for Hashem. Sarah too never let her physical beauty dominate her. She sacrificed her strengths for Hashem. That is how they became the most sanctified couple, the couple that defined all future Jewish couples forever.