Lot

Terah has three sons: lot-flees-sodomAbram, Nachor, and Haran. Abram marries Sarai while Nachor [who was named after his grandfather] marries Milcah [Haran’s daughter] and they give birth to Iscah. Haran [before his death] has a son named Lot. Upon Haran’s death, it appears Abram “adopts” Lot. At or about the time Hashem split the One World into seventy or so tongues, Terah leaves Ur Chasdim and heads toward the land of Canaan. However, he stops in a city-state named Haran and remains there until his death. A question that will linger unanswered is: did he come across an area that shared his dead son’s name or did he name it Haran when he arrived?

In regard to Lot:

  • The text says Haran took Abram, Sarai, and Lot with him on this journey[1]
  • Later it says vayalech ito Lot, or and Lot went with him[2]
  • Then it says Abram took his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot, and all their substance[3]
  • It appears Haran packed his belongings and took his family with him. When Abram left his father and brother in favor of the promise of Canaan, Lot tagged along; but then in the next verse, Abram willingly took Lot with him.

Lot spent about 50 years of his life in Abram’s company, so one would think Abram’s habits and morality would be infused into his very being. This is why the talmidim[4] stay in the presence of their tzaddikim[5] for as long as they can. Unfortunately, this was not the case for Lot. So many things are either opposite or terribly skewed when we compare Abram and Lot.

The Torah’s use of the phrase, He lifted up his eyes:

Abram/Abraham

  • Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw three men and he ran to greet them and invite them to his tent[6]
  • Hashem told Abraham to lift up his eyes and view the land of promise[7]
  • Abraham lifted up his eyes and he saw the place [Moriah] in the distance[8]
  • Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw behind him a ram caught in the bushes[9]

Lot

  • Lot lifted up his eyes and saw the plains of the Jordan and compared it to the garden of Hashem, like the land of Egypt[10]

What Abraham saw when he lifted up his eyes were moments of testing, accomplishment, promise, and holiness. Lot, when he lifted up his eyes, he saw the decadence of Sodom and compared it to Gan Eden[11] and likewise compared Gan Eden to Mitzrayim[12]. This is a skewed view of the promises of G-d.

Hospitality and Respect

Abraham

  • When Abraham saw three guests, he saw them as men but he treated them with respect and honor; he treated them as angels. They joined him and stayed for a long while as he served them his finest food[13].

Lot

  • When Lot saw his guests, he saw them as angels but treated them as men – well, maybe that well. He told them: spend the night, wash your feet, get up early, and be on you way.[14]. In fact, Genesis 19:3 says he gave them matzah to eat. Lot seems to be saying, “Thank you for coming, here’s some fast food, and thanks for going.” The men were so unimpressed, they preferred to sleep on a park bench in the middle of town. Only after he pressed them, did they agree to go with him.
  • During their visit, the men of the city were pressing against Lot’s door to force their entry in order to “know” Lot’s guests in the “Biblical sense” [which makes sense since this is the Bible]. In a twisted sense of honor for guests, goes far beyond what Abraham would have taught and Lot offers up his daughters.

When the men separate

Abraham

  • When the trouble between their herdsmen raises to a crescendo, Abraham offers to Lot either the land to the left or the land to the right. Choosing left or right is nomenclature for either choosing north of south because left or right are based upon an east-facing stance. Abraham was giving Lot the opportunity to choose the choicest of land within Canaan.

Lot

  • When given the choice of left or right [or north or south] Lot chooses east. I believe Lot is allowing his contrariness to show. So instead of zipping it up, humbling himself, and choosing to stay in The Land, he pitches his tent near Sodom.

What is most notable about this event [the separation of Lot and Abraham], is that Hashem approached Abraham right after the two men separated and said, Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you[15]. The conditions we see in Genesis 12:1 are finally met: Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. He already left his country [Ur Chasdim], he left his kindred [in Haran] when he left his father and his brother and their families, and now with the separation from Lot, he finally left his father’s family [or house].

Respect of others

Abraham

  • Once Abraham left Ur Chasdim, the Biblical text and the Midrashim speak of the respect Abraham garners whenever he goes. In support, when he leaves Haran in Genesis 12:5, it speaks of the souls they had made[16].

Lot

  • Lot, when he tries to save his guests, i can imagine the warmth of embarrassment he feels when he hears first hand the lack of respect he owns in this city-state. The text says, “This one man immigrated here as an immigrant and he has set himself up as a judge! We’ll give it to you [, Lot,] worse than to them![17]

With that statement from the men of Sodom, we may have finally received a glimpse into the psychology of Lot. Abraham was a man of greatness, and in Abraham’s house, Lot will always be overshadowed by Abraham’s wisdom. Therefore, when given a choice of north or south, left or right, he chose east. In Sodom, the wisdom he picked up in his 50 year-long yeshiva training with Abraham will surely make Lot the wisest man in the city. And this is the position he sought for himself. When the angels came to Sodom, Lot sat at the gates of Sodom, the place where the judges of the city held court. He came to be their judge

 

When rabbis and spiritual leaders seek to strike out on their own, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. If they’re seeking the will of G-d, He will bless their efforts, and the separation will be amiable. If, however, he or she seeks to get out from under the shadow of their teacher(s) in order to “shine” all on their own because they’re tired of being overshadowed, G-d will not bless their efforts and they will only find disappointment and disrespect. As it says in Tehillim:

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand [anywhere else]; I’d rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness[18].

Do not seek greatness for yourself and do not covet honor more than your learning merits[19]

Pursue honor and it will flee from you[20]

He who seeks honor is a fool[21]

Jealousy, cupidity, and [the desire for] honor puts a man out of the world[22].

http://www.tikvatshalom.org

 

[1] Genesis 11:31

[2] Genesis 12:4

[3] Genesis 12:5

[4] Students

[5] Rabbis

[6] Genesis 18:2

[7] Genesis 13:14

[8] Genesis 22:4

[9] Genesis 22:13

[10] Genesis 13:10

[11] Garden of Eden

[12] Egypt

[13] I understand other meanings can be pulled from this story, but today I am pulling specifically from the Pashat, or Contextual Understanding of the Text

[14] Genesis 19:2

[15] Genesis 13:14-18

[16] Rashi interprets this as indicating the servants they acquired, but Ibn Ezra contends it indicates the people they “converted” to ethical monotheism. Sefer Yetzirah 6:7 seems to indicate it can also denote the spiritual gifts they acquired.

[17]

[18] Psalm 84:11

[19] m.Pirkei Avos 6:4

[20] Midrash Tanchuma

[21] Rebbe Nachamn of Bretlzav

[22] m.Pirkei Avos 4:21

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