Vayera: Lot, Ruth and Redemption

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Moshe Kempinski,

Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski
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The Torah Portion of VaYeira Genesis 18:1–22:24

Lot , Abraham's nephew ,was raised and educated by Abraham after Lot's father passes away suddenly. Throughout his life we see that Lot has clearly absorbed and acquired some of the understandings and qualities that so exemplified Abraham. Yet at the same time he reveals a very complicated and conflicted nature. We see him constantly moving between a positive and faithful stance on the one hand. Then on the other hand he acts in a fashion that is both self-focused and even evil. We see a hint of that ambivalence as he leaves his homeland with Abraham.

And Abram went, as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him, and Abram was seventy five years old when he left Haran.( Genesis 12:4)           

 

Lot courageously leaves all that he knew to explore the unknown with his uncle Abraham.

Yet in the next verse we read

And Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had acquired, and the souls they had acquired in Haran, and they went to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.           (ibid 5)    

Lot had to be "taken", perhaps against his will.

Then we see that Lot leaves Egypt with Abraham and Sarah laden with riches and herds of sheep. Though those riches are clearly a result of Abraham and Sarah , we see the  passion for wealth leads Lot and his people into confrontation with Abraham.

Abraham in his benevolent heart offers Lot the following:

And Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no quarrel between me and between you and between my herdsmen and between your herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. 9Is not all the land before you? Please part from me; if [you go] left, I will go right, and if [you go] right, I will go left."( Genesis 13:8-9)

 

Lot decides to leave towards the flourishing and abundant Jordan valley

“And Lot raised his eyes, and he saw the entire plain of the Jordan, that it was entirely watered; before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of Hashem “( Genesis 13:10   )

 

Lot's intuitive good sense keeps him in the valley and does not let him venture into Sodom.

"and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain, and he pitched his tents until Sodom." ( ibid:12  )

Yet the ambivalent side of  Lot  takes its toll again as we read further  "  And they took all the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food, and they departed.And they took Lot and his possessions, the son of Abram's brother, and they departed, and he was living in Sodom.     ( ibid 14:11-12)

 

Lot enters and "lives" in Sodom.

The ambivalence returns again when the "holy Abraham" part of Lot reaches out for the two angels he finds in the streets of Sodom. Yet in his zeal of trying to protect them he attempts to sacrifice his two daughters to the mob.

Finally even when Lot is told that the time to escape has come, he tarries and needs to be pulled out of danger's way"But he tarried, and the men took hold of his hand and his wife's hand, and the hand of his two daughters, out of the Lord's pity for him, and they took him out and placed him outside the city."(ibid 19:16).

To understand Lot's ambivalent nature, we need to explore its root cause. Everything in Lot's behavior points to a man who lives in the present and fears the unknown. This is the complete opposite of what he had learned from Abraham who was the first individual told by G-d to venture into the unknown. "Hashem appeared to Abram, and said unto him: 'I am G-d Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted.'" (Genesis 17:1) Abraham is bidden to be courageous and walk before G-d, not “with” Him. Abraham is asked to have the faith to walk into the unknown sensing that G-d is behind him at all times.

Lot on the other hand is a man who has no faith in the future and its promises. He will act only in a way that achieves satisfaction in the here and now.

Yet we see that Lot is the ancestor of King David and subsequently of King David's descendant the messiah. How could that be?

It may very well be that the character of Lot was the raw material that was needed in order to be then worked with  and elevated. After that fixing those flaws the familial heritage  would be ready to set the line of redemption in place.

After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the death of Lot’s wife, Lot and his daughters take refuge in a cave. The two daughters were under the impression that the whole world had been destroyed similar to what had happened in the time of the flood. They were attempting to save mankind from complete extinction and set into a plan which was abhorrent and immoral but seemed to them to be a necessary action to take.

“And the elder said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man on earth to come upon us, as is the custom of all the earth. Come, let us give our father wine to drink, and let us lie with him, and let us bring to life seed from our father (Genesis 19 :31-32)

Out of that union were birthed Moav and Ammon.

Their act came out of deep concern and fears but still remained within the parameters of the immoral and forbidden. Furthermore it was an act that came out of diminished faith.

It was Ruth a descendant of Moav that would have to close the circle and correct what needed to be corrected.

After ten years of living in Moav and losing both her husband and her two sons Naomi begins the voyage back home with all that such a voyage would entail together with her two daughters in law , Ruth and Orpah.

She tries to dissuade them and finally declares

“And Naomi said, "Return, my daughters; why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they should be your husbands? Return, my daughters, go, for I have become too old to marry, that I should say that I have hope. Even if I had a husband tonight, and even if I had borne sons,” ( Ruth 1: 11-12) 

Ruth the descendant of Lot and his daughter is suddenly faced with the same situation of a bleak and unknown future, just as her ancestors before her. It is then that Ruth declares and reasserts the Abrahamic faith of walking “forward into the unknown”.

“And Ruth said, "Do not entreat me to leave you, to return from following you, for wherever you go, I will go, ....."( Ruth 1 :16-17)

As a result she brings closure to the broken circle created by her ancestor and finishes what remained unfinished. The ambivalence of Lot her ancestor was healed and elevated by the faith of Ruth. With that step out of the ambivalence and fear of the unknown she became the Mother of Royalty.

LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved and Yehudit bat Chaya Esther






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