Moshe Kempinski
Moshe KempinskiCourtesy

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

We can understand that Avraham was revolutionary and plays a critical role in bringing the world to acheive its purpose. But he was and is not alone. Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, known as “the Ari,” taught that nothing in this world is without a spark of the divine, In the great implosion/explosion that created our reality out if the void, sparks of the first great light became embedded in all of creation.

Every human being has the potential, especially with Torah, to take our reality and release every spark into its purpose. Avraham exemplified that power. Yet is he the only one?

Could others, even those seemingly much less worthy be part of the Divine plan of tikkun or fixing the world towards is purpose? What of Lot, Avraham’s nephew in Sodom?

Avraham could not and would not leave his nephew Lot in Haran, in the place of no destiny. ”So Avram departed as Hashem had directed him and Lot went with him. And Avram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions and people they had acquired in Haran, and set out for the land of Canaan." (Genesis 12:4-5)

When Lot is captured and taken away captive Avraham interposes himself into a large battle that was not “his war”. When Avram learned that Lot was captured, he called all of his family together. There were 318 trained soldiers. He led the men and chased the enemy all the way to the town of Dan. …. Then Avram brought back everything the enemy had stolen, as well as the women and servants, his nephew Lot, and everything Lot owned. (Genesis 14:14-16)

It would seem obvious that Avraham saw something critical and filled with great potential in his nephew that went beyond his concern for family.

Lot, Avraham's nephew ,was raised and educated by Avraham 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 Avraham. Yet at the same time he reveals a very 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 perhaps even evil. We see a hint of that ambivalence as he leaves his homeland with Avraham.

"And Avram went, as Hashem had spoken to him, and Lot went with him, …"Genesis 12:4)

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

Yet we see that he had to “be taken “to Canaan, perhaps against his true desire.

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

Avraham 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. Is 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 Hashem destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of Hashem."(Genesis 13:10 )

Lot's intuitive good sense he developed under Avraham ,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 Avraham" 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 Hashem'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 opposite of what he had learned from Avraham "Hashem appeared to Abram, and said unto him: 'I am G-d Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted.'" (Genesis 17:1) Avraham is bidden to be courageous and walk before G-d, not “with” Him. Avraham is asked to have the faith to walk into the unknown sensing that G-d is always behind him.

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 simply needed to be elevated. After that tikkun/fixing of those flaws the seeds would begin to give the fruit that would 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 like what had happened during 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.

Though their act came out of deep concern it also came out of a lack of faith in the future. As a result, it was an act mired in the realm of the immoral and the forbidden.

It was Ruth a descendant of Moav who would provide the tikkun/fixing that would 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 Avrahamic 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. She elevates and finishes what remained unfinished. The ambivalence of Lot her ancestor was healed, and the fears of Lot’s daughters are elevated by the faith of Ruth. With that step out of the ambivalence and fear of the unknown she became the Mother of Royalty.

That same “walking forward into the unknown “of Avraham and the declaration “I will go” of Ruth are the hidden powers that is ensconced in every one of Hashem ’s created children. Even in the midst of a world in turmoil and in a time of great uncertainty, we are all bidden to go forward and fix the world .

LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved