Welcome to Yeshiva Tiferet, your post-highschool American yeshiva in Jerusalem, Israel.

Parshas Vayera

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Vaera

Oct 21, 2009

 

In Parshas Vayera the Torah relates how Hashem destroyed the wicked city of Sodom. Avrohom Avenu’s nephew, Lot, was dwelling in Sodom. The Torah says, “Vayizchor Elokim es Avrohom vayishalach es Lot mitoch hahafecha”, Hashem remembered Avrohom and He sent Lot out from the upheaval. Lot was saved solely because Hashem remembered Avrohom. Rashi queries, “How is the remembrance of  Avrohom affiliated with the salvation of Lot?”  Rashi explains, When Avrohom went down to Mitzrayim because of the hunger in Eretz Yisroel, Lot accompanied him. When questioned by the Egyptians as to the identity of Sorah, Avrohom responded that she was his sister. He feared being put to death on account of his attractive wife. Lot, despite being aware of the subterfuge, held his tongue. He had mercy on Avrohom. This merit stood in his stead and he was saved from certain death.

 

   Had he no other merits? He followed in the path of Avrohom Avenu. Avrohom Avenu was a “Machnis Orei’ach” and so was Lot. The mitzva of Hachnasas Orchim was punishable by death in Sodom. This did not deter Lot from welcoming the Malachim into his home. Chazal tell us that Lot performed the Pesach Seder in the midst of Sodom!

 

   Aside from this, Lot, the orphan, had been adopted by Avrohom. Avrohom took him under his wing and educated him in his ways. Could there be a greater cruelty than revealing Avrohom Avenu’s secret at the critical moment, leading to his demise? Is it such a great merit not to be the exhibitor of such cruelty? Why is it that this merit was the only one that Hashem found Lot worthy of being saved for?

 

   Let us attempt to understand the essence of Lot by contrasting him with his sister, Sorah Imeinu. In Parshas Lech Lecha the Torah tells of the travels of Avrohom Avenu throughout Eretz Yisroel. The posuk says, “Vayet ahalo etc., vayiven sham mizbei’ach laHashem”. He pitched his tent and proceeded to build a mizbei’ach for Hashem. Rashi makes two interesting observations. The word “ahalo” meaning “his tent” is usually spelled with the letter “vav” at the end.  In this instance it is spelled with the letter “heh”, which can be construed as meaning “her tent”, meaning he pitched his wife’s tent before his own. In addition Rashi comments on the location of the mizbei’ach that was built. It was the exact location that the Bnei Yisroel would be repelled from in their attempted conquering of the city of Ai. They did not merit heavenly assistance as a result of the greed of one man, Achan, who against the express command of Hashem, took undeservedly of the spoils of Yericho.

 

   Had the Torah’s intent only been to instruct us in the proper conduct between man and wife it could have chosen a more obvious and direct way of doing so. What is the purpose of teaching that a husband should be sensitive to his wife’s needs and pitch her tent before his own by hiding it within the word “ahalo” – his tent? Furthermore, what possible connection can there be with this lesson and the misdeed of Achan?

 

   In order to better understand the relationship between Avrohom and Sorah, let us  go back to the one of Adam and Chava. When Adam first beheld Chava, he exclaimed, “Zos hapaam etzem mei’atzamai basar mib’sari”, This time, bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh. Adam understood that she was his essence, that they were one unit.

 

   Yet, after they ate from the Eitz Hada’as, Adam said “The wife you gave me, she made me eat it!”  He separates himself from Chava. Suddenly she is her own entity and has nothing to do with him. 

 

   Hashem gave a person a wife for a reason.  Chazal say they were first attached, then Hashem separated them then brought them back together again.  Why did He do that?  Why not leave them attached to begin with?  Because through a wife, a person is intended to become closer to Hashem.  When the world was first created, it was one with Hashem.  It was exactly the way Hashem wanted it to be. There was no deviation from His will.  Once Adam was created and was given free will, the potential existed for the world to run it’s own course and segregate itself from Hashem’s will. We have to work hard to become one with Hashem again, it is no longer automatic.  Adam and Chava were created in the same form that the world was created, being together, then apart, then, together again.  By being one with one’s wife, he comprehends that two can become one. When one succeeds at forging a bond of oneness with a person, then, and only then can he conceptualize being one with Hashem.  It is for this very reason that the holiest of the scriptures, Shir HaShirim, is in the form of a relationship between a man and a woman.

 

   When Adam sinned, this created a rift between him and his Creator which had an impact on his relationship to his spouse. She was given to him to forge a bond with Hashem. The result being he no longer viewed himself and Chava as one entity, rather she is a separate being who caused him to sin. The task placed upon us in this world is to repair that rift and return to Gan Eden.

 

    The exodus from Mitzrayim, culminating with the receiving of the Torah on Har Sinai, was a reversal of the original sin of Adam HaRishon. The relationship enjoyed by the Nation of Israel with Hakadosh Baruch Hu at Har Sinai is described as one of a Chosson and a Kallah. The “Kallah” spent forty years alone in the desert with the Chosson imbibing His words of wisdom.  As the Bnei Yisroel were poised to enter the palace of the king, Eretz Yisroel, tragedy struck. One man lost control of his desires. He blocked out the total picture and saw only himself. He saw the opportunity of enriching himself, at the expense of violating Hashem’s command. That is what desire does. It causes one to see himself as a separate entity. The Bnei Yisroel were on the threshold of being free from the curse of death. Not a single casualty was lost in the seven years of war to capture Eretz Yisroel, except in the campaign to capture Ai.

 

   Avrohom Avenu, with his “Ruach Hakodesh” saw this flaw developing. He built a mizbei’ach and prayed that Achan’s act would not prevent Hashem’s plan from coming to fruition. At the same time he pitched Sorah’s tent, but in reality Sorah’s tent is his tent, for they are one. That is why the act of pitching Sorah’s tent is alluded to in the word “ahalo” – his tent. Achan is the exception. The true nature of Bnei Yisroel is one of self negation, nullifying one’s self in order to unify and become whole with someone else. It is for this reason that the two events are juxtaposed.

 

   An unfortunate incident was the cause of the break between Avrohom and Lot. Avrohom Avenu had not yet inherited Eretz Yisroel. He had his animals muzzled to prevent their grazing in private fields. Lot failed to do so, claiming that he, being Avrohom’s heir, has rights to Eretz Yisroel. His “taava”, his desires blinded him. Those who are controlled by their desires cannot bond with others. The posuk in Mishlei states, “L’taavah yivakesh nifrad” – desire drives one to stand alone. Avrohom exclaims, “Why should a quarrel arise between us, after all, we are brothers.”  Rashi quotes the Midrash to explain why Avrohom was referring to Lot, his nephew, as a brother. Their faces were similar as brothers. This is intriguing. Why would a mere facial similarity be cause not to argue?  The word for face in Lashon Hakodesh is “Panim”. The word “Panim” is related to the word “P’nim” – internal. The face is the mirror of the soul. The sameness of their facial features was evidence that internally they were meant to join together and work at a common goal. Lot did not live up to his destiny. He broke away.

 

   Only after Lot’s departure did Hashem spoke to Avrohom. He did not wish to speak with him in the presence of the wicked Lot. Although previously Hashem had revealed himself to Avrohom, that was at a time when Lot was still considered a part of Avrohom. The moment his desires separated him from Avrohom he was considered a wicked man.

 

 

   Lot and Sora, two children of Haran, the brother of Avrohom’s father Terach. Avrohom Avenu upset the world order of King Nimrod. He, by propagating the worship of the One G-d, threatened the very basis of the culture of Avoda Zara. Avrohom Avenu was given a choice, to retract his beliefs or be thrown into a fiery furnace. Haran stood by knowing that soon he would be forced to face this choice. He awaited the outcome. If Avrohom survives, he would cast his lot with his brother. Upon witnessing Avrohom’s miraculous salvation he chose to have himself cast in the fire rather than deny Hashem’s sovereignty. He perished in the flames.  

 

   Haran wished to join his brother Avrohom Avenu, but his commitment was flawed. Avrohom’s sole wish, that he felt with every fiber of his being, was to sanctify the name of heaven with his life or if need be with his death. His own personal survival is meaningless in the grander scheme of things. Haran was willing to live the life of Avrohom, but his own life was of tantamount importance. Haran passed on this legacy to his children. Sora became fused together with Avrohom as one entity, while Lot was limited in this pursuit by his own agenda, he also joined with Avrohom, but had his own benefit in mind. His shepherds sought to personally benefit from the future inheritance of Avrohom Avenu.

 

   Lot, as was his father, was a follower. Avrohom Avenu was his “initiative”. He was uniquely qualified to function together with Avrohom. He had the same “face” (panim) as Avrohom. His desires created a chasm between him and Avrohom Avenu, he had to part from him. But Avrohom lived on inside of him.

 

   I once heard from my rebbe, Rav Avrohom Chaim Levin, shlita a thought in the name of his rebbe, Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, z”l.

 

   There is something about sharing a confidence that brings two people together. A closeness emerges between the two. Only they know the secret, nobody else. When enjoying a closeness with another, it is unavoidable that the influence from one on the other becomes more potent. The type of influence is determined by the essence of those keeping the secret. If one shares a secret with an Adam Gadol, he has a special relationship with an Adam Gadol. He cannot help but be affected by it for the better.

 

   Avrohom Avenu entrusted Lot with a secret that could cost him his life. It wasn’t the mere keeping of the secret that was a source of merit for Lot. There was fusion between the two that transcended Lot’s own personal agenda. It was a union of purity that brought Lot to an entirely new level. By not revealing the secret, Lot internalized Avrohom within himself. This is what is meant by Hashem  remembering Avrohom and saving Lot from the upheaval, Hashem remembered the Avrohom within Lot.

 

   From this it is clear that Lot is not totally lost. Although he ultimately broke away from Avrohom, he cannot break away from himself. He has within himself the internalism of Avrohom. It will be passed down through the generations and will emerge in the embodiment of Rus the Moabite, Naama the Amonite, ancestor of Dovid haMelech, and wife of Shlomo hamelech, the progenitors of Mashiach, who will come to lead all those who wish to be cleansed of the filth caused by following one’s desires. This is the potential that Hashem saw in Lot, for this reason he was saved.

Site Contents ©2017 by Yeshiva Tiferet. American Friends of Yeshiva Tiferet is a tax exempt non-profit organization under the IRS code 501(c)(3). Terms of Use Site Security Credits