Lot, Avraham’s nephew, is generally not looked upon too kindly. However, Seforno (Bereishis 11:31-32) has much to say in praise of him.
To paraphrase: Terach took his son, Avraham, and his nephew, Lot, and set out toward the land of Israel because he was aware of the spiritual greatness which exists there. He heard that the Great Flood had not affected the Holy Land and he knew that Hashem’s concern and Presence exists there much more so than other lands. He was aware that the air of the Land of Israel makes one wiser, ‘avira d’eretz Yisrael machkim.’ But for whatever reason, Terach did not achieve his goal and failed to reach the Land. Lot, however, did carry through and went with Avraham to Eretz Yisrael. As a result, Lot merited receiving some of the lands promised to Avraham, but no other descendant of Terach received anything.
Lot actually became an inheritor of Avraham. Rashi (Bereishis 15:19) says that Avraham was supposed to receive ten lands of Canaan, not merely seven, but three lands, that of the Keini, Knizi, and Kadmoni – which correspond to the lands of Edom, Moav, and Amon – were given to Lot and, according to the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 11:1-2), will be given to us in the times of Moshiach.
How does all this relate to this week’s haftarah?
The nation of Ammon tormented Bnei Yisrael during the time of the Shoftim. Yiftach, shofet and leader of the nation, was ready to launch a counterattack, but first attempted a dialogue. He hoped to persuade Ammon not to have any complaints against Bnei Yisrael. Ammon accused Bnei Yisrael of taking land mey’eiver HaYarden for the tribes of Reuven and Gad. Yiftach explained that when the land was conquered it belonged to Sichon who had taken it from Ammon at the end of Parshas Chukas. Land would not have been taken from Ammon, according to Rashi and Seforno, in the merit of Lot.
There are many other sources that tell us that Lot was a righteous person. For example, the Torah spends a great deal of time talking about Lot – from mentioning that he traveled with Avraham and Terach, to the machlokes between his shepherds and Avraham’s, to his capture by the four kings, to the very lengthy description of his escape from Sedom and the incident with his daughters.
Midrash Rabbah (51:9) says that the “Parshuso shel Lot” used to be read every Shabbos! In addition, Dovid HaMelech and Moshiach are descendants of Lot through Rus. (Midrash Rabbah 41:4 says Hashem finds Dovid in Sedom through Lot.)
Obviously, the lesson of Lot is a major one and needs to be constantly read and studied.
Lot has tremendous yichus. His father, Haran, died al Kiddush Hashem. According to Rashi (Bereishis 20:12) he is the brother of Sarah Imeinu. Lot follows Terach toward Canaan, as we mentioned, and later continues with Avraham, while Terach remains behind. Lot could have done the same, but chose to follow Avraham. Thus, Lot is part of the nisayon of Lech Lecha and a talmid of Avraham.
Rashi (13:8) tells us that Lot and Avraham looked very much alike. (Yitzchak also looked like Avraham [Rashi on 21:2].) The Ribbono Shel Olam would only make someone look like Avraham if that person could potentially live up to Avraham’s ideals, and do his personal avodah almost like Avraham did. Seforno (14:13) notes that the refugee from the war told Avraham Ha’Ivri that Lot had been captured. This person did not necessarily know that Avraham and Lot were related; he just knew that they were both HaIvri, living the ideals of Ever. We see that Lot maintained Avraham’s ideals even after leaving for Sedom – this is how the refugee knew to tell Avraham about his capture. Lot also could not have been the assumed inheritor of Avraham (Rashi on 13:7) unless he lived Avraham’s ideals.
The Shelah on Parshas Vayeira says that the gematria of Lot is Adam, which he says is roshei teivos (alef, daled, mem) for Adam, Dovid, and Moshiach. Thus, within Lot lay the potential for Moshiach. He notes that while it is true that Lot looked like Avraham, it is like comparing an ape to a person. Lot didn’t actualize his powerful potential – that will be revealed only in the time of Moshiach. However, Lot had a tremendous chashivus that at the very least resembled that of Avraham. As the Maharal explains (19:29), Lot and Avraham were related in their inner core, if not in what was open and visible to all.
Lot began to decline spiritually when he left Avraham and moved to Sedom (Rashi on 13:11: “Ee efshi b’Avraham oh b’Elokav – I do not want Avraham or his G-d”). Yet we do indeed find that many years later he still observed Pesach (Bereishis 19:3) and kept the mitzvah of hachnosas orchim. One has to wonder why, if he left Avraham to get away from his ideals and way of life, did he still keep them years later in the middle of Sedom?
We find a strange Zohar (brought in Ishei HaTanach under “Lot”) that says Lot wasn’t welcomed in any of the cities he wanted to live in except for Sedom as the Melech Sedom let him in “mipnei kavod Avraham.” The king’s motives are understandable, he probably wanted to show the world that he nabbed a talmid of Avraham whose philosophy was the complete opposite of his, it would be unseemly for Lot to use Avraham’s name in order to live there. But would Lot, in good conscience, agree to live in Sedom on Avraham’s back, as it were?
And Lot not only went to live in Sedom, he aspired to lead them (Rashi 19:1). Not only was he appointed as a judge, Midrash Rabbah (50:3) says he supervised all the judges. Why?
The simple reading of the pesukim shows us that Lot is not seen with a great deal of respect, and many of Chazal feel the same way. As a matter of fact, the Yerushalmi says (Sanhedrin 10:8) that Lot went to Sedom for the money.
So, was there a method to his madness or at least a rationalization?
This is especially true given Rav Wolbe’s comment (Alei Shur Chelek Aleph, pg. 227) that sins of the earlier generations were all based on mistaken intellectual calculations, not animalistic desires.
It behooves us to find a deeper meaning to explain Lot’s actions. We will continue this discussion in our next column, to be published in the issue of July 21.