Friday, November 10, 2006

the zechus and rescue of Lot

As the city of Sdom is destroyed, the Torah tells us “vayizkor Elokim es Avraham,” Hashem remembered Avraham and saved Lot from the destruction. The simple reading of the pasuk perhaps gives the impression that Lot was saved in the merit of Avraham. However, Rashi interprets the clause to refer to Lot’s own merit. When Avraham was travelling through Egypt with Sarah, he professed that she was his sister. Lot obviously knew that they were husband and wife, but nonetheless kept quiet and went along with the ruse. In repayment for his silence, Hashem rewarded Lot with rescue.
The Alter m’Slabodka (I could not find this last night in Ohr HaTzafun – if anyone digs it up, please let me know) asks why Rashi calls our attention specifically to this merit. Lot was Avraham’s nephew, and as depicted in the various episodes of Braishes, was consistently the beneficiary of rewards based on that relationship. It would have been truly callous of Lot to turn in his own uncle! Surely a much greater zechus for Lot is the remarkable feat of hachnasas orchim he performed in the midst of the wicked city of S’dom itself, taking in the wandering angels despite great risk to himself and his family. Yet, that entire parsha is overlooked – why?
I hate to do it, but I’m leaving you with a teaser to think about (or find the hidden [pun intended] Ohr Tzafun) because I intend to try to deal with this in the R' Tzadok chaburah and can't risk giving the game away in advance. However, in response to a much appreciated comment yesterday, here are some mareh mekomos for those who can’t attend. I try to connect R' Tzadok's theme to the parsha; the piece we are up to relates to the mitzvah of tzedaka, which ties into S'dom's guilt and can shed some light on the Alter's kashe. Bl"n summary next week.
1) R’ Tzadok haKohein, Kedushas Shabbos p.2 d”h vahapashut
2) Baba Basra 10a “chessed l’umim chatas”
3) Baba Basra 4a “Daniel lama ne’enash”
4) Pesachim 8b, Tosfos d”h “sheyizkeh”
5) Michtav m’Eliyahu I p.291 (lishma)
6) Parashas Derachim, Derush 18, esp the Midrash in the opening
7) Yechezkel 16:49 “Hinei zeh haya avon S’dom achoseich…v’yad ani v’evyon lo hechzika”
8) Chiddushi haRan Sanhedrin 56b (note the proof from S’dom)
9) Sanhedrin 104b
Question: does giving a lot of charity make you a “ba’al chessed”, or is someone who is a “ba’al chessed” motivated to give a lot of charity? What comes first – chicken or the egg?


  1. on the last question: the position of the Sefer Hachinuch is that doing is what makes us what we are: hadam nifal kefi peulasav. The solution oriented therapy book you didn't much care for holds of the same. I belive that the book Blink that you read also had something on influence of facial expression on mood -- smile to feel better, rather than waiting for a smile to just come to your face in response to your feeling.

    However, it seems that Avram's midda-- and essential identity-- was chessed. So his main trials were those that called for him to act contrary to his nature to fulfill the ratzon Hashem. Banai Yisrael are also supposed to be imbued with the middos of rachmanim, bayshanim, and gomlei chasssadim.

  2. >>>position of the Sefer Hachinuch is that doing is what makes us what we are: hadam nifal kefi peulasav.

    That can simply mean that deed is necessary to develop the innate traits of chessed.
    The last point is more crucial to this issue.

  3. But can't it also mean a behaviorist type training that would change your innate pattern. So that you may by nature be shy, but if you force yourself to act outgoing, you are for all intents and purposes no longer shy. Or as Mr. O'Hanolon says, you can realize that you were "doing shy" are not necessarily forced to always be shy.

  4. It can be interpreted both ways - so it is not a proof to either.

    >>>So that you may by nature be shy, but if you force yourself to act outgoing, you are for all intents and purposes no longer shy.

    From a behaviorist perspective, that may be correct. But that is not necessarily the only perspective, or the correct one. Someone commits murder and is now sitting in a prison cell - the individual is no longer exhibiting the behavior of a criminal, yet most people would not hesitate to refer to the prisoner as a 'murderer'.

  5. A perhaps too simple explanation: Lot learned the virtue of hospitality from Avraham and therefore the merit of his hospitality can be ascribed to Avraham.

    As to your concluding question: some people are born charitable, some people make themselves charitable, and some people have charitableness thrust upon them. For some people, the first alternative will be true, and for others the second will be true.

  6. That is very similar to the Alter's answer; I had my own thoughts based on R' Tzadok which I will post.

  7. Shalom, I saw this Alter quoted in a book by Rabbi Hillel Goldberg Illuminating the Generations. I faintly recall him either quoting the source in a footnote, or quoting Rav Isaac Sher. I could be wrong.

    I have also heard quoted in the name of Rav Ahron Kotler, which obviously if true, he got it from the Alter.

    My point being is that it is definitely clear it has a traceable mesorah to Slobadka.