I want to expand on the idea I threw out in an earlier post that the point of telling us that G-d visited Avraham davka “acharei hipared Lot”, after Lot had left, is not to stress the wickedness of Lot, but to highlight the charity of Avraham in giving up communication with G-d for the sake of trying to live in harmony with Lot. Only when Lot proved to be a danger to Avraham’s neighbors was Avraham forced to make a break with him but not before, and not for his own “selfish” religious development.
Why, asks the Ishbitzer, did Avraham wait for G-d’s command before performing the mitzvah of milah, as end of our parsha records? Why did he not take the initiative and do the mitzvah earlier, before receiving an explicit command? The Ishbitzer offers a unique answer to the classic question. Milah makes a statement: G-d created man in an imperfect state, and man must take action to remove the orlah and correct the defect. Such a statement can be seen as audacious, even sacrilegious – who are we to call G-d’s creation imperfect, flawed, in need of our correction?
The command of milah was preceded by the birth of Yishmael to show Avraham that indeed it would be audacious to charge G-d with creating an imperfect world if not for the fact that G-d himself creates Yishmaels even among the children of Avraham, if not for the fact that G-d himself told us the world is imperfect and in need of our repair.
I wonder, coming full circle, if perhaps Lot as a character is a symbolic “orlah”, an “orlah” which Avraham was loathe to abandon and forsake without a commandment to do so. Avraham had been told to abandon his home, "lech lecha m’artzecha, m’moldtecha, m’bais avicha" – could it be that this command was necessary to prevent Avraham from becoming bogged down by other potential “Lots” in his neighborhood and family, ultimately retarding his own growth? Is there perhaps a progression from “lech lecha”, Avraham having to be ordered to abandon a bad situation, to "acharei hipared Lot", G-d waiting until Avraham himself was forced to drive Lot away somewhat unwillingly, to G-d's finally showing Avraham that removing “orlah” is also part of the mission of religion and not every situation or person can be “saved”? I’m just thinking out loud – feel free to add your 2 cents.
Even if you don't buy the Lot connection, the Ishbitzer makes a powerful point. Every teacher today is told to make kids feel good, accentuate the positive, find something done right to focus on. Who does not like to hear that they are a great and wonderful person! But the reality is that true growth is possible only is we are willing to face up to the imperfections in the world and in ourselves and choose to do something about them.