Thursday, October 26, 2017

Lot: can't you live in beautiful pastures without giving up G-d?

Our parsha tells us that there was a dispute that broke out between the shepherds of Avraham and the shepherds of Lot.  The Torah immediately tacks on, "V'ha'K'na'ani v'haPrizi az yosheiv ba'aretz." (13:7) Note the use of "yosheiv," as opposed to earlier in the parsha when we were told (12:6), "V'ha'K'na'ani az ba'aretz."  "Yosheiv," means our enemies were settled in the land, not just temporarily there or there by happenstance.  When Jews fight with each other, even if it is just fight, even if it is a fight against the injustices committed by a Lot, even if it is a fight where one side is defending the interests of an Avraham Avinu in all his tzidkus, the net result is a gain for our enemies, who as a result are bolstered and have a greater sense of security and a stronger foothold.  It's the Chasam Sofer who says this, someone who knew how to fight when he perceived a threat to Orthodoxy, but here he is telling us to be careful.  Apply as you like to current events.

Getting back to the story, Avraham tells Lot that they must separate, and wherever he chooses to go, Avraham will head in the opposite direction.  Lot sees the land of Sdom and its beautiful fertile pastures  before him, and he makes the logical choice to move there with his flocks.  "Va'yisa Lot m'kedem" (13:11) -- literally, he headed away from the east, where Avraham was camped (see Seforno,) but the Midrash reads much more into the phrase and tells us that Lot was moving away from G-d, the "kadmono shel olam."   Lot was running away from religion, abandoning his faith.

Asks the Alter m'Kelm: in next week's parsha we are going to read how Lot, despite living amidst the wicked people of Sdom, risked his life to fulfill the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim.  We are going to read how he baked matzah for his guests because it was Pesach (Rashi).  Unlike his sons in law, he did not doubt the malach's message that Sdom would be destroyed, and he immediately abandoned his home when he was told to flee.  Does this sound like someone who has run away from G-d and religion?!  OK, so he wanted to move to the best pasture land, he cared maybe too much about his flocks and his wealth, and so he ended up is Sdom, but why does that mean he is someone trying to escape from religion?

The Alter answers that we see from here that even if you eat the most kosher matzah, do mitzvos, dress the dress and walk the walk, if what really anchors your life is the almighty $ instead of the Almighty, then you are on the wrong path.  Then you are a Lot.  

Is it too early in the year for me to write about advertisements for Pesach vacations in  luxury hotels with pools and beaches and every amenity one can dream of, including a 24 hour a day tea room because you never know when you will be hungry, as if the banquet size meals were not enough (don't worry -- there is a gym and exercise room too, probably with a personal trainer available to help you)?  Of course they all have the best hashgachos, non-gebrokst food, daf yomi shiurim daily (maybe poolside?).  This is what Lot wanted -- the beautiful pastures of Sdom! -- while doing mitzvos.  

You can dress it up in hashgachos and mitzvos and other nice frum things, but it's still Sdom, far away from the values of kadmono shel olam.  


  1. "walk the walk"

    well, not exactly: Lot raises his possessive eyes at will, 13:10, while Avraham lifts his eyes only at Hashem's bidding, 13:14; this difference plays out down to their very feet, with Avraham acquiring the land upon Divine direction, 13:17, by walking, while Lot replaces netilas yadayim with netilas raglayim!he invites the malachim to follow his own procedure at waking, 19:2, a slumber followed by podiatric rinse, because he dreams each night only of running after more wealth, but never of grabbing it by hand--he who has one hundred wants two hundred, or if two hundred, four hundred (Koh. Rab. 1:34)-- the doubling amount is ever beyond grasp ...

  2. I don't agree. Judaism does not demand of us to abstain from enjoying the pleasures of this world. We are not ascetics. Hashem gave us a roadmap as to how to channel our yetzer harah positvely ot live productive mitvah and torah oriented lives while still allowing us and ecouraging us to enjoy an imporessive world he laid out for us. To promote a judaism that despises any pleasure will turn off many aspiring kinderluch from the simchas hachayim that will help propel them to great heights in yidishkeit. Maybe you should stop asking for a life of chayim shel oosher vichovod in your rosh chodesh benching. I will continue. And if someone has the means to go to a pesach program I don't see anyting wrong with that. We dont live in a communistic society. Even more so, Im not sure why you cast a negative light on fitness which is actually oneof th emost basic levels of responisbility and hakaras hatov not only to our children to maintain our longeivty but to hashem to take care of the bodies he has loaned us. Its much easier to lie on the couch reading mishpacha magazine than it is to steadily hit the treadmill, bike or bench press.

    1. Funny because I have an almost 20 year old daughter who shares your views.

      The osher we daven for is to be mesameiach b'chelko. Isn't that how Chazal define osher?

      Ad she'adam mispalel she'yikanes Torah l'toch gufo yispalel she'ko yikansu ma'adanim l'toch gufo -- Tosfos Kes 104a.

      I can give you a pile of other quotes and references to the value of prishus, but you can probably find them yourself if you look a bit.

      The "kinderlach" you are so concerned for are pampered these days with every luxury and as a result they are more shallow and know less.

      I don't know how you took anything about fitness away from what I wrote?