פרשת לך לך
By Bet Midrash Member Joy Braha
In this week’s parasha, Parashat Lech Lecha, we read of two contrasting figures Avraham and Lot, whose interactions convey how the choices we make in our lives have profound effects on the people we become.
In the early sections of the parasha, Avraham makes a series of choices for his family. Lot, Avraham’s nephew whom he adopts as his own, is seen as quietly following along with Avraham, acquiescing. Lot accompanies Avraham for years; he travels through Shechem, Misrayim, and eventually pitches his tent alongside Avraham’s between Beit-El and Ai. One could rightfully assume that on these journeys Lot’s immersion in the beliefs of Avraham helped shape Lot into a man worthy of standing by Avraham’s side, for by this time Avraham was advanced in age and sired no other heirs. However, the opposite becomes true! After amassing great fortune in Egypt for both himself and Lot, their shepherds begin fighting over grazing territory. Here Avraham provides Lot with a choice which comes to shape the future of his life and the family he will cultivate. Avraham says to Lot,
הֲלֹא כל־הָאָרֶץ לְפָנֶיךָ הִפָּרֶד נָא מֵעָלָי אִם־הַשְּׂמֹאל וְאֵימִנָה וְאִם־הַיָּמִין וְאַשְׂמְאִילָה
Is not the whole land before you? Let us separate: if you go north, I will go south; and if you go south, I will go north. (Bereshit 13:9)
Avraham knew that the importance of keeping family together and harmonious far outweighed any preference for material gain. And so he gives Lot first pick of the land. In his newfound freedom Lot chooses to settle in the fruitful plains near Sodom. Perhaps an act of rebellion, perhaps a desire for fertile land, Lot pitched his tent on the outskirts of a town whose inhabitants the Torah goes out of its way to describe as,
וְאַנְשֵׁי סְדֹם רָעִים וְחַטָּאִים לַה’ מְאֹד
Now the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked sinners against the LORD (Bereshit 13:13)
It is only one perek later where we learn through a series of conflicts in local kingdoms that Lot actually began dwelling within Sodom itself, from where he is eventually taken captive. Lot’s single choice led to another choice, which led him further into a city of corruption and further distancing himself from Avraham.
We can try and speculate what caused Lot to stray so far from the life he had known with Avraham, but more worthwhile to examine is the reaction Avraham has to Lot’s capture and the choice he makes in rescuing him from his captivity. Because it is within Avraham’s choice that we can begin to juxtapose these two figures and see them each for whom they represent. Upon discovering his nephew has been taken captive Avraham leads a middle-of-the-night surprise guerilla attack against King Chedorlaomer and rescues Lot, returning him and all his possessions to Sodom. One might stop and reread this section of the parasha in shock, for Avraham’s choice seems to allow the continuation of his family member to dwell amongst wicked sinners. But it is actually in this scene with Lot that Avraham reveals himself as a true leader. Avraham understands that taking care of his family at this moment is more important than any judgement he could pass on him that day. Lot made his choices, albeit the wrong ones, but Avraham doesn’t hold it against him. He continues to see him as part of his family, and as such, someone that he must protect at all costs.
Avraham highlights the idea of Selem Elohim—that we all have the potential to learn and do what Hashem wants us to do because we are created in His image. Avraham chooses, freely chooses, and correctly chooses. Beyond this Avraham forgives and tries to repair relationships. Avraham avoids conflict with Lot by offering him first choice of land. Avraham rescues Lot from Chedorlaomer despite Lot’s settling in a city whose natural law is the opposite of love and kindness—two attributes upon which Avraham builds his life. Avraham does not abandon Lot in the same way that Hashem doesn’t abandon his people. No matter what choices we make, no matter how far off the path we stray, Hashem is always willing and waiting to accept us back into the fold. So while for many years Avraham and Lot walk in step together, their choices eventually set them on divergent paths. But never does Avraham forget that the ultimate comfort you can afford a person is to be there for them despite their shortcomings.
Joy Braha is a Middle School Humanities teacher at Barkai Yeshivah. She earned her Master’s Degree in English Literature and Education and maintains a passion for literary analysis. Joy joined the Allegra Franco Bet Midrash in the Summer of 2020 and quickly developed a love of Torah study and thought.