Once Abraham settled in the land of Israel, along with
his nephew Lot, he was forced to engage in a war involving five kings who
rebelled against four Canaanite kings. (Gen. ch. 14)
Abraham went to war in order to rescue Lot, who, by
mutual agreement, had made his homestead away from his uncle. (ch. 13) The Sages
say that Lot had become involved in immorality, and therefore Abraham preferred
that they live separately. But, if that's the case, why did Abraham see fit to
rescue him afterwards from the four Canaanite kings who had captured him?
...because of the soul of King David who was within
Lot at the time.
Here, the Maharal of Prague proposed a fascinating
explanation. Abraham did this, "because of the soul of King David who was within
Lot at the time." According to the Maharal, the soul of King David was dwelling
in Lot, and for this reason Abraham had to rescue him.
It is well established that many very lofty souls
would descend from Lot through one of his daughters. From her son named Moab,
and from the nation he founded would come the convert Ruth, who would become the
great-grandmother of King David, the progenitor of Mashiach ben
David. But the idea that the actual soul of King David was en-clothed in an
immoral person like Lot is hard to fathom.
Shem miShmuel explains:
We know that the four kings represented forces of evil
which prevented the revelation of G‑dliness in the world. Three of the kings
corresponded to the cardinal sins of idolatry, murder, and sexual offenses (such
as incest). The fourth king was as bad as all of them combined, though we're not
told exactly what his transgressions were.
Spiritually opposing these wicked kings were the three
forefathers – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – and King David. But, each of them, in his
turn, had to go through purification, in order to become the tzadik that
we now know him as, and to rectify these terrible sins.
Abraham, the man of loving-kindness, had to go through
the trial of sojourning in Egypt, which on the surface looked like a beautiful
place, but really captured and concealed anything spiritual or G‑dly. By briefly
sojourning in Egypt (and by undergoing circumcision), he rectified the
transgression of sexual immorality.
Isaac, the man known for his fear of G‑d, had to
confront the Philistines, a people known for their habit of scoffing and
laughing at everything – the opposite of standing in awe of G‑d. By spending a
period of time among the Philistines, Isaac rectified the transgression of idol
And Jacob, the man of truth, had to undergo the tests
of Esau and Laban, both of them liars and murderers. Thus, he rectified the
transgression of murder. Having undergone these tests and overcome them, the
forefathers became the paragons of their respective paths of service of G‑d.
Finally, we come to King David, who had to undergo the
most unique type of purification.
King David narrates over and over again how humble his life experiences have made him.
When we examine the Psalms authored by King David, the
trait that stands out is his humility. King David narrates over and over again how humble his life experiences have made him. Whether he is being pursued by
Saul, or fighting Goliath, or repenting over his sins, he is the most humble and
self-effacing of men.
But, in Lot we see the opposite. Lot saw himself as the
heir to Abraham, and indeed, as the father of the world. It was his haughtiness
and arrogance which qualified him as the fourth and worst of the negative
forces. Arrogance includes, and leads to, all of the other cardinal sins
mentioned above. King David's soul had to be clad in Lot's arrogant body in
order for King David to undergo the necessary purification and emerge as the
humble King of Israel from whom Mashiach would come.
Abraham understood that, and this is why he went to
war in order to rescue his nephew. And it is because of him that we find
ourselves living today "on the heels of Mashiach," as we await the final
[From "Inner Lights from Jerusalem": based on
the Shem miShmuel and other Chassidic and Kabalistic Sources, by Rabbi
David Sterne, who also authored "Love Like Fire and Water: A Guide to