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A Pillar of Salt

A Pillar of Salt


So I’m told we should “live with the times” and find how our lives are connected to the Torah portion (parshah) of the week. That only when we see ourselves in the Torah can we say we’ve truly learned.

I read the parshah, and I learn of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. I learn of how Lot is saved and how his wife is turned into a pillar of salt. And I search to see my life in these words. I’d rather not see it, of course, as the connection is too intense, too real, too true. I'd rather pretend that this is merely a story, a lesson about universal evil needing to be removed. How do I relate to a pillar of salt? And yet I do—all too much.

So this is the story. An evil community is destined to be destroyed. It is to be totally annihilated and Abraham is foretold of the destruction. He argues with G‑d, begging him not to destroy the land and those who inhabit it. He begs that the people be spared in the merit of 50 righteous people. Yet he cannot find 50. He tries to find 45. Forty. Thirty. Twenty. Ten. Still, he cannot. The city is utterly evil, and it is to be destroyed. Only Lot and his family will be saved. There is one condition. Don’t look back. But the temptation is too great. And Lot’s wife looks. And she is turned into a pillar of salt.

So I, too, am often that pillar of salt. Stuck and hardened between where I never should have been and where I need to go. If only I could have the strength to let go. I try to reason, to rationalize why certain things are good for me. And even if they aren’t good for me, they are good for someone, right? At least one person, right? Wrong. There is no good there. There is nothing to be redeemed. It must be destroyed. The relationship cannot exist. The only thing that can be saved is me. And only if I leave and don't look back. Never look back.

Yet I can’t help it. I take the first step away. I leave where I never should have been towards where I must go. If only I can make it there and leave this behind. Truly leave behind me what aims to bring me down and destroy me with it. If I can keep going it will be gone forever. If I can let go, it will lose its power to hurt me. And yet, time and time again, I look back. And I am once again as frozen as that pillar of salt.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Discussion (41)
November 15, 2016
you don't look back
someday, there will be no reason to look back, be patient, wait, and pray for us all.
December 4, 2014
A Pillar of Salt
Waiting to long usually makes matters worse, it changes things Kids grow older, and are hurt easier; waiting long usually makes matters worse.
London, Ont/Can
October 18, 2013
A Chidush, a New Interpretation
Try this one: Lot, not his wife, is turned into a Pillar of Salt. Mrs. Lote and the girls go off to link up with Abraham and Sarah, and form a new dynasty of Jews. No Moabites, no Ammonites; no fraternal hatreds. Hey, it could've happened.
David Mark
November 15, 2011
There are Women's and Family Shelters that can be called anonymously. Well-trained counselors can be spoken to about your situation. Some shelters have Yiddish/Hebrew speaking counselors. There are those who still think abuse does not happen in the observant community; it does.

If you are looking forward, yet the same situation is happening, then there is no forward, it is the same as looking back. To go forward to to progress, not regress.

I helped a childhood friend in your same situation, who confided in me, and it was a difficult journey for her. She has never looked back. Seeing her smile again was wonderful.

May you find peace and happiness.
November 8, 2011
Lot's daughters were not accepted as substitutes for the guests by the townspeople. They were left untouched. (They even seem to hold not hard feelings toward their father!)
November 8, 2011
A Pillar of Salt
How so very true, it is hard to leave "much" behind once our Eternal G-d ask us to forget our father's house. But the horizon in front of us is much, much, more beautiful and more promising than that which we leave behind. Especially when that much we leave behind was the source of all our past misery.
October 27, 2010
A Pillar of Salt
The phalllic symbolism of the pillar of salt plus the sodomisation of Lot's daughters is simply Freudian. Looking back is searching the unconscious mind and its activities. The angel involved is the light of consciousness or perhaps even the psychotherapist, anal penetration of Lot's daughters is fear of female domination (mother-wife-daughter?) What thInk you guys out there?
David Flinkstein
London, UK
October 21, 2010
I never looked at it that way, but you inspired me to try and find my own story in the weekly Torah readings.
To Dani: you've got it all wrong...
To anonymous married 20 yrs. with adulterous, abusive husband: What is it exactly that you are trying to save and hold onto?
Pain, hurt, shame loss of 20 yrs. worth of living?
I am not a professional but please speak to a mentor, Rabbi, Rebbetzin or therapist- you can get one for free by calling the Yitty Leibel Helpline (call 411 for #), who is sympathetic and is looking out for your benefit.
G. Fried
October 20, 2010
Anonymous, Hanford, california
Yes this is what it means!

If the situation is half as bad as you describe, I hope that you do NOT try to salvage the unsalvageable.
You are being abused. You do not deserve it. Please get out of this horrible situation.

In Yiddish there is a saying: "To a wedding, walk; to a divorce, run." Your position fits this perfectly.
Sarah Masha
W Bloomfield, MI/USA
October 20, 2010
You are looking at rape as if each instance were without criticism or consequences in Torah
Lot - yes he offered his daughters. He isn't defended for this action, Torah just records that it occurred. It shows how depraved he had become living in that environment. Surely a lesson for us when we choose where to live.
Avram - I think you refer to the agreement of Avram and Sarah that they would say they were siblings. They both understood that this wasn't a choice of one or the other, but rather of one or both, and if both, there would be no help for the one left. Given the customs of the place they were going to, if the inhabitants of the land killed Avram and then took Sarah would her situation be better or worse than what happened?
Deena was raped. Levi and Shimon avenge their sister. They are not criticized for killing the rapist, only for killing the innocent of the town, not the guilty.

Rape is condemned by the Torah, you just have to learn the full story.
Sarah Masha
W Bloomfield, MI USA