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Our Lot in Life

Our Lot in Life


It seems like the ultimate codependent relationship.

In this week’s Torah portion we are introduced to a shadowy character named Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Through his relationship with Abraham, Lot grows wealthy and powerful, but that’s what starts the rift between them. Abraham is always careful to muzzle his cattle when passing through the fields of others. Lot’s shepherds let his animals graze wherever they please. Their argument is that G‑d has promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham, and Abraham has no children, so it will all go to Lot. Therefore, they feel they are justified in letting Lot’s animals loose in anyone’s field.

To Abraham, this is utterly unacceptable. It seems like the ultimate codependent relationshipAlthough G‑d has promised the land to his descendants, he has not yet taken possession, and thus has no rights to his neighbors’ fields. In any case, Lot is not the ultimate heir. To make matters worse, Lot resembles Abraham physically,1 so his behavior reflects negatively on Abraham as well. Finally, Abraham issues an ultimatum: “Please, let us go our separate ways. If you go to the left, I will go to the right. If you go to the right, I will go to the left.”2

For Lot, this should have been an opportunity for self-reflection—to improve his ways and not lose his relationship with his revered Uncle Abraham. Instead, Lot agrees to part and sets up house among the most depraved people then in existence—the residents of Sodom.

Not long afterward, four strong kings pick a battle with five weak kings, including the king of Sodom, and subdue the population. After 12 years of subjugation, the five kings rebel. War breaks out, and Lot is taken prisoner. When Abraham hears the news, he immediately swings into action and personally goes into battle to rescue Lot.

At this point, does Lot gratefully, meekly return to Abraham’s court? He does not. He continues living with the corrupt Sodomites and even becomes a leader among them.

Eventually, matters come to a head, and the evil of Sodom reaches the heavens. G‑d comes to a verdict: The city of Sodom must be destroyed. G‑d shares the news with his trusted servant Abraham, who proceeds to pray on behalf of the people of Sodom. He is unable to find a quorum of righteous people in whose merit the city should be saved. But Lot, at least, is spared the calamity.

When the angels appear to rescue Lot, though, he is none too eager to join them. The angels drag him away, and he escapes with his life only moments before the city is destroyed.

The final straw is when Lot’s daughters awaken to the destruction around them and assume that they are the only ones left. They get their father drunk and become pregnant from him. News soon spreads of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his daughters, and Abraham is forced to move away in shame.3

The common thread in this saga is that Abraham is repeatedly disappointed and humiliated by the behavior of his nephew, yet he bails him out time and again.The angels drag him away

Abraham was a leader—a highly motivational person—and it must have pained him greatly not to be able to exert more influence on his nephew. But Lot was his own person who made his own decisions. Why did Abraham not simply let him live with the consequences? Why did Abraham not make a clean break from Lot? Why did he keep swooping in to save Lot from himself? Was it classic codependency, or was there another dynamic at play?

Perhaps Abraham saw potential in Lot and kept trying to bring it to the fore.

Chassidic teachings explain that Lot represents the part of the mind that is uncouth, unrefined.4 It’s the part that behaves unpredictably, sometimes shamefully; the part that gets us into scrapes time and again; the part that can drag us to the most desolate, degraded places—our personal Sodom. We try to distance ourselves, but can never quite escape from our Lot. And perhaps, on some level, we don’t want to.

And this is something that Abraham bequeathed to us, his descendants: We will never give up on our Lot, whether it’s a wayward child, an annoying neighbor—or ourselves. We don’t give up because even the most unrefined and embarrassing person has potential waiting to be discovered.

Lot’s two daughters produced two sons, who grew into two mighty nations, Moab and Ammon. From Moab descended Ruth, the famous convert who became the great-grandmother of King David. From Ammon descended Naamah, wife of King Solomon, and mother of his firstborn son and heir, Rehoboam. Thus, the lineage of the dynasty of David, and by extension Moshiach, comes through Lot.

Abraham foresaw that Lot would be a forebear of King David and Moshiach. On the verse in Psalms, “I have found my servant David,”5 the Midrash comments, “Where did He find him? In Sodom!”6

The legacy of Lot is that no circumstance in life is so low or so depraved that no good can come from it. Abraham’s rescue of Lot empowers us to rescue ourselves and each other from the pits of Sodom—as many times as it takes—until we’ve refined our Lot to the utmost, and the world is finally ready for Moshiach.

Rashi on Genesis 13:8; Bereishit Rabbah 41:6.
Genesis 20:1; see Rashi’s commentary.
Torah Ohr, Lech Lecha 22b.
Bereishit Rabbah 41:4.
Chaya Shuchat is the author of A Diamond a Day, an adaptation of the chassidic classic Hayom Yom for children, as well as many articles on the interface between Chassidism and contemporary life. She is a pediatric nurse practitioner with a master’s degree in nursing from Columbia University.
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Malkie Janowski for December 17, 2016

Lot's daughters did indeed believe the world was coming to an end, and some commentaries interpret their intentions as noble. However, the perspective discussed in the article is that of the effect on Abraham. The surrounding people who heard of Lot's relationship with his daughters would not have known the girls' intentions, and nor would they have cared. It simply became known as an immoral act and was shameful for Abraham. Reply

Ziva Querétaro, México December 14, 2016

Similarities? Later on Torah we find that Tamar dresses up as a harlot to lure his Father-in-Law to do right by her as a widow and impregnate her, upon he later says "She is more righteous than I". Why can't the same be said of Lot's daughters? They weren't being intimate with their Father out of a perverse self-satisfaction, they truly believed it was the end of the world and were trying to do right by humanity, maybe they thought of Noah. I know incest is to be abhorred, but please enlighten me in the comparison. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma October 22, 2015

from Ruth, a Story, The Book of Ruth Souls recycle, and given my name, and my life I can say something definitive about this Book, the Book of Ruth, being so much about Love, the light from within, that caused a woman, to leave her life, her religion, to follow her mother-in-law and there surely she met her destiny, being a man, Boas, Naomi's relative, and from there springs a story so beautiful that also contains a line of descent, that spells out, very specifically, what is Moshiach. Now it could be, since I am following a line of Story, that is entirely about all names and naming, and since a rabbi told us all, long ago, to pray aloud, something that caused me to listen, with the third ear, to all words, that the She in Moshiach, is also relevant to a cosmic story, and that turning up the mic, also in the word cosmic, is about being heard. Yes! for this beautiful rendition of the story of Lot, and need I remind you, that there is salt to in this: a pillar of Salt, and a Story that is also about Salt and the Covenant. Reply

john smith FL October 20, 2015

thanks OK....i get it....thanks....i will work on it......

and so it is self reflection until there is no self......

i get the total surrender to G-d himself.....but not to man, who tends to grasp at straws....and/or power/$$$......all fueled by the "self" Reply

Raymond Bastarache NB. Canada. October 20, 2015

never give up....on your lot? Wow, what a beautiful article from the word of G-d. How wondrous and merciful is our Lord. It is not how many times we fall... it is how many times we get up? yet, in spite of it all? I must acknowledge G-d. if Lot wouldn't of left with the angels...he also would of been lost with the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah.....thus, he follow the leading of G-d' spirit..... yet not without the intercession of Father Abraham. We should also speak to G-d on the behalf of humanity...and leave the outcome in his Hand...for a brighter future. Shalom. Reply

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