Avraham and Lot

October 26, 2014

3 min read


Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17 )

God commands Avraham to leave the Land of his fathers and move to the Land of Canaan (later to become the Eretz Yisrael). There, Avraham is to achieve untold greatness, and his influence will spread throughout the world.

Avraham did not travel alone, however. Aside from his wife Sarah, Avraham's nephew Lot also went with him. Avraham ultimately reaches the great spiritual heights for which he set out, but Lot descends into deep moral decay and earns for himself a shameful name for all eternity.

What happened?

The following sentence (which is describing the capture of Lot by the four kings) provides the clue we are looking for: "And they took Lot and his property the son of the brother of Avram and they left and he was dwelling in Sodom (14:12)."

The syntax sounds very strange at first glance. Is the property of Lot also the son of the brother of Avraham? Shouldn't the sentence read "and they took Lot the son of the brother of Avram and his property"?

The implication is inescapable: Lot and his property were one; they were inseparable.

When Hashem told Avraham to leave the Land of his fathers, he was effectively telling him that he must completely disconnect himself from the society from whence he came. He must utterly divest himself of all the impurity of idolatry, hedonism, and immorality that was typical of that society (of course, Avraham had already accomplished this to a great extent while still living in his ancestral Land, but Hashem was indicating to him that there was much more to be achieved). It was not simply a geographical move; rather it was a physical move that was meant to be accompanied by a deep spiritual move.

Avraham succeeded in doing this and thereby succeeded in reaching those great achievements which the move was meant to facilitate.

Lot, on the other hand, did not fully get the point. He may have moved geographically, but essentially he brought with him the heavy load of hedonism that blocks one from achieving great spiritual heights, and it was this continued connection with materialistic pursuit that led to Lot's ultimate moral downfall. Indeed, this was what motivated him to settle in the immoral city of Sodom in the first place.

As the descendants of Avraham, we must take this message very much to heart, especially since we live in an age of such gross hedonism (which is called 'consumerism' in today's language to make it sound less unflattering). We must try as much as we can to guard ourselves from allowing material pursuit to become a goal in life. We must always maintain a strong awareness that this world is merely a corridor leading to the next, and that, as such, material matters are meant to serve only as facilitators towards that goal - and they are not the goal itself.

Based on the insights of Rabbi Eli Resnick (of the Mir Yeshiva)

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