• Gabbai

Vayera – Lot did it first

The story of Lot’s encounter with the two angels in this week’s reading is a curious one. In our minds we tend to perceive Lot as an outsider, related to Abraham but not part of Abraham’s camp. He was a tag-along, cared for by Abraham until he could stand on his own feet. We witnessed his defection in last week’s reading, choosing the lush plains near Sodom over the company of Abraham.

Each year we tend to see things differently, since our perception of things change as we ourselves change. Reading the narrative this week, it struck me that Lot is very much alive and with us. Lot is representative of a large segment of Jewry. The lush pastures of Sodom might be the lower prices of chocolate pudding in Berlin or an enticing job offer and quality of life in a place far from a Torah center. Like Lot, many of us forfeit the company of Abraham for the greener grass on the other side.

Lot was clearly affected by the influence of his neighborhood. Sodom was an evil place, hostile to those who were different than they. They resented people who would be a drain on the resources of their society and they even implemented laws to ensure that no one gained from the work of others. It was forbidden to give charity or handouts to people who had nothing. Travelers could not be offered accommodation by local residents. This likely irked Lot at first, but he no doubt grew to accept it after living with it for a short while. People learn to adapt, and evil can be tolerated through habit just like virtue.

Nevertheless, Lot’s years in Abraham’s household had also left an imprint. The old instinct of inviting in guests and travelers was still an ember in Lot’s gut. Seeing the two travelers he was drawn to offer them his hospitality. Although they initially declined his offer Lot persisted and the travelers relented, following Lot home through some back alleys so that his hospitality would go undetected.