SALT - Tuesday, 14 Cheshvan November 15, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            We read in Parashat Vayera of the two angels who went to Sedom to rescue Lot and his family ahead of the city’s destruction.  The Torah tells that Lot saw the angels – who appeared as men – and invited them into his home, where he prepared for them a meal and baked matzot (19:3).  Rashi comments that this occurred on Pesach, which is why Lot prepared matzot for his guests.

            Rashi’s comment draws our attention to a subtle parallel that exists between the story of Lot’s rescue from Sedom and the story of the night of the Exodus from Egypt.  Both events involve a supernatural calamity visited by God upon a sinful population to punish them for their crimes, while rescuing a small segment of the population.  Intriguingly, in both instances, the rescued group was spared in the merit of Avraham.  Summarizing the destruction of Sedom, the Torah writes, “It happened that when God destroyed the cities of the plain, God remembered Avraham, and he sent Lot from the upheaval…” (19:29).  Somewhat similarly, the process of the Exodus began when “God remembered His covenant with Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov” (Shemot 2:24)  Neither Lot nor Benei Yisrael deserved to be rescued, but they were spared in the merit of Avraham (and, in Benei Yisrael’s case, also in the merit of Yitzchak and Yaakov).  At the same time, however, it appears that both groups needed to perform an act that set them apart from the condemned population in order to be rescued.  Lot hosted two wayfarers, in violation of Sedom’s strict policy forbidding all charitable conduct, placing his life at risk, and Benei Yisrael slaughtered sheep as a sacrifice to God, loudly and boldly rejecting the Egyptians’ pagan belief, which held the sheep to be sacred, thus potentially putting their lives at risk.  Lot and his family needed to be grabbed by the angels and pulled out of Sedom (19:16), just as the Egyptians frantically drove Benei Yisrael out of their country (Shemot 12:33).  We might also add that in Sefer Bamidbar (20:16; see Rashi), Moshe is referred to as an “angel” who led Benei Yisrael from Egypt – parallel to the angels who rescued Lot.

            Of course, there are several significant differences between these two events, as well.  Primarily, whereas Benei Yisrael faithfully obeyed the instructions relayed to them by their “angel,” Lot and his family were far less trusting and cooperative.   The Torah tells that Lot’s sons-in-law scoffed at the prediction of the city’s annihilation (19:14), and Lot himself tarried until morning, rather than promptly obeying the angels’ command to evacuate the city (19:16).  Benei Yisrael, by contrast, fully complied with God’s instructions concerning the night of the Exodus: “The Israelites went ahead and did as the Lord had commanded Moshe and Aharon…” (Shemot 12:28).  Additionally, after Lot left the city, he “negotiated” with the angels regarding his destination.  The angels urged him to flee westward to the hills, but Lot asked if instead they could spare one of the condemned cities around Sedom – Tzoar – so he could seek refuge there (19:20).  The angels agreed and ordered Lot to immediately flee to Tzoar, but Lot quickly changed his mind, and, fearing that Tzoar might also be destroyed, decided to journey from Tzoar to the hills (19:30).  All this stands in dark contrast to Benei Yisrael, who faithfully and unquestioningly followed God’s cloud and pillar and fire upon departing Egypt, even as He led them to the shores of the Sea of Reeds and then into the desert.  As God would later proclaim through the prophet Yirmiyahu (2:2), “I remember for you the kindness of your youth, your bridal love, when you followed Me into the wilderness, into an uncultivated land.”  While Lot was suspicious of the divine agent sent to rescue him, Benei Yisrael placed their trust in God’s messenger, firm in their belief that he would bring them exactly where they needed to be, and that as long as they followed God’s commands, they were guaranteed His protection and blessing.