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Patience, You Must Have

11/05/2020 10:50:59 AM


There is a story in Parshat Vayera that many a religious school teacher will gloss over in their review of the book of Genesis, and that is the story of Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Aside from our tradition’s imagining of what was particularly so evil about these two cities, the story is also rife with problematic choices and behaviors, including Lot’s offering up his daughters to the angry mob outside his home. As one of those rare moments where the Torah’s focus swerves away from the story of the Israelites, one may even wonder why such a story is in our bible in the first place. True, the Torah also presents an inspiring story of an impassioned Abraham who implores God to withhold such destruction on the account of the innocent, yet at least that story presents our protagonist! So, why this interlude on the life of Lot?

One answer, is that this narrative is the origin story of the nation of Moab. After fleeing the destruction of the cities, Lot and his daughters believe the entire world to have been destroyed and take refuge in a cave. Since Lot’s wife met her demise having been turned into a pillar of salt, Lot’s daughters took it upon themselves to repopulate the earth. Thus, the child “Moab” - “From Father” - is born, and the rest proverbially is history. The Moabites will regularly harass the Israelites and will appear throughout our bible in one form or another. Yet the nation of Moab is particularly important because of it’s ties to King David; particularly, to his great grandmother, Ruth, the former Moabite who chooses to convert to Judaism. Is this story included in our Torah as a polemic jab against David and his kingship? (Interestingly, another interlude in the Torah deals with King Balak of the Moabites and his quests to curse the Israelites in the wilderness, Numbers 22-24).

Despite this incestual jab at the Davidic lineage, the story is a great reminder of the importance of patience and knowing all the facts. Had Lot and his family took it upon themselves to explore the world without making assumptions, perhaps they would have recognized that the destruction was localized around only two cities. In their haste and self-centeredness, the daughters err and reap irrevocable consequences (which also is part of the downfall of King David). Perhaps this story is in our Torah as a reminder to be patient and to get all the facts. Which might be the perfect message to juxtapose and counteract the haste of Abraham to sacrifice his son later in the portion, and the perfect message for events in our own lives.

Shabbat Shalom

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784