Lot’s Frightening Journey
by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, author of Unlocking the Torah Text
One of the strangest and most disturbing episodes in the entire Torah is recorded immediately before the destruction of the city of Sodom. Two of the three angels who earlier visited Avraham now arrive at his nephew Lot’s doorstep in Sodom. Lot showers them with hospitality as he invites them into the protection of his home. It does not take long, however, before the evil inhabitants of the city learn of the angels’ presence and surround Lot’s house demanding that the strangers be given up to them. Seeking to protect his guests from the danger confronting them, Lot reasons with the mob and offers his two unmarried daughters in their stead. The Sodomites refuse the offer, and prepare to storm the house. The angels miraculously afflict their potential attackers with blindness, and then inform Lot that to protect himself and his family he must now leave Sodom.
How are we to understand Lot’s bizarre behavior? He welcomes strangers into his home, but is then willing to sacrifice his own daughters to mob violence.
Complicating matters is the fact that there would seem to be absolutely no moral difference between the inhabitants of Canaan and the inhabitants of Aram Naharaim. Both locations are populated by idol worshipers.
Does this episode provide us with any kind of window into Lot’s personality and soul? If so, what does a glimpse through that window reveal?
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Adapted from one of the multiple essays on this parsha in Unlocking the Torah Text by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin.