Lest It Come To Scandal
Lot, Judah, & Ruth: Three Interconnected Yibum Stories
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
What is the common theme in the seemingly disconnected stories of Lot and his daughters, Judah and Tamar, and Ruth? Rabbi Fohrman argues there is an important connection that hints at a generational saga of Chesed and redemption. Join him in part one of the series, starting with Lot and his daughters.
The following series of lectures is entitled: Lest it Come to Scandal - the genesis of Jewish kingship from Lot and his daughters to Judah and Tamar and the Book of Ruth. The lectures were delivered by myself in the spring of 2003 before various live audiences in Baltimore, Maryland. The recordings were then edited and augmented, creating the series you have before you now. There are seven tapes in the series, this is the first of them. In the following series of lectures we're going to be looking at the stories of Lot and his daughters, Judah and Tamar, and the Book of Ruth. Before we launch ourselves on that journey though, I'd like to just say a few words of introduction. I'd like to sort of put these stories, if I can, in perspective. If you look at the Book of Genesis as a whole, just sort of pull back the zoom lens and try to look at the book as a whole and ask yourself this question, what is this book about? I think it would be fair to say - fair to give, really, the following kind of summary. If you would discount the first couple of narratives in the book; Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah, as the sort of the experiment with humanity which didn't work out, and you begin the Book of Genesis from the new world post-flood. I think you'll find that the Book of Genesis is really - the lion share of it - is taken up with two main narratives, and that is the narrative of Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, which covers the first half of Genesis. And then really the second half of Genesis is devoted to the narrative of Joseph and his brothers, that epic tale of sibling rivalry, which ultimately drags the entire family down to Egypt.
What's fascinating [to those/note 1:37], that if you look at the Abraham narrative on the one hand and the Joseph narrative on the other hand, which span the entire Book of Genesis, you'll find that each of these stories is sort of strangely and rudely interrupted by a small, little narrative, one or two chapters. In which the narrator completely digresses from the main story of Abraham and Joseph and focuses on a minor character. A character that until now has been very minor, a character that's related to the two main characters; Abraham and Joseph, but for a brief moment becomes sort of the star of the show. The narratives I'm referring to is; the digression in the Abraham narrative is the story of Lot and his daughters, and the digression in the Joseph narrative is the story of Judah and Tamar in Chapter 38. Each of these narratives is very strange and certainly doesn't lack for any color and drama.
The story of Lot and his daughters we hear how Lot who had gone to live in the city of Sodom, finds himself approached by several angels that come to him and are invited into his house by Lot. Lot feeds them a feast and Lot is accosted by a mob of the evil people of Sodom who have come to molest the guests, really to sodomize them. They demand that Lot take these guests out and let the mob know them, let the mob sodomize them. Lot in an act of heroism positions himself at the door and says no, you mustn't do that. But then in words that will live in infamy says, take my daughters instead, you can do what you want to my daughters, don't touch my guests. At that moment the guests who were really angels, pull Lot back into the house and say, Lot, that G-d has decreed that Sodom is going to be destroyed, we have got to get out of here as soon as possible. Lot packs his bags, everybody leaves, his wife turns back and looks at the scene, and for that, strangely enough, is turned into a pillar of salt. But everyone else seems to escape with their lives, everyone in Lot's family.
That night in a cave a fateful thing happens. The daughters of Lot seem to not understand that the destruction that they have witnessed is localized to Sodom and they fear that the entire world has been destroyed and that there are no other men alive who can marry them to propagate the species of humanity. As such, they set about to hatch this plot to seduce their father. They get their father drunk and seduce him and are intimate with him and from those unions of the two sisters are conceived two children. The two children that are born are named Ammon and Mo'av.
The story of Judah and Tamar - the digression that appears in the Joseph story - we leave the story of Joseph to hear about the story of Judah, one of Joseph's brothers. Strangely enough in this story, we find that two of Judah's sons have died and their widow Tamar then poses as a harlot and propositions her father-in-law Judah. When Judah hears that she has become pregnant he condemns her to death, completely unaware that Tamar was the phantom harlot with whom he had consorted. At the last minute though, Tamar uses an ingenious vehicle to obliquely convey her identity to him, saving her life and the lives of her unborn children.
Now when you look at these two narratives, when we look at these two digressions in the Book of Genesis, the story of Lot and his daughters and the story of Judah and Tamar, at first glance the stories seem entirely different. What's really strange and fascinating, is that if you look these two stories you'll find that there are a number of a very interesting, tantalizing elements in these two stories which are a parallel to one another. Somehow these two digressions seem to focus around the same themes.
For example, both of these stories have a seduction narrative towards the end of the story. In both of these stories the woman is the one who initiates the seduction. In both of the stories the woman initiates the seduction for very high-minded motives, and does not fill the man in on these motives. She feels somehow that if she would tell the man, the man would not go along with it. Both of these acts involve either an incestuous union or a quasi-incestuous union, with a father or with a father-in-law. And, as a result of both of these seductions, interestingly, two male children are born. The children [of/are 5:37] Ammon and Mo'av in the first story of Lot and his daughters, and the children Peretz and Zerach in the second story of Judah and Tamar.
What's fascinating is that it is not just that these stories are connected by virtue of their themes being similar, but the real connection and the deeper connection between the stories is that these stories at a certain point in the Bible actually merge to become one and the same narrative. I'm referring to the Book of Ruth. Because in the Book of Ruth what happens is that descendants from the story of Lot and his daughters end up marrying descendants from the story of Judah and Tamar. Ruth, is a daughter of Mo'av who hails from Lot and his daughters, Boaz is a son who ultimately hails from the line of Peretz, the child of Judah and Tamar. Boaz and Ruth marry one another.
In the story of Ruth we'll also find similar kinds of themes. Again there's sort of a quasi-seduction narrative, or a seduction that almost happens. In that story, again the woman is the one who initiates things and does so for high-minded motives, and ultimately succeeds. And what happens, the child of Boaz and Ruth is Oved, the child of Oved is Yishai, and the child of Yishai is David.
We have here almost, there's a certain kind of triangle with Lot and his daughters, Judah and Tamar and Ruth. It's almost as if Lot and his daughters, and Judah and Tamar are the foundational points of the triangle in Genesis, and the lines of those stories converge and meet centuries later in the Book of Ruth. When they meet what happens is that the result of that union is ultimately the birth of King David. What we have here really in the Book of Genesis, are nothing less than the foundational narratives of the Davidic dynasty.
The argument that I'm going to make in these lectures as we begin to look at these stories, is that it is not merely the case that the story of Lot and his daughters, and Judah and Tamar and the Book of Ruth form the genealogical basis of Kind David, but I think they form the conceptual spiritual basis for kingship as well. I think what we'll see in these stories, that there are certain themes, certain character traits or ideas and spiritual energies almost, which become developed in the story of Lot and his daughters, there are other themes which become developed in the story of Judah and Tamar. When we look at the Book of Ruth we'll find that those themes come together and merge, creating a tremendous potential, and that potential actualizes itself in the Davidic dynasty. I think that as you look - which is really beyond the scope of these lectures - but as you look at the Book of Samuel you'll find that these themes will reoccur in the Book of Samuel. What we'll find that what distinguishes David, what makes David a successful leader is his ability to rise to the occasion, to sort of use the spiritual energies which have existed in his heritage to sort of use them to maximum potential.
What we're going to be doing in the lectures that follow is looking at the story of Lot and his daughters, Judah and Tamar and Ruth in detail. We're going to look at each of these stories in isolation, in and of themselves, try to ask the crucial questions which I think lie at the core of each of these stories. Put these stories together and see if we can develop a clear perspective on the meaning of each of the stories in and of themselves. Then try to bring them together and see what it is that they mean not only in isolation, but what it is that they mean together. In doing so, I hope that we'll get a deeper perspective, I think, on the foundation of the Davidic dynasty and the meaning of kingship within the Jewish people.
All right, why don't we begin with a short synopsis of the story? This story takes place in Parshat Vayeira, it can be found in Chapter 19 of the Book of Genesis. It runs for really well the balance of 19. Here's what happens in the story. I'm going to give you the story without any context for a moment, we're just going to recount the story kind of out of the blue. Three angels show up one day and who do they meet? They meet Abraham. We have - this is another famous story. Abraham at the door of his tent, it's the third day since he has been circumcised as an adult male without the benefit of antibiotics or painkillers, it's difficult, a painful time for him. Nevertheless he is at the door of his tent searching for guests - our Sages say. This is the classic hospitality narrative in the Torah.
What happens is; Vayeira eilav Hashem b'Elonei Mamre v'hu yoshev petach ha'ohel k'chom hayom - G-d appears to him in the groves of Mamre and he's sitting out by the door of his tent in the heat of the day. Vayisah einav vayar - and he lifts up his eyes and he sees; V'hinei shelosha anashim nitzavim alav - and he sees three people standing near him, standing at some distance from him actually. Vayar - and he sees; Vayaratz likratam mi'petach ha'ohel vayishtachavu artzah - and he runs out to greet them from the door of his tent and he bows down. No, I'm reading by the way from Chapter 18, verse 1, for those of you who are wondering where we are, I should have told you beforehand. That's where we are.
Vayomar adonoy - and he says, my master; Im nah matzati chen b'einecha - if I found favor in your eyes - he's speaking to the angels apparently; Al nah ta'avor me'al avdecha - please don't just pass by; Yukach nah me'at mayim - take some water; V'rochatzu ragleichem - wash your feet; V'hisha'anu tachat ha'etz - lie down underneath the tree. V'ekchah pat lechem v'sa'adu libchem achar ta'avoru - take care of yourself and everything will be fine.
This is the story, he brings them into his tent, he gives them food and then in the middle of this whole thing the angels have a question for him after they've eaten, so to speak. The question they have for him is, where is Sarah, we have something to tell you about her. They say that Sarah is going to have a child, this time next year, Sarah hears this and she laughs, she says, is it really possible I can have a child? G-d complains to Abraham that Sarah has laughed, Sarah denies laughing. This is sort of part 1 of the story.
By the way there was an interesting loose end in this story, which is that the story begins with what words? What's the very beginning of this story? That G-d appears to Abraham in the groves of Mamre. Now this is actually a loose end in the story, why is this a loose end in the story? Because then what happened? I mean what happened to G-d? It's like you never hear from Him again, he's with the angels, and what happened to G-d? So that's a little strange, G-d appears to him and he's sitting in the tent - and this has led some to suggest - there's a Machlokes in the Talmud, I believe, as to what Abraham meant when he said; Adonoy, im nah matzati chen b'einecha al nah ta'avor me'al avdecha - my master, if I found favor in your eyes, please don't pass me by. Now the simple meaning of the text is that he's talking to who? The angels. In other words, folks, stop, I'll give you hospitality. But the possibility exists that Adonoy may also mean what? It's a name we have for G-d. So the possibility exists that maybe he was talking to G-d.
In which case, what was he saying to G-d? If he was talking to G-d what do those words mean? It means, wait a minute, I'm putting You on hold. G-d, do me a favor, just stay there, I'll be back, I've got some guests to entertain. Which is a little bit forward, one might say, when speaking to the Master of the Universe to put Him on hold while you go entertain guests. Nevertheless that is what Abraham does.
I think I suggested another time I taught this, maybe even here, years back, that Abraham may have learned it from G-d. Because if you ask yourself why was it that G-d showed up, I mean, He doesn't say anything really, He just shows up. Why is it that G-d showed up here? There's no message to be communicated, what's the purpose of G-d being here? Comfort, right? And that's what Rashi says. That what was He doing, He was there to visit the sick, it's a Mitzvah to visit the sick, so G-d was showing up, Mitzvah to visit the sick, Abraham is not feeling well, so He was visiting him. So therefore I don't need to say anything because it's not the point of what I say, it's just the point that I've come to be with you.
If you think about what was G-d doing, what was the purpose of G-d's visit? It was hospitality; it was to be nice to him, to be gracious, to be comforting towards Abraham. So where does Abraham get the Chutzpah perhaps to put G-d on hold, to go entertain guests? Who does he learn it from? He learns it from G-d. In other words, what's he doing? He's saying, G-d I see what Your priorities are. I mean You come here to visit me, so what's the greatest thing I can do? If I can emulate that and help out these people, so You surely won't mind if I do that.
From which the Sages derive, and Rashi brings it down, from here you learn that; [Gadol/Gedolah 14:31] hachnasat orchim m'kabalat pnei haShechinah - that hospitality towards guests is greater than having an epiphany, having a mind-blowing revelation where you're talking with G-d. That if you had a choice between the ability to entertain guests and take care of their needs and having communion with G-d, you should choose the guests - and you see it from Avraham. Because faced with a choice Avraham put G-d on hold to go serve the guests.
Anyway this is part of the backdrop here. So this is how the angels got there. There's these three angels. But one suspects that the angels had something else in mind besides just telling Sarah that she is going to have children. Indeed, what they have in mind becomes clear in the next chapter, Chapter 19, and it is something quite sinister indeed - or at least dark. Vayokumu misham ha'anashim - verse 16 - and the fellows got up from there; Vayashkifu al pnei Sodom - and they looked out towards Sodom. Now Sodom was a nasty sort of place, Sodom and Amorah, and Avraham was going with them to send them out.
All of a sudden G-d says; Hamechaseh ani mei'Avraham asher ani oseh - could I possibly hide from Abraham what I'm about to do? V'Avraham hayo yiheye l'goy gadol v'atzum ve'nivrechu bo kol goyei ha'aretz - Avraham is going to be such an important person, I need to instruct him, I'm going to talk to him. So G-d says the following to Abraham; Tza'akat Sodom va'Amorah ki rabah - the cries coming up from Sodom and Amorah are very great; V'chatatam ki kavdah me'od - and their sin is very terrible. Erdah nah v'ereh - I'm going to go down now, G-d says, and I'm going to take a look at this situation. I'm going to see; Hake'tza'akasah haba'ah elai asu koloh - if the cries coming out from the oppressed people in Sodom are of such great magnitude that they would justify My destroying the city; V'im loh - or not; Eida'ah - I'll figure it out one way or the other. All right, this is G-d signing out.
Vayifnu misham ha'anashim vayeilchu Sodomoh - then meanwhile the angels headed out towards Sodom and Abraham was still standing before G-d. And then we have the famous bargaining session where Abraham approaches G-d; Vayigash Avraham vayomar ha'af tispeh tzadik im rasha - G-d are You really going to destroy the righteous people along with the wicked? Ulai yesh chamishim tzadikkim betoch ha'ir - maybe there's 50 Tzadikkim in the city; Ha'af tispeh v'loh tisah lamakom lema'an chamishim hatzadikkim asher bekirbah - are you really going to destroy the city and not save it for the 50 that are in it? Challilah lecha mei'asot kadavar hazeh - it would be profane of You to do such a thing; Lehamit tzadik im rasha (vehaya ka'tzadik ka'rasha) - to destroy the righteous along with the wicked, to make the wicked look like the righteous. Challilah lach - it would be profane of You; Hashofet kol ha'aretz loh ya'aseh mishpat - shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?
Now, there's something a little strange about this. So G-d says, all right, fine, if you find 50 I won't destroy them. Abraham says G-d, You know, I don't mean to make problems but let's say You only find 45? For five people You're going to destroy the city? Notice the bargaining tactics he uses, it's not really destroying the city for five, but he's saying well if You were going to save it for 50, so just because of five it's going to make a difference? So save it for 45. So G-d says, all right, 45, I'll save it. Then Abraham says - bargains Him down eventually to 10.
Let's just stop here for a second. Anything bothersome about this? The bargaining session makes perfect sense to you?
[Laughter from audience]
I mean, it's a little weird, right? What's strange about this?
[Response from audience member: That he stopped at 10?]
Okay, first of all that he stopped at 10, I mean he was a on a roll, he could have kept on going. By the way, that's an interesting question why did he stop at 10? If he wanted to save the city why didn't he just say, maybe we've got one? I mean, it seems kind of arbitrary. So that's an interesting question.
Anything else strange about the bargaining session?
[Response from audience member: Why is he even negotiating at all?]
Why is he even - why is G-d allowing negotiation? And how come Avraham has the Chutzpah to negotiate? I mean G-d tells you something, you negotiate? I mean, what is this, the Shuk I mean it's a strange - it's the Middle East, is that the idea, that you've have to bargain with everything? It's a strange thing.
All right, let's move on, so then what happens is the angels head towards Sodom and who do they bump into but Lot? Now what's Lot doing in Sodom? As it happened, Lot got into a little dispute with Abraham many years back and he went to settle in Sodom. Interestingly enough, by the way, the verse says at that time - this was years ago - V'anshei Sodom ra'im v'chata'im laHashem me'od - that the people of Sodom were very evil in the eyes of G-d, they were very, very bad. Anyway, Lot went down to Sodom and now he's in Sodom and the angels are there and who do the angels bump into, but Lot. And Lot invites them in, the angels said no, you know, we'll just sleep in the street, no big deal. Lot insists, and says no, no, you have to come inside.
So he comes inside, he feeds them, bakes them Matzah, puts some Matzah in the oven - Passover - and in the middle of this feast all of a sudden there's a knock at the door. Who is it? It's the mob. But it's not just 'the mob' with a small m, it's the Mob with a capital M, because this is a very strange mob. The entire Sodom basically is represented in this mob, they're all around [these people 20:02], and what does this mob want, this mob wants the men that have come to lodge in the house of Lot. They want them for immoral purposes, for sodomy, apparently. Bring them out, we will know them. So knowing them in Biblical Hebrew is intimate relations.
What does Lot do? Lot braces himself by the door and offers his daughters to the mob, and it's one of the most wrenching parts of the Torah. Here you see the guy braces himself at the door, he says; Al nah achai tarei'u - he starts off very well, my brethren please do not do evil. What are you doing? Don't do this terrible thing which you're thinking of doing. If you want these men, instead take my daughters. I have two daughters, let me give them to you and you can do whatever you want with them, but just don't touch these guests of mine; Ki al kein ba'u b'tzel korati - because they've sought refuge in my house. It would be an awful thing to allow them to be sodomized.
The people respond - the people say; Ha'echad bah la'gur vayishpot shafot - what, what are you that you think you can judge us? One of you comes to live - you come to sojourn among us and all of a sudden you're going to judge us? Get out of the way; Atah narah lecha meihem - if you don't get out of the way we'll do worse to you than we would have done to these guys. Vayigshu lishbor ha'delet - and they come with their crowbars to come bash down the door.
Now at this point the situation is rather desperate, the angels pull him back in, and the angels strike everyone in the mob with blindness, they can't see their way to the doorway. The angels say, okay quick we're leaving, everybody out, get everyone together, time to leave. Lot is kind of flabbergasted, I mean he didn't expect this and the children are flabbergasted, no one quite knows [what's going on 22:05], but the angels are very insistent, got to do, don't look back, we're out of there. Fateful words, don't look back. Somebody does look back, who is it? It's poor Mrs. Lot. Mrs. Lot just is so curious, her curiosity gets the better of her, she turns around, takes a look, wow, look at that city, poof, pillar of salt. She turns into a pillar of salt, famous, and that is the end of her.
Then meanwhile they head on up to the mountainous areas to seek shelter from the rain of sulfur, coming down upon the city as the city is being destroyed. What happens is, is that Lot's daughters apparently were unaware that this was a localized destruction, they seem to have felt or feared that the entire world was being destroyed, so that night they and their dad are alone in a cave, and they think that it's the end of the world. So they say, it's the end of the world, there's no man left in the world to repopulate the species, we have a duty to make sure that our father impregnates us so that we can propagate the species. So they get him drunk and the older one leads and the younger one follows and they get him drunk, and there's this story of incest at the end of the story. If sodomy wasn't bad enough in the middle of the story, we've got incest at the end of story.
It's a story of incest where really for good motives. I mean, she's trying to repopulate with people. Lot is so drunk that he doesn't really understand what happened. The next night the younger daughter does the same thing and they both become pregnant and they have children. The children are named Ammon and Mo'av and they became the forbearers of the great nations of Ammon and Mo'av during Biblical times. By the way, it's significant because Ammon and Mo'av as far as the Jews are concerned were very important players, not least among the fact that shortly after Pesach, when we get to Shavuos we will read the Book of Ruth. The Book of Ruth is the story of a Moabite girl who converts and becomes part of the Jewish people and becomes the ancestress of King David. So what we are witnessing now is the first link of the Davidic dynasty being put in place. The Davidic dynasty will trace its heritage back to this act of incest and the birth of Ammon and Mo'av.
Mo'av, by the way, interestingly enough is a very strange name. It means Mei'av - which means, from my father. Now if you think about that, that's a very strange name for a child born of incest, wouldn't you say? I mean can you imagine - [Esther Eiseman 24:42] when she taught this story she said to her class, can you imagine naming your child Mei'av - from my father? That's like calling your child 'incestal'. Hello little incestal, [unclear 24:53], you couldn't - how could you name your child this? It's - even if it was true, you wouldn't name your child that. But nevertheless that is what she names her child. Ammon also has connotations. Ammon is not as bad as Mo'av, it's a little bit more oblique, but both of these children are named for the act of incest which propagates them. So that's a little odd.
Anyway folks that is your quick rundown of the story, and my question to you is, looking at this story, is there anything that you find problematic or difficult?
Maybe it's just a walk in the park? Right?
[Responses from audience member: Why Matzah?]
Okay, so why Matzah? Interesting that the one thing that we're told that Lot bakes is Matzah. Now strangely enough, interestingly, Rashi has this very, very strange comment here. Rashi, bothered by the singling out of Matzah, tries to explain it for us. He explains it for us in two words. Do you know what Rashi says to explain to us why Lot baked Matzah? Pesach hayah - because it was Pesach, so obviously you bake Matzah? Now what's wrong with this? It hasn't happened yet, Pesach is not even a glimmer in the eye of history yet, Pesach is five centuries away. So how can you say it was Pesach?
You know there's a tradition that the forefathers kept the Mitzvot of the Torah before the Torah was even given, but that doesn't really work to explain why this man baked - so you're going to tell me if Abraham kept the Torah, that Lot was such a Tzadik he kept the entire Torah? What, he did Bedikat Chametz with his little thing, the night before, with his candle and his feather, he wanted to make sure there was no Chametz around, he was careful? So why is it - and how come we didn't need to know about the Bedikat Chametz and we didn't need to know about his Seder and all of - the only thing we knew about is the Matzah? So it's very strange this anachronistic symbol of Matzah. This really is the centerpiece of what I want to talk about tonight, Pesach in the land of Sodom. What is this business of the Matzah that Rashi says? So that's an interesting question also.
[Response from audience member: He's leaving in a hurry, he's baking before - they don't really know when they bake their Matzos in Mitzrayim to leave in a hurry. So he's actually living it out and he doesn't know it.]
All right, very good, so [Rachel 27:08] is correct, that is very astute. Actually Lot is living out Pesach and he doesn't even really know it. I think that's absolutely true, and we'll see it's true on many levels. One level in which it's true is that he's - what Rachel is suggesting is that the Jews when they baked Matzah they didn't realize they would have to leave very quickly. Just like Lot, all of a sudden he's got to leave in a hurry. So maybe on that level somehow it's similar to [Pesach 27:32]. Okay, good, I think it's similar in that way and others.
All right, but let's leave that for a second. What are the other problems in the story? Any other problems? First of all it always bothered me the deal with Lot's wife. I mean that doesn't seem so fair. I mean, the poor lady, she looked back, she glanced - everybody, you can excuse a little bit of curiosity. I mean, come one, it's a big sight and special effects and all of that. So she looked back, so she had to turn into a pillar of salt, that seems a little bit harsh.
Anything else bothersome about the story? Yes.
[Response from audience member: Why didn't he want her to look back?]
All right, good. What's the rationale behind the command in the first place that she shouldn't look back? Who cares whether she looks back or not? It's a little game, see if you can squash your curiosity? Curiosity killed the cat, don't look back. No good reason, just don't look back.
[Response from audience member: These kids, why did they have to come from such a funny way?]
Yeah, this - looking in the long, sweep of history, it's a little bit not so nice that the Davidic dynasty should herald from such roots, you would think. It's not the great and proud nobility that you would expect kings to come from. In other words, in the building of the Davidic dynasty this is the first phase, the second phase is Judah and Tamar, the third phase is Ruth, and if you put it all together, all stories involves apparently illicit sexual union. All of these stories. So it's a strange kind of thing. Anyway, but this is the first one and why should it be that the Davidic dynasty needs to come from here?
Let me throw a couple of other things out. Anything strange about this mob? Look at the mob. I want you to look at how the mob is described. Who is represented in this mob? Who would you imagine - remember - imagine I told you the following thing. There once was a city and a mob showed up at the door, bent upon sodomy, sodomizing the people that are inside this man's house. Can you give me just off the cuff, if you were going to do a demographic profile, what do you think would be the demographic profile of the kind of people that would show up to commit this act of sodomy?
[Response from audience member: Youth.]
[Response from audience member: Young people.]
What? Youth? Give me an age bracket?
[Response from audience member: Men between the age of…]
Men between the ages of?
[Response from audience member: 18 to 22/25.]
Eighteen and 25, okay.
So we would expect men between the ages of 18 to 25. Let's look at the verse to see who shows up for sodomy. Verse 4. Terem yishkavu - before they went to sleep; V'anshei ha'ir anshei Sodom - the people of the city, the people of Sodom; Nasabu el ha'bayit - gathered against the house - listen to who they are. Mi'na'ar v'ad zaken - from young to old, from the very youth, from lads, until old people walking in their canes; Kol ha'am mikatzeh - the entire people from one end of the spectrum to the other end of the spectrum. So you have a complete demographic representation of this sodomy mob. You've got the little kids, you've got the people with their canes. You got middle-aged people, you got young people, you got rich people, you got poor people. Everybody is there, this is the strangest sodomy mob you've ever seen, nobody - this is a perfect cross-section of Sodom society. Very, very strange.
Not only that, listen to the conversation that happens with this mob. Listen carefully here folks. Quote. Ayei ha'anashim asher ba'u eilecha ha'lailah - where are the men that came out to you at night? Bring them out and we will know them. Lot appears at the doorway, closes the door behind him, says; Al nah achai tarei'u - don't, my friends, do this evil thing. Hinei nah li shtei banot - I have these two daughters; Asher loh yadu ish - that never knew a man; Otzi'ah nah et'hen aleichem - I'll give you them; Va'asu lahen ka'tov b'eineichem - and you do to them as good in your eyes. Rak la'anashim ha'Kel, al ta'asu davar, ki al kein ba'u b'tzel korati - just don't touch these men, because they have sought refuge beneath the beams of my house.
First of all what's strange about Lot's words? Anything strange about Lot's words? Well listen to Lot, let's say you were critiquing Lot here. Here's Lot. You tell me why what I'm saying is ridiculous. "Oh, come on, don't do this evil thing, sodomy with these guys, take my daughters, do what you will with them. Just don't touch these men; Ki al kein ba'u b'tzel korati - because they've sought refuge beneath the beams of my house."
[Responses from audience member: unclear 31:38.]
Yeah say it a little louder. What about the daughters? They're not seeking refuge? Oh, only the guests, yeah, they need refuge underneath the beams of your house, your daughters, they don't need any protection?
So in other words, in Lot's own words, his words don't make any sense, he is mocking himself with his own words. When he says don't touch my guests because they've sought refuge, [what about 32:01] my daughters? Also, is it true that the guests have sought refuge?
[Response from audience member: No, he dragged them…]
No, he dragged them there. If you look at the text you see that they didn't seek refuge. When he invites them in, what do they respond? Nah, we'll sleep in the street. So they didn't seek refuge. So it's a lie. So what he does is he characterizes it, oh no, they've sought refuge, and then he takes out the people who really need the refuge, his daughters, and gives them out. So there's something very insidious here about what's going on with Mr. Lot.
[Response from audience member: But the daughters are part of his household…]
[Response from audience member: …and the law of hospitality…]
Correct, and notice you even hear it in Lot's words; Ki al kein ba'u b'tzel korati - because they have COME to seek shelter underneath my walls. I.e. they are my guests, so I have a special obligation towards them. In Lot's view the guests take precedence, they are my guests and they have come here. You see this, by the way, in some cultures where - which should remain nameless, right now [laughs] - where guests are - if you're the guest in the household everything is fine, but if you're not the guest then we can kill you, hands off.
[Response from audience member: Again, it's kind of the flipside of what was in the first part, it's a perversion of Hachnasat Orchim.]
Okay, good, you're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves, but that's good, we'll get back to that, that's true.
[Response from audience member: Even though he is considered bad in terms of Avraham, maybe he was one of the good people in the land that he was trying to teach them don't be…]
All right so the - then we have the [old/whole 33:31] value question which is, is Lot a good guy or a bad guy? Well I don't know. So let's - we'll shelve that question for now, but that's an interesting issue, is Lot meant to be seen as a good guy in the story or is he meant to be seen as the bad guy?
But just to [retreat 33:48] with a question here, one question is, how do we understand the demographic makeup of the mob? Also, by the way, how do we understand the dialogue that's going on between these people? Listen to the dialogue. Lot: Al nah achai tarei'u - don't do this evil thing. Now what do the people say to him? The people say to him the following thing. They say, quote; Ha'echad bah la'gur - you come to sojourn among us; Vayishpot shafot - and all of a sudden you're going to judge us? Atah narah lecha meihem - we're going to do worse to you. Now there's something strange about the mob's answer to Lot.
Think about this, if you would - you see, you don't even see it because if you don't look at the alternative, but just imagine the alternative for a moment, let's pretend we have a sodomy mob outside your door. You are trying to protect the people inside from being sodomized. So you say, oh folks, don't do this evil thing. But the mob is bent upon sodomy. Now you tell me what would happen next? If the mob was bent upon sodomy how would they respond to you saying, don't do this evil thing? What would they say? Come on, your average sodomy mob, 15 to 22 year olds, what are they going to say to you? Get out of here. Get - move away. We don't need this from you. They'll throw you beer bottles or something.
But what do these people say? This is an intellectual sodomy mob. [Laughter] I mean their moral sensibilities have been offended by Lot. What does Lot - one second, listen to what Lot says. Lot says, don't do the evil thing - that really ticks them off. Evil? Ahh. One second, you, you're judging me? You think what I'm doing is evil? [It was a 35:33] very sophisticated, intellectual argument for moral relativism here, right? They say, one second, who is to say what is evil? It's not so evil. So when was the last time you saw a sodomy mob who were so bent on their moral integrity that they were just offended that someone would even consider it wrong what it is they're doing and feel a need to launch this argument of why they in fact are in the right. It was not your average sodomy mob.
[Response from audience member: They're here on principle and we don't know what that principle is.]
Good. Clearly what you see from all of this…
[Response from audience member: (They might not even want the daughters 36:04)]
…is that they are here - that's right, so you now see three things. They don't want the daughters, they're willing to defend themselves in the court of public opinion and morality, and they're not 15-22 year olds, they're a broad representation of all society. All of this adds up to one thing. They're here on principle. It's not just about sodomy, it's not about lust, it's about principle. Sodomy is going to be the tool for their principle, but what they're doing is they're defending a principle. That's why it's not just the people who normally would be most lust-filled for sodomy, it's everyone. There's some sort of social contract here which the community as a whole is seeking to enforce. Some sort of principle which they're after. So the broad society comes to defend its mores and feels itself offended when its principles are attacked.
Now the question is what is the principles? So the Sages looked at all these clues and added it all up and this is what they came up with. I'm going to quote to you a quote from the Midrash, they said the following. It's a Midrash in Bereishit Raba quoted by the Ramban. Vayomru ha'echad bah la'gur vayishpot shafot - on this verse - one comes to sojourn among us and all of a sudden he's going to judge us? Din she'danu rishonim atah bah l'haross - the law that was laid down by the rishonim, by the founding fathers of Sodom; you, Lot, are going to come and uproot? You're going to throw [us/this 37:31] out? What's the law? Kach hisnu anshei Sodom beineihem - this was the social contract, the Tenai - the condition, that the founding fathers of Sodom laid down the settlement of Sodom.
What was Sodom? Sodom was the original gated community. [Laughter]. How do you keep out the rabble? What are you going to do? You see when Lot went there why did he go there? Because it was terrific, it was like Gan Eden, it was - the crops were great, it was terrific. So you had to guard the natural resources. How are you going to keep out the riffraff? So the people of Sodom had an idea, how are we going to make sure we don't get overrun by immigrants? Easy. Amru - they said; Kol achsanai shehu bah lekan - any guest that tries to come here; Yehu bo'alim oto v'notlim et mamono - we'll rape them and we'll rob them of their money.
Now a little strange, right? But actually there's an interesting common denominator between rape and robbery, which is what?
[Response from audience member: Violation.]
Violation. One is violation in bodily violation, the other is monetary violation. The common denominator is violation. Violation is the opposite of what? Treating guests nicely, hospitality. So in other words, what are they saying? [They say 38:45] you might think that we would welcome guests, no, what we do is we violate them in whatever way we can, bodily and monetarily, and that's how we discourage immigration into the land. So this is our social contract, so you are coming to overturn this by inviting in guests? Who are you to judge us? We in principle are committed to this policy. So this is how the Sages understood it. Again, sort of, I think, adding up the clues.
Now, there's another little strange thing, by the way, about Lot's rather bizarre offer to give his daughters to the mob - as painful as that offer was. That is the following. The Sages' view of this story is rather odd. Let me quote for you another Midrash quoted by the Ramban here - Nachmanides. This is the Midrash - it's a Midrash in Tanchuma. Omru Rabboseinu - our Sages said the following. Now listen carefully, does this Midrash make sense to you or not? Omru Rabboseinu - our Sages said the following; B'nohag she'b'olam - the way of the world is - first of all you have to know something by the way before you understand this Midrash.
You have to know - this is some background to the Midrash - is that later on when the daughters of Lot commit incest with their father, and the father doesn't know about it because he's drunk and they lie down with him. If you look in the text of the Torah scroll describing that incident, you will find that there are little dots placed above - it says; V'loh yadah b'shikvah u'b'kumah - that he didn't know anything; B'shikvah - when she lay down with him; U'b'kumah - and when she got up from him. Now there are dots above the words; U'b'kumah - in getting up from him. Now why are the little dots there? As it happens, little dots in the Torah are often used to signify that something is true but it's not so true.
For example, when Eisav kisses Yaakov when he meets him, so it says; [Vayisakeihu 40:43] - and he kissed him, but there's dots above 'kissed him'. So Rashi says that it's interesting that the word for a kiss - Vayisakeihu, is very similar to the word Vayenashcheihu - it's whether it's a Kuf or a Chaf. What does Nashcheihu mean? It means to bite. By the way, physically to kiss and to bite is very similar, one is with the lips and one is with the teeth, just a couple of millimeters between one or the other. So the idea is that what did he do? Did he kiss him - well he kissed him, but the malevolence or the anger that he still felt in his heart, was that he felt like biting him. So he kissed him but he didn't really kiss him. There's dots above it to indicate that there's another meaning or that it's not really so true.
Similarly here as well, if there's dots above the word; U'b'kumah - what does it signify? He didn't know anything about her lying down or her getting up. It means what? He knew but he didn't know. He was drunk, so he didn't know, right? But he allowed it to happen the next night. There was a sort of subconscious acceptance. He didn't know, but there was an acceptance of what was going on, he allowed himself not to know. That seems to be the way the sages understand it.
Now, based upon this, they say something else in the Midrash, which is the following. Omru Rabboseinu - the Sages said, commenting on the fact that Lot was so willing to throw his daughters out to the mob, how do you understand this? This is what they said. B'nohag she'b'olam - the way of the world is; Odom moser atzmo al benotav v'al ishto v'horeg o neherag - that a man will defend the honor of his wife or his daughters and will kill or be killed to save them from molestation. Vazeh - and this guy; Moser benotav l'hitollel bahen - gives his daughters out to the mob as if they were playthings? Amar lo Hakadosh Baruch Hu - when G-d saw that, G-d said to him - the Holy One Blessed Be He said; L'atzmecha atah meshamran - you must be saving them for yourself? And in fact, that's what happened, because he committed incest with them.
Very striking thing that they say here. You give your daughters out to the mob, it's not the way of the world, you must be saving them for yourself. But at face value the Midrash is very strong, it hits like you like a slap in the face, there's something strange about what the Midrash is saying. That at face value it doesn't make sense. What's strange about this Midrash? Would you have reached that conclusion? Lot gives his daughters to the mob, he must be saving them for himself? What seems to argue against that conclusion?
[Response from audience member: He's giving them away.]
He's giving them away! Why would he - if he was saving them for himself, he'd be saving them. I mean, he's giving them to the mob, he's not saving them for himself.
So the Sages are saying something here, but what they're saying is strange, what are they saying? That, oh if he gives them away he must be saving them. What exactly is this calculus? How is it they understand…
[Response from audience member: (Maybe he was playing the mob 43:35)]
Maybe he was bluffing? But that's not the way that - you could read the story that way, but that's not the way this Midrash reads it, this Midrash holds him culpable, because this Midrash sees him as really willing to give them up. But the question is, if he's really willing to give them up, how could you at the same time say you must be saving them, and see the act of incest as somehow deliberate?
[Response from audience member: The Midrash is saying that his ways are unnatural, so…]
Right, so the Midrash is saying his ways are unnatural, so if he's unnatural in this way he'll be unnatural in that way. But now the question is, how do the two unnatural things link? How does unnatural thing number 1; allowing the mob to take your children, link to say, oh it must be unnatural thing number 2; you're going to commit incest with them?
All right, let's not answer that now, I'm just raising the question. Any other problems in this? Yes?
[Response from audience member: My big question is, if the law of the land was no hospitality, why did he let them in? What was his…]
Okay, all right, very good, that's a good point. If the law of the land was no hospitality, why did he invite them in? And that seems to be what they're protesting. They're protesting the fact that he invited them in. Why did he do it? That's a good point.
All right, one final question and we'll start putting some of this together. Do you ever wonder why the angels went to Sodom? Tell me whenever you read - I always had a misconception about this. Let me ask you this question, why did the angels go to Sodom? Very simple question, not a trick question, tell me why did the angels go to Sodom? They went to Sodom to?
[Responses from audience members: unclear 45:01]
All right good. So now there are two different voices coming through in this cacophony. The two things that you said were (a) they went to Sodom to destroy it or, (b) they went to Sodom to save Lot. I'll show you that both are wrong. [Laughter]
Okay, watch, they went to Sodom to destroy it? No. Where were they when Sodom was destroyed? Outside the city, that's where they destroyed it from. So they didn't have to be in the city to destroy it, they were outside the city when they destroyed it, so why didn't they just stay outside the city? So you'll say, oh so they went to the city to save Lot. But you're wrong there too. Because if they were really going to the city to save Lot, what should have happened? Tell me how the story goes. Verse number 1, then the folks headed into the city. What should verse number 2 be, what should they then do?
[Response from audience member: (Round them up 45:47)]
They should then grab Lot. What should they do? The first thing they do when they come to the city, they should do - no 'time's-a-wastin' right? Because there's a city to be destroyed. You see even later on, what do they do, they flash their angel card, FBI, where's Lot, get out of here, the city - come with us, Sir, the city is going to be destroyed, you have a VIP escort out of here. Get on the helicopter and get out of that city really fast.
Instead, what happens in this story? They head into the city and what do they do? They meander around the streets. You read this in the text. They walk around, they hang out, and do they look for Lot? No. Lot bumps into them and Lot invites them in. So you would think once they see Lot then they should say, Lot, let's go, let's get out of here, angels, we're out of here. What do they do instead? They do not reveal they're angels, instead they say - they wait for - Lot says, well you need a place to stay? They say nah, we'll sleep in the street. I mean, now are these guys in a rush or not? I mean, they don't seem to be in a rush. Lot says no, come on in, they sit down, they eat, they drink. All of a sudden the people are gathered around by the door, the whole thing, and then all of a sudden they whisk him back inside, they hit everyone with blindness and say, by the way we're angels, let's get out of here really fast, we don't have any time to lose.
Boy, something changed. I mean this is really fast. So what exactly happened here?
All right, now one second, all of this stuff is adding up to something. If you take all of these questions you'll see that it adds up to something, but before we add it all up, I need you to do one final thing. One final thing is to look at the broader context of these stories and to come back to one of the first questions I asked you, which is, why all of a sudden does G-d come out of the blue and decide to have this conversation with Abraham - getting down on one knee, chatting with Abraham? And a broader question is what really is the connection between Chapter 18 and Chapter 19 here? Is it just - whenever you have two stories in the Torah you always have the following question you need to ask, is the connection between these events chronological or thematic? In other words, is it just that well, the way it worked was first the angels hang out with Avraham and then they were done hanging out with Avraham, so they headed off to Sodom and that was just the next thing that happened. That's one possibility. The other possibility is no, there is some connection between what happened in 18 and what happened in 19. So the question is, is there a connection?
I'd like you to - we're just about out of time - but we're going to do this really lickety-split. I'd like you to take a moment - take - I'm going to give you three minutes. I want you to just take three minutes and I want you to read the story of Abraham with the angels and then I want you to read the story of Lot with the angels and tell me if you see any similarities between them. Abraham with the angels, and Lot with the angels, okay? Take three minutes and add up all the similarities you can find. (On your mark, get set and go, you're off.)
For the benefit for those of you listening on tape here is the text of Abraham's entertaining of the guests, which precedes the story of Lot's entertaining of his guests. Vayeira eilav Hashem b'Elonei Mamre v'hu yoshev petach ha'ohel k'chom hayom - that G-d appeared to Abraham in the groves of Mamre when Abraham was sitting at the door to his tent in the heat of the day. Vayisah einav vayar - he opened up his eyes and he saw; V'hinei shelosha anashim nitzavim alav - and indeed there were three people standing from afar. Vayar vayaratz likratam mi'petach ha'ohel - and he saw and he ran out to greet them from the door of his tent.
Vayishtachavu artzah - and he bowed down before them. Vayomar - and he said; Adonoy - my master; Im nah matzati chen b'einecha - if I have found favor in your eyes; Al nah ta'avor me'al avdecha - please do not pass from before your servant. Yukach nah me'at mayim v'rochatzu ragleichem - please take a little bit of water and wash your feet; V'hisha'anu tachat ha'etz - and rest yourself underneath this tree. V'ekchah pat lechem - and I will take some bread; V'sa'adu libchem achar ta'avoru - and you will eat to your hearts' content before you leave. Ki al kein avartem al avdechem, vayomru kein ta'aseh ka'asher dibarta - and they said, indeed please do as you have suggested. Vayemaher Avraham ha'ohalah el Sarah - and then he goes out to Sarah and asks her to help him prepare the food.
We're comparing this to the narrative that takes place just a bit later when the angels come to Sodom and Lot entertains them. That's at the beginning of Chapter 19 and it reads as follows. Vayavo'u shnei Malachim Sedomoh ba'erev - and the two angels then came to Sodom in the evening; V'Lot yoshev b'sha'ar Sodom - and Lot was sitting in the gates of Sodom. Vayar Lot vayakam likratam - and Lot saw and he got up to greet them; Vayishtachu apayim artzah - and he bowed down before them. Vayomar - and he said; Hinei nah adonoy suru nah el beit avdechem - please my masters, come to the house of your servant; V'linu v'rochatzu ragleichem - and sleep and wash your feet. V'hishkamtem - and afterwards you will rise; Va'halachtem l'darkechem - and you will go up on your way. Vayomru - and they said; Loh, ki ba'rechov nalin - no, we don't have to we'll stay here, we'll sleep in the street. Vayiftzar bam me'od - and Lot insisted greatly; Vayasuru eilav - and they then turned towards him; Vayavo'u el beito - and they came into his house; Vaya'as lahem mishteh - and he made them a great feasts; U'matzot aphah vayocheilu - and he baked Matzah for them and they ate.
Those are the two stories that we're intending to compare.
Okay guys, I'm going to stop you here because the hour is late and I want to see if we can come to some sort of provisional conclusion yet tonight. Okay, I'm going to read through the Lot story, you tell me as I'm reading through the Lot story you stop me when something reminds you of the Abraham story. Okay? Remember Abraham entertains the angels, Lot with the angels, listen up.
Vayavo'u shnei Malachim Sedomoh - the two angels came to Sodom; Ba'erev - in the night.
[Response from audience member: Stop here.]
Stop. Time of day. Okay. We're told the time of day when each encounter happens. The encounter with Abraham happens when? K'chom hayom - in the heat of the day. This encounter happens when? At night. Okay, good, so we have time of day.
V'Lot yoshev b'sha'ar Sodom - and Lot is sitting in the gates of the city. Stop. What does this remind you of? Abraham sitting at the entrance to his tent. So they're both sitting at the entrance of some place. Vayar Lot - and Lot saw. Stop. What does this remind you of? Abraham. What's the first verb? Abraham sees the angels. Lot sees the angels. Vayakam likratam - and he gets up to greet them. Stop. Abraham gets up to greet them. A little different by the way, a little different. Abraham runs to greet them, Lot just gets up to greet them. Vayishtachu apayim artzah - and Lot bows down. Stop. Abraham also bowed down to the guests. I mean it's like - it's almost word for word.
[Response from audience member: But not quite the same. It's different. Avraham just; Vayistachu artzah, Lot does it…]
Apayim Artzah. Okay. Lot falls down upon his face to the ground, Abraham just bowed. Lot fell down to his face. That's actually significant if you think about it. In a certain way there's a distinction between Lot and Abraham which is that - the distinction is that in some ways Lot extends himself more than Abraham, in other ways he extends himself less than Abraham. He extends himself more than Abraham is that he bows more fully. He extends himself less than Abraham in that he doesn't run. Now if you think about that it's very significant. In other words, in what kinds of things is Lot going even more than Abraham, in what kinds of things is he doing even less than Abraham? What's the difference between the bowing and the running?
[Response from audience member: It's more dramatic.]
Okay, so in other words, bowing is really an issue of honor. In other words, if I'm going to bow, and I bow down to my face, so I'm being more servile. I'm indicating - obsequious. If I am running to you, I'm not really giving you more honor I'm just making sure that I can service you as much as possible. So where Abraham is focused on the pragmatic, whereas Lot is focused on the symbolic. Is that I need to show you how much deference I have towards you and that's in Lot's mind. In Abraham's mind I need to get there as fast as I can.
All right, let's go on. Hinei nah adonoy - now my masters. You should have stopped me. They both use the same words to describe the angels, they both use that word Adonoy. Come now; V'linu - and sleep; V'rochatzu ragleichem - and wash your feet. So both of them say, don't pass me by, come on in, sleep and washing of feet. By the way there's a difference though, the difference is in what? The order. The order. Which comes first? For Abraham you wash your feet and then you sleep, for Lot you sleep and then you wash your feet. Which one makes more sense? Wash your feet before you sleep, nobody likes sandy sheets. So the Sages picked up on this by the way and say that Lot reversed it for the purposes of plausible deniability. You all know what plausible deniability is, right? So what's the plausible deniability? That if the people of Sodom ever come and question him, what are you doing with the guests in the house? He can just say, oh no, they just now came, look their feet are still sandy. So in other words, it was plausible deniability, Lot was in a dangerous situation, Abraham wasn't.
Okay, continuing. They then say, no, we'll stick around. Vayiftzar bam me'od - and Lot insists, and then what happens? Vaya'as lahem mishteh - he makes them a feast. What does this remind you of? Abraham's feast, but there's a difference. Whereas in Abraham's feast every single piece of food was mentioned, in Lot's feast only one piece of food is mentioned and it is? Matzah.
Okay, so isn't this interesting, in almost every detail with a couple of exceptions, almost exactly the same Lot with the angels as Abraham with the angels. Now that can't be coincidental. What are to make of this? So it seems that these stories are linked. Now what's the meaning of the linkage? What it would seem to mean - and this is how the Midrash understands it - is that what is Lot doing?
[Response from audience member: He's trying…]
[Response from audience member: Emulating…]
He's trying to emulate Abraham. In other words, it's not that Lot knew what Abraham did, he didn't, he was in Sodom. But Lot did know what Abraham did from another thing, from the fact that he lived with the man for years. So he knew how Abraham dealt with guests. So when seeing guests, what did he ask himself? What would Abraham do in this situation? So in other words the - and it's almost like the literary device that the text uses to give us the sense that Lot is doing - is sort of imitating Abraham - is that every exact thing that Lot does is something that Abraham happened to do. The Sages say he learned it in the house of Abraham.
Okay, the bottom line is this, what do we make of the connection between these stories? Why is it that these stories are so connected? And in the middle of this, you have the destruction of Sodom, all of a sudden and G-d is saying, I need to destroy Sodom. Allow me, if I can, to present a real quick theory to you. Here's a theory. You will find that the very - by the way there's one other level of parallel between by the way what Abraham does with the angels and Lot with the angels, which is what is the immediate aftermath of each encounter of the angels? Or the eventual aftermath of each encounter with the angels. Following the hospitality narrative of Abraham what happens next?
[Response from audience member: Where's your wife/ Where's your guests?]
Where's your wife - and a baby is going to be born in very unlikely circumstances to a woman who is married to an old guy. And it's going to be miraculous that they have this child. Isn't that fascinating? What happens after the hospitality of Lot with the daughters? You also have a promise of children, but not the nice kind, the kind that comes through incest. But fascinatingly, you know what the daughter says - what the older daughter tells the younger daughter when she convinces her to sleep with her father? She says - the rationale she says is; Avinu zaken v'ish ein ba'aretz - our father is old and there is no man left to consort with us. What does that remind you of, our father is old? Who else said something similar? Sarah. Sarah said; Adoni zaken - my master is so old, how can I have children? That's why she laughed. So in both stories - it's literally - even in that angle they're connected, which is that both are hospitality narratives followed by the promise of children. But in one the hospitality narrative is solid and the children are solid. And the other hospitality narrative is a little bit iffy, and the children end up being children of incest. So something interesting is going on here.
I think what's going on is the following. There's a transition between narrative 1 and narrative 2. At the end of the hospitality narrative what happens? You have this verse that Abraham is walking them out and the angels are looking towards Sodom. That's the transition verse. It's a transition verse because the final act of hospitality is what? Escorting your guests to the door. Abraham is walking them out. Hospitality. But they're already thinking Sodom, and they're looking towards Sodom. Sodom. Hospitality.
Now let's get back to our question why do you think G-d would get down on one knee and give Abraham this ridiculous right to bargain Him down to 10 guys? Basically it seems like G-d is willing to take Abraham's cue, if Abraham said, all right, kill them, then He'd kill them. What if Abraham had got down to five? G-d would have said no? No, G-d would probably have said yes. I mean, it was Abraham's decision. That's what it sounds like. I mean we don't know that it couldn't have worked past 10. What if he stopped at 20? G-d would have said, well why don't you ask Me about 10? No, it would have stopped at 20. The ball was in Abraham's court. So what exactly is going on here? Why is it - where does Abraham get this right to bargain with G-d for lives? I mean this is G-d's job it's not Abraham's job.
So I want to answer that question - and that's the question I'm going to content myself to answering tonight and we'll leave the other ones to think about further - which is the following. I think that why is it - let's talk about how all these narratives come together. Narrative number 1; angels show up, hang out with Abraham, Abraham gives them hospitality, promise of children. All of a sudden G-d comes along and says, I've no idea what to do with Sodom anymore. I can't figure out if they're bad enough to justify destroying them. Abraham, I'd just thought I'd let you know. Now if you think [back 60:13] for a second, G-d knew for a long time that the people of Sodom were very bad. Fifteen years ago when Lot went down there it already said that the people of Sodom were very bad. They got worse? No, they've always been bad. So how come G-d didn't destroy them? No, all of a sudden G-d is willing to destroy the people of Sodom right now. What happened? Why is G-d deciding to destroy Sodom now?
Think about it, what is so bad about Sodom and how does that relate to all of these stories? Why is Sodom so evil?
[Response from audience member: Because they hate guests.]
Because they hate guests. Because - not just that they hate guests, it's not just that they're mean, it's that they're mean in principle. What's so bad about Sodom is that they think they're right. It's one thing to be bad, it's another thing to be bad and to think that you're right. In principle they are against guests, their social contract is no guests.
So what has happened? This is THE hospitality narrative in the Torah; Abraham with the guests. Everything we learn about hospitality, from walking guests out the door - you know you're supposed to do that, you're supposed to walk guests out the door - you learn it from here. Everything you learn about hospitality you learn from the nuances of what Abraham did. He did it when he was in pain, he was out there looking for guests when he was in pain after circumcision, he was emulating G-d. What is happening here? I think what's happening here is that Abraham's conduct in looking out for guests has raised the bar, so to speak, of human potential with guests, to the point where it becomes an indictment of Sodom. G-d sees Abraham, the way Abraham [is acting with 61:44] guests and says, if this is what human beings can do, if this is how human beings can act, to extend themselves like this, then what room is there in the world anymore for a place like Sodom, where they've committed themselves in principle to the violation of guests? The very opposite of hospitality.
So it is just as Abraham is doing his final act of Chesed that the angels are looking towards Sodom thinking about destroying it and they're ready to destroy Sodom. That, I think, is why G-d shows up and says, Abraham I've got to bring you into the picture. Why do I bring you into the picture? Why do you have a say here? Because you're the prosecutor. Whether you like it or not, you're the prosecutor. It is your act that indicts them, so I can't do this without you, so we're going to talk about this, so you get to decide. The burden is on Abraham's shoulders and whatever Abraham decides the cutoff is, that's when the cutoff is. He's the prosecutor, whether he likes it or not. Finally he says down to 10 and the angels walk away and now the - and they go to Sodom.
Now why do they go to Sodom? Who knows why they go to Sodom? Do they go to Sodom to destroy it? No. Because they could have destroyed it on the outside. Do they go to Sodom to save Lot? Maybe. But then why don't they just flash their angel card? How come they're taking their time, getting to Sodom, taking their time, but finally at one point they say, okay we're ready to leave. When do they say we're ready to leave? [Unclear 63:08] hospitality. That's right. In other words, what does Lot need to do? Lot needs to bring his Pesach offering.
What is going on with Lot's Matzah? If you think about what a Pesach offering was, what was the Pesach offering? Go back to Egypt, let's talk about Pesach in the land of Sodom. If you go back to Egypt what so special about the Pesach offering? How come the Jews had diplomatic immunity for all the plagues, plague number 10 no diplomatic immunity? You are going to have to earn this one. What are you going to do? You're going to take the blood of the god of the Egyptians, slaughter it, put it on the door, say I'm not afraid, here's the blood - on the door by the way. The door. Where was Lot when he made his speech? He was at the doorway. So they had to put the blood on the door - why the door? What's symbolic about putting the blood of the Egyptians' god on the door of your household and the angel of death will see it and will not go in? Pretty stupid angel of death, he can't figure out what a Jewish household unless he's got some blood? I mean if you're an angel already you'd think you'd have like night vision goggles or something, you'd figure it out. I mean, why is it that they couldn't figure out - what was the blood?
The blood was symbolic. What did it say? It said - why the door? Why blood on the door? What are you saying by putting the blood on the door? You're making a statement of monotheism, we do not believe in polytheism. It's difficult to not believe in polytheism - why? You're a slave in a land where everybody believes in polytheism, you're the lowest man on the totem pole in society. You're going to stand up and say it's all a lie? You? You schnook, you're a little Ger here, you're a nothing, you're going to come and 'stick it to the nobility' and say we don't believe in you? And what are you going to do? You're going to put the blood on the door. Why the door? Because you say Egypt stops here. Up until here it's Egypt, from here on in it's my house and monotheism reigns in this house, the Egypt doesn't come in here. And that's a gutsy thing if you're' going to say that. And if you can say that you're saved, and if you can't say it you're not saved.
What was the Nisayon - what was the test of Korban Pesach? The test was could you have the guts being a Ger - being a sojourner in a land that is not yours, to be able to not assimilate into society? To be able to not take the corrupt values of the dominant host culture? To be able to cut yourself off from that culture and say, no, I am different and I commit myself to what's good and what's right and what's just and Egypt ends here. If you could do that, then you win.
Now, what do you think you'd be afraid the Egyptians would say to you? Your Egyptian masters, they'd look at you with disdain, this blood on the door. What would they say to you? You'd know what they'd say to you? They'd say; Ha'echad bah la'gur vayishpot shafot - you guys come to sojourn among us and all of a sudden you're judging us? You, you little schnook, you're judging us? That's what you're afraid of. But you've got to do it anyway because you stand in moral indictment of what it is they're doing.
That's what Lot had to do. When the angels went to Sodom they did not know whether they were saving Lot, they were going to see, so they take their time. Lot invites them in to a great feast, and what's the feast? There's Matzah served at the feast, because it's his banquet. Whereas Egypt devoted themselves to polytheism, Sodom devoted itself to anti-hospitality, to violation. If Lot was going to live he was going to have to prove that he did not assimilate into Sodom culture and therefore his feast was a Pesach feast. It was - if he could do it, then he wins.
What does he do? There's that fateful moment where he braces himself in the door and he says, don't do evil. He looks everyone in the eye and that's his great moment of heroism - followed by a great fall. But his great moment of heroism is right when he stands in that doorway and says, you guys are evil. To which they respond, what, you came to sojourn among us - by the way, the Jews were sojourners in the land of Egypt, they were Geirim. You come to sojourn among us; Vayishpot shafot - and now all of a sudden you're judging us? That was his great moment of heroism when he offended them. But he stood in the doorway and said, Egypt stops here, or Sodom stops here, and it's at that point that the angels say, okay, you win, we're saving you, we're angels, here's our angel card, we're getting out of here, fast, quick, we're leaving.
By the way, they strike them with blindness, what does that remind you of?
[Response from audience member: Choshech.]
Choshech, the ninth plague. Before the destruction of the firstborn in Egypt the ninth plague is blindness, is darkness. So blindness is right before the great cataclysm and there is blindness. What happens? Lot then - Vayitmameiha [Vayitmahmah 67:43] - he tarries, he's not sure what to do, he's confused. What do the Jews do when they were told to go free? Loh yachlu l'hitmameiha - same word, they didn't have enough time to tarry, to make sure, they weren't sure. But it's very difficult to be able to leave your whole host society and say no, I'm different, I'm leaving, I'm not part of you. To extract yourself, it's a very difficult thing. So Lot isn't sure he's going to do it, he's not sure if he's going to leave it behind. But he finally does leave it behind.
But the tragedy of Lot is in the middle of this wonderful Pesach offering he offers his daughters to the mob. How is it that we understand that? That this great Pesach offering by which he is saved, is marred by this very callous offering his daughters to the mob? Somehow that leads to Ammon and Mo'av. That leads to this act of incest in the eyes of the Sages - that you're saving them for yourself. What exactly do they mean that he's saving them for himself? What legacy is there for Lot, that act of kindness was marred by that, and how does that reflect on Abraham's relationship with Lot? How is it that we understand that? So when we come back next week we will put the rest of this together and we will conclude and I'll see you then.
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