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Divrei Torah on the weekly portions

Bereishit: VaYeira

Be My Guest

ďAnd God remembered Avraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow (of Sodom)Ē (Bereishit 19:29).

Rashi quotes the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 49:6): ďWhat has remembering Avraham got to do with Lot? God remembered the following: Lot knew that Avraham and Sarah were married and that they had told the Egyptians they were siblings, yet Lot did not reveal their secret (which would have made him wealthy) because he had compassion on them, so God had compassion on Lot.Ē

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter inquires why Lotís salvation depended on only this merit of keeping the secret from the Egyptians and not Lotís merit as the only resident in Sodom who offered hospitality to guests?

{We may also ask: Why was Lotís silence here considered so meritorious that it saved him from Sodomís destruction?}

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter explains that Lotís hospitable behaviour derived from his upbringing in Avrahamís household but was not deep within his own heart. So his Mitzvah of hospitality was not able to protect him from the destruction of Sodom. However, his silence in Avrahamís moment of danger was his own work and therefore served as his saving grace.

{Lot appears to have achieved Teshuvah Gemurah (complete repentance). He had originally moved to Sodom so as to pursue wealth. God now destroyed Sodom and its values. (Lot's wife looked back, thereby showing she had not rejected Sodom's values [specifically those of hospitality, as we know she did not serve salt to guests] hence she was destroyed too.) Lot proved he really rejected Sodom's values [specifically pursuit of wealth without concern for others] by keeping the secret of Avraham and Sarah's marital status when revealing it to the Egyptians could have enriched him. In this merit Lot was saved from Sodom and he did not look back (unlike his wife) because he wanted to reject Sodom's values.}

The Beit HaLevi (Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik) also remarked on the difference between Avraham and Lotís hospitality. The Beit HaLevi once lodged in an inn where he was not famous and the innkeeper was extremely rude to him. When the innkeeper later discovered the identity of his guest he apologised and explained he did not realise that he was theBeit HaLevi . However, the Beit HaLevi rebuked him as follows:

The Torah recounts Avrahamís hospitality at great length, whereas Lotís hospitality is not accorded the same prestige. This is because Avraham did not know that his guests ďANASHIMĒ (= men) were actually angels and yet ďhe ran to meet themĒ (Bereishit 18:2) and attended to all of their needs thinking they were regular people. Lot, on the other hand, as soon as he saw that angels (= ďMALACHIMĒ) (Bereishit 19:1) were approaching him, thought of the honour he would gain by hosting them and then ďaroseĒ to attend to their needs.

The attribute of hospitality does not depend on whether the guest is a great and important person. Rather it is how one relates to regular people that is the real hallmark of hospitality.

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