Parshas Vayeira - Lot Missed the Boat!
Fear of G-d is central to Torah Judaism. Those who do not fear Hashem cannot fully appreciate what it means to be an עבד ה’ who will repudiate anything antithetical to a monotheistic approach, certainly when it comes to idolatry. In fact, when לוי was given his ברכות, the attributes cited were his repulsion to idolatry as well as the prominence he placed on the מצוה ofברית מילה.
People can be very courteous and civil. But without fear of Hashem, the virtuousness stops there.
It is told over, that prior to the Holocaust, there were many people who were convinced that the Germans who eventually joined the Nazi party were law abiding civil people who would never allow people to be treated in an inhumane way. They were known to dress well an act in a refined manner. They would help people with directions if they seemed lost. However, we know that civility can be maintained even when committing terrible atrocities. One man who was attending a Shiur by RavHutner many years after the Holocaust, approached RavHutner and reintroduced himself. Initially, RavHutner did not recognize this man but when he finally realized who he was, he stuck out his hand to shake it. The elderly man held up the stump where his hand was many years ago and related to RavHutner that his hand was cut off by the Nazis. He went on to state that while his hand was being cut off, the Nazi acted like a complete gentleman, even smiling during the gruesome procedure.
When we talk about civility, we can look to the פרשה to compare and contrast two individuals who were notorious for their civility and welcoming of guests. Those two people are לוט and אברהם. לוט had mimicked אברהם’s behaviors and behaved in an almost identical fashion when it came to welcoming his guests. Almost! There is one area where we see a major difference. When אברהם welcomed his guests, he made sure that the feet of his guests were cleaned prior to entering אברהם’s home. לוט did not replicate this behavior. How is this so? He copied all of the other behaviors from אברהם!
The answer lies within a very interestingly worded פסוק (1)
וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם כִּ֣י אָמַ֗רְתִּי רַ֚קאֵין־יִרְאַ֣ת אֱלֹהִ֔ים בַּמָּק֖וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וַהֲרָג֖וּנִי עַל־דְּבַ֥ר אִשְׁתִּֽי׃
“I thought,” said Abraham, “surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.
Why use the termרק?
The מלבים explains that what אברהם was trying to convey. You can be very civilized in your everyday life. You might help give directions or assist in helping someone with their groceries. But without fear of Hashem, that is where it stops.
My wife was sharing with me how many of her colleagues are shocked when they hear how Orthodox Jews invite strangers into their home who come from out of town for a Simcha. This seems very foreign to many of them. It must have been a complete shock when Rav Meir Shuster ZT”l would ask backpackers to eat out at someone’s home whom they had never met. The key difference is that with יראת ה’, we know what is the right thing to do above and beyond common chivalry. We assume that our fellow Jews follow the same trajectory in life.
This was the fundamental difference between לוט and אברהם. When אברהם entered into the Bris with his own ברית מילה, he would never entertain (pun intended) any smidgen of עבודה זרה.
לוט, who left אברהם before entering this special covenant was never exposed to the idea of יראת ה’ so he did not require his guests to wash the dust from their idolatry that was still on their feet. אברהם already had a heightened level of conscious awareness in that he recognized Hashem from such an early age and was able to convince his father, תרח about monotheism. Essentially, לוט missed the Boat. He could not join the cruise of Torah observance without יראת ה’.
Another lesson we see form Avrohom regarding his hospitality at first does not seem very hospitable. While he offers lots of bread and meat, he offers very little water for his guests (). Why would he be cheap on the water? The Gemara says that the water was brought through a Shaliach whereas the food was prepared by Avrohom himself. While it is nice to do your own HachosasOrchim it should not come at the expense of others. Since the water was being brought by a Shaliach, Avrohom only asks for the minimal amount necessary so the water carrier would not be overly burdened. What type of man thinks like this? Only someone who has mastered the art of true HachnosasOrchim.
Sometimes people will go out of their way to do kindness to others. We should always make sure that our kindness is truly coming from ourselves and not at the expense of others.