What do you know about Lot, the nephew of Abraham?
Lot was the son of Abraham’s brother, Haran, who joined Abraham and Sarah on their epic journey to an unknown land. Our Sages point out that it was to Lot’s credit that when Abraham told the Egyptian border officials that Sarah was his sister, Lot did not spill the beans. Abraham and Lot left Egypt as wealthy men but the family partnership broke down. Lot’s shepherds could not get on with the shepherds of Abraham. It appears that they took their lead from their boss. We read about the choices that Lot made. When the arrangement had deteriorated and Abraham and Lot had to part company, Lot made for the fertile but decadent area of Sodom. He distanced himself both physically and ideologically from his ‘religious’ uncle.
Lot rose to prominence in Sodom. According to the Midrash, he even became a Judge. When Sodom and the other city-states of the Dead Sea basin were in battle in their rebellion against Cherdolo’omer, Lot was captured. It could well be that he was deliberately targeted so as to draw Abraham into the conflict. Against all odds, Abraham defeated a far superior army and rescued Lot, who showed his gratitude to Uncle Abe – by returning to live in Sodom! In next week’s parasha we will read more of Lot’s fluctuating life: his hospitality, his rescue from Sodom by the angels, and his immoral behaviour. Yet his descendant is Ruth the Moabite, the ancestor of King David and ultimately the Messiah.
Unlike Abraham who was able to stay on a straight path of righteousness throughout his life, and rose in stature with each challenge that he encountered, Lot represents the potential of ordinary people to fall, but also to achieve great things.
The multiple meanings of the Hebrew, לוט, allude to this idea. As well as being a proper name, the word has a number of other associations. Lot can mean privately (balat – I Samuel 18:22); cover (halot – Isaiah 25:7); charm or spell (belateihem – Shemot 8:14); and spice or lotus (valot – Bereishit 37:25).
Such is our lot. Our potential is often hidden. Sometimes we can get it badly wrong and become stuck on a path that brings us and others down. Yet there is, within each of us, the capacity to bring fragrant blessing to ourselves and our world.
Our challenge is to make the best of our lot.