Upon Avraham and Sarah’s return from Egypt, a great change overtook Lot, who had accompanied them on their journey. He allowed his shepherds to pasture in strange fields which led to his break-up with Avraham. Lot moved to Sedom, a bastion of impurity and evil and was later captured in the battle of the four and five kings. Avraham then risked his life to save his errant nephew. What lesson does the Torah mean to convey with this story?
The Shem Mishmuel cites a midrash that relates that when Lot left Egypt he had sheep, cattle, and tents. Tents represent two women, Ruth the wife of Boaz, and Naama the Amonit, wife of King Shlomo. What is this midrash teaching us?
Chassidut teaches about a concept of multiple souls. Lot embodied the souls of Ruth and King David. However, he did not know this. The Kotzker Rebbe points out that the greater the future soul, the more deeply it is hidden within the person. When he left Egypt, something within Lot was aroused. This first redemption made the future redemption of Israel an irrevocable reality. There was an awakening of King David within Lot. He felt a future redemptive spirit blossoming. All of us sometimes get this feeling of spiritual inspiration. It is a moment of danger, because it makes a person less careful and can trap him in a net of egotism and haughtiness. This actually happened to Lot. At the peak of his euphoria, he began thinking that he was as great as Avraham. It was a tremendous test for him and he failed. He became so haughty that he assumed ownership of the land of Israel and allowed his sheep to graze freely. Lot’s spiritual greatness and gifts were a reflection of Avraham. When he cut himself off from him, evil forces rushed in, overtook him, and led him to Sedom, the pinnacle of impurity.
The four kings who battled with Avraham correspond to the four primary sins, idol-worship, immorality, murder, and forbidden speech. Each of the four exiles represents one of these sins. The kings really wanted to fight Avraham, who was the antithesis of their values, but he was too spiritually powerful for them. Therefore, they settled on Lot, who still maintained a tenuous connection with Avraham. Avraham risked his life to save Lot in order to save the souls of Ruth, David, and Mashiach. The soul of David encompassed all the middot (attributes) of the Avot. It needed to go into captivity in Sedom, a place that contained all four levels of evil, because David was destined to rectify the world’s evil. He would lead people back to their inherent purity and holiness. From him would emerge Mashiach,who must have the capability to correct every possible human failure.
We live in difficult times. Permissiveness and immorality pervade all around us. Yet we must remain strong and not give up. We are like the souls of David and Mashiach. Our mission is to rectify the errors of our generation and we must believe that we have the ability to bring tikun (rectification) for ourselves, our family, our people, and the world.