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by Efraim Levine

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And Lot raised his eyes and saw the entire plain of the Jordan that is was all watered, before Hashem destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah [it was] like the garden of Hashem, like the land of Egypt, reaching Zoar. (Bereishis 13:10)

We may ask, why is it necessary for the Torah to mention that the land was like the garden of Hashem and like the land of Egypt only before it was destroyed. Seemingly it would have sufficed for the Torah to describe the good qualities of the land without mentioning that this was true only before its destruction. Later in parshas Vayeira we are told that Sodom was utterly destroyed. From this we may intuitively derive that the good qualities of the land were only present before its destruction.

Furthermore, we may ask, why did Lot readily agree to depart from Avram rather than settling any quarrels. Avram was well known for his great generosity and kindness. Certainly all those who were fortunate to be in his company merited great blessing. Who would be happy to leave such a person? Lot should have protested Avram’s suggestion that he depart.

The answer to both of these questions lies in fact that Lot failed to appreciate what he had. The Torah expresses this idea regarding the land of Sodom. At the time, the land of Sodom possessed the best agricultural qualities in the world. With regard to fruit it was compared to Gan Eden and with regard to vegetables it was compared to Egypt. However, the Torah makes it clear that Lot chose the land of Sodom not for its good qualities but rather because it served his purpose. The posuk says that Lot saw that it was completely watered. Rashi explains that this means it possessed streams of water. For lot this was enough. As far as its other amenities, the Torah hints that Lot only appreciated them in retrospect, after the land was destroyed. The posuk may homiletically be interpreted as saying that only after Sodom was destroyed, did Lot realize that the land he once occupied was like the Garden of Hashem and like the land of Egypt. However, at the moment, he failed to appreciate the good that he had. It should thus not surprise us that Lot was willing to depart form Avram. Here as well, Lot failed to appreciate the blessings he gained by being in the presence of Avram.

Later in parshas Vayeira when Hashem destroyed Sodom we learn that Lot was saved. As he escaped he was warned by the angel not to look back. Rashi explains that he was not permitted to witness the destruction of Sodom because he too was wicked and deserved to perish along with its inhabitants. It was only in the merit of Avraham that he was saved.

Perhaps we may suggest another insight. Lot was punished measure for measure. As Lot fled from Sodom, he suddenly began to appreciate its good qualities. He wanted to look back and get one more glimpse of the good land from which he had come. This would give him some sense of closure. However, he was denied this as a punishment for his lack of appreciation of what he had at the time.

This novel teaching reinforces the lesson that a person should always strive to appreciate what he has at the moment and not follow the example of Lot who appreciated what he had only in retrospect.

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 … Before Hashem destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah [it was] like the garden of Hashem, like the land of Egypt, reaching Zoar. (Bereishis 13:10) … And the people of Sedom were wicked and sinful to Hashem, very much. (Bereishis 13:13)

Rashi comments that they knew their Master and intended to rebel against Him. Where did Rashi derive this? Furthermore, the destruction of Sodom is consistently described as the “overturning of Sedom.” Why was this expression chosen to describe its destruction?

The posuk compares the land of Sodom to the garden of Hashem and to land of Egypt. Rashi explains that this refers to its unique agricultural qualities. With regard to fruits it was compared to the exceptional quality of fruit found in the garden of Hashem, i.e. Gan Eden, and with regard to vegetables it was compared to the exceptional quality of vegetables found in land of Egypt.

Let us suggest a homiletic interpretation. Gan Eden is a place of ultimate spirituality. Indeed, after Hashem created the world He placed Adam and Chava in Gan Eden to enjoy the Divine splendor of Hashem. On the other hand, the land of Egypt represents the other extreme, a place of ultimate defilement, and contamination. Chazal describe the land of Egypt as the ervas haaretz, i.e. the nakedness of the land.

When the posuk compares the land of Sedom to Gan Eden it may be interpreted as meaning that it was a place with great potential for spirituality. There was an unusual degree of holiness that made it easy for a people to develop a deep spiritual relationship with Hashem. The posuk goes on to say that is was also like the land of Egypt. This may be interpreted as meaning that although the people were aware of the great spiritual potential of the land they chose to defile the land and follow in the ways of Egypt.

The degree of defilement of Sodom was extremely severe because they knew better. One cannot compare the degree of corruption of one who defiles the mundane to one who defiles the holy. The people of Sodom had greater potential for holiness and spirituality than others yet they deliberately overturned this holiness in exchange for defilement.

This is perhaps the source of Rashi’s statement that the people of Sodom knew Hashem but intended to rebel against him. Sodom was a land that was blessed with a natural leaning toward spirituality. The people thus recognized Hashem but willfully chose to reject Hashem and adopt the defiled lifestyle of Egypt.

We may now also understand why its destruction is described as “overturning.” This represents a punishment that was measure for measure. Just as they overturned what was holy to the defiled, likewise Hashem punished them in this measure by overturning the land.

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Bris Bain Habisarim – September 11, 2001

In this weeks parsha we learn about the bris bein habisarm. The parsha begins with Hashem instructing Avram to take “a calf mi’shuleshes, a goat mi’shuleshes, a ram mi’shuleshes, a turtle dove and a fledging.” Rashi translates the word mi’shuleshes as three. The words “a calf mi’shuleshes” are then translated as three calves and similarly for the goat and ram. This translation results in a total of 11 animals. The Ramban translates the word mi’shuleshes as tripled. The words “a calf mi’shuleshes” are then translated as “a three year old calf” and similarly for the goat and ram. The total number of animals according to this translation is 5. Thus we have a dispute as to how many animals were used in the bris bein habisarm. According to Rashi, 5 and according to the Ramban, 11. It is noteworthy that the act of terror committed on September 11, 2001 was targeted at two symbols of the United States that have a strong physical relation to the number 11 and 5. The physical appearance of the Twin Towers appeared to any observer a one giant number 11. In addition each building had exactly 110 stories. 110 have the mispar katan of 11. The other target was the Pentagon. By definition a pentagon has five sides and indeed the Pentagon as its name implies is build in the shape of a pentagon.

The bris bein habisarm was done in response to the Avram’s question of how he is to know that he will bequeath Eretz Yisroel to his children. There is a debate if the acts of terror were related to the United States policy regarding Israel. If or not it is completely related may be debated, but there is truth in the fact that it is at least partially related.

During the bris bein habisarm a dread and great darkness came over Avraham. The act of terror has brought dread and darkness over the entire world.

What is the connection??? Feedback would be greatly appreciated!


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Efraim Levine 5761/2001