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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Lot's Daughters, Vayera, Torah Portion of the Week

Today while reading Vayera, the Torah Portion of the Week, Parshat Shavua, I thought about Lot's two daughters. What they did sounds so totally unimaginable:

Genesis Chapter 19:31And the elder said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man on earth to come upon us, as is the custom of all the earth.
לאוַתֹּ֧אמֶר הַבְּכִירָ֛ה אֶל־הַצְּעִירָ֖ה אָבִ֣ינוּ זָקֵ֑ן וְאִ֨ישׁ אֵ֤ין בָּאָ֨רֶץ֙ לָב֣וֹא עָלֵ֔ינוּ כְּדֶ֖רֶךְ כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ:
32Come, let us give our father wine to drink, and let us lie with him, and let us bring to life seed from our father."
לבלְכָ֨ה נַשְׁקֶ֧ה אֶת־אָבִ֛ינוּ יַ֖יִן וְנִשְׁכְּבָ֣ה עִמּ֑וֹ וּנְחַיֶּ֥ה מֵֽאָבִ֖ינוּ זָֽרַע:
33And they gave their father wine to drink on that night, and the elder came and lay with her father, and he did not know of her lying down or of her rising up.
לגוַתַּשְׁקֶ֧יןָ אֶת־אֲבִיהֶ֛ן יַ֖יִן בַּלַּ֣יְלָה ה֑וּא וַתָּבֹ֤א הַבְּכִירָה֙ וַתִּשְׁכַּ֣ב אֶת־אָבִ֔יהָ וְלֹֽא־יָדַ֥ע בְּשִׁכְבָ֖הּ וּבְקוּמָֽהּ:
34And it came to pass on the morrow, that the elder said to the younger, "Behold, last night I lay with my father. Let us give him wine to drink tonight too, and come, lie with him, and let us bring to life seed from our father."
לדוַֽיְהִי֙ מִמָּֽחֳרָ֔ת וַתֹּ֤אמֶר הַבְּכִירָה֙ אֶל־הַצְּעִירָ֔ה הֵֽן־שָׁכַ֥בְתִּי אֶ֖מֶשׁ אֶת־אָבִ֑י נַשְׁקֶ֨נּוּ יַ֜יִן גַּם־הַלַּ֗יְלָה וּבֹ֨אִי֙ שִׁכְבִ֣י עִמּ֔וֹ וּנְחַיֶּ֥ה מֵֽאָבִ֖ינוּ זָֽרַע:
35So they gave their father to drink on that night also, and the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know of her lying down or of her rising up.
להוַתַּשְׁקֶ֜יןָ גַּ֣ם בַּלַּ֧יְלָה הַה֛וּא אֶת־אֲבִיהֶ֖ן יָ֑יִן וַתָּ֤קָם הַצְּעִירָה֙ וַתִּשְׁכַּ֣ב עִמּ֔וֹ וְלֹֽא־יָדַ֥ע בְּשִׁכְבָ֖הּ וּבְקֻמָֽהּ:
36And Lot's two daughters conceived from their father.
לווַתַּֽהֲרֶ֛יןָ שְׁתֵּ֥י בְנֽוֹת־ל֖וֹט מֵֽאֲבִיהֶֽן:
37And the elder bore a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of Moab until this day.
לזוַתֵּ֤לֶד הַבְּכִירָה֙ בֵּ֔ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ מוֹאָ֑ב ה֥וּא אֲבִֽי־מוֹאָ֖ב עַד־הַיּֽוֹם:
38And the younger, she too bore a son, and she named him Ben-ami; he is the father of the children of Ammon until this day.
לחוְהַצְּעִירָ֤ה גַם־הִוא֙ יָ֣לְדָה בֵּ֔ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ בֶּן־עַמִּ֑י ה֛וּא אֲבִ֥י בְנֵֽי־עַמּ֖וֹן עַד־הַיּֽוֹם:
How could they have each seduced their father in order to reproduce? How could it have been that they didn't know that they were related to a great family, Avraham's, and that they would have a future out of Sdom?

Lot's wife looked back and froze into salt, but Lot seems to have frozen in a different way. Did he talk? Did he tell his daughter's about his amazing cousin Avraham who would rescue them and offer them a chance for a new and better life?

It seems that Lot hadn't raised his children as relatives of the great Avraham. His daughters were just like all the others in Sdom. Lot may have tried to protect the visiting "messengers" from his evil neighbors, but his proposed solution, which was to send his virgin daughters to be raped and worse, just shows how totally assimilated to the mores of Sdom he and his family had become.

I didn't grow up as removed from Jewish Tradition as Lot's daughters, but I besides identifying as a Jew, I didn't know much. Today I have relatives who aren't Jewish, and some who are Jewish may not even know it.  No doubt the Jewish identity of the next generations will be much weaker.

In some ways we can compare Lot's daughters to the Holocaust survivors. There were those who strongly felt as Jews and wanted to escape Europe and start new lives in the Land of Israel. While there  were other survivors who still felt the Europe was their home and couldn't leave. And others, maybe lile Lot, were emotionally paralyzed and just let others make the decisions.

As horrendous as Lot's daughters acted immediately after they had been rescued from Sdom, those children born to them each ended up as nations and part of the Biblical narrative. Ruth, King David and ultimately the Messiah are descended from Lot and his elder daugher. That still doesn't excuse their behavior. Maybe if Lot had raised his children with an awareness of their family ties to Avraham and Avraham's morals and religion the Jewish People would have grown more quickly and without some of the suffering.


Anonymous said...

But as our Sages tell us, because their intentions were, in a way, noble, because they thought it was the end of the world, it wasn't out of evil intent and H' always wants us to not let egos go to our heads to think they are better than others but are just mere mortals. So H' who controls everything, saw to it that our great ancestors didn't have such perfect beginnings.

Batya Medad said...

Very true. The Bible shows real people, warts and all.