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Parasha Notes: Wayeira (5776)

November 4, 2015

Maimonides understands the appearances of the angels to both Abraham and Lot to have taken place within dreams; if that is so, how are we to understand the participation of the Sodomites in that vision, specifically, when they intended to accost Lot’s guests?

Either we can say that the truth is as Nahmanides states, that the angels actually took a physical form, or, to defend Maimonides’s position, we can say that the Sodomites sensed that Lot was behaving in a way that indicated that he believed that he was hosting guests.

Now, as I wrote last year, the purpose of God’s showing Abraham that the angels left to Sodom was to show him that he could no longer intervene on the Sodomites’ behalf, because he had already shown that he was willing to wage war to save them from their first divine punishment. The Sodomites themselves felt that Lot’s guests were there to cause them harm, that those guests, as the agents of their destruction, would, by their very presence, elicit a response from the Sodomites that would demonstrate that the Sodomites were deserving of destruction.

And the men said unto Lot: ‘Have you here anyone else? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whoever you have in the city; bring them out of the place; for we will destroy this place, because their cry has waxed great before the Lord; and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.’… And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying: ‘Arise, take your wife, and your two daughters that are here; lest you be swept away in the iniquity of the city.’ But he lingered; and the men grabbed his hand, and the hand of his wife, and the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him. And they brought him forth, and set him outside the city.

These verses indicate that although Lot was told to leave quickly, he waited too long, until daybreak, and then, even though the angels told him once again about the urgency of his departure, he delayed, until they had to force him out.

Later during his escape,

when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said: ‘Run for your life; do not look behind, neither stay in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest you be swept away.’ And Lot said to them: ‘Oh, please no, my lord;  behold, your servant has found grace in your eyes, and you have magnified your mercy which you have shown unto me by saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest the evil overtake me, and I die. Behold now, this city is closer, and it is a little one; oh, let me escape there–is it not a little one?–and my soul shall live.

Lot was exhausted by the burden of having to flee, and pleaded with the angels to allow him to remain close to home. In Maimonidean terms, Lot was fighting an internal struggle with his reluctance to leave Sodom. Yes, there were angels telling him to leave, but it was much harder for them to take the Sodom out of Lot than to take the Lot out of Sodom. It was this adapted feature of his character that in part led to the tragic incident later involving him and his daughters.

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