“Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please; but do not do anything to these men, since they have come under the shelter of my roof” Genesis 19:8


Lot, Abraham’s nephew, is described as “[Abraham’s] brother’s son” (Genesis 12:5). He seems to live in the shadow of Abraham, following him loyally on his journey to the land of Canaan and onwards. Then in last week’s sidrah, he travels away from Abraham to pursue wealth in Sodom, a land that is “like the land of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10). 

Lot chooses material abundance over the morally restricting lifestyle of Abraham’s household. But despite his breaking away from Abraham, this week’s sidrah shows us that he attempts to maintain the values that he has been taught by Abraham. Living in a land that is corrupt, where strangers are unwelcome, tortured and expelled, Lot tries secretly to host passers-by.

When the angels visiting Sodom are sheltered in his house, the people of Sodom come banging on his door, demanding that he send out the guests for them to “know them” (Genesis 19:3) . 

His answer to the people of Sodom is not just strange — it is deeply disturbing. He offers the men his daughters in place of his guests. How could any father make such a decision? To prioritise your guests over that of your daughters? 

To explain Lot’s thinking, we must remember his role model, Abraham. At the beginning of this week’s sidrah Abraham notices three travellers while in conversation with God. Rashi tells us Abraham told God to wait while he ran to welcome the guests. Abraham is praised for putting his guests before his own spiritual experience.

Lot thought that an extension of that principle is to put his guests before all else, even his family. But he missed a crucial element; while Abraham’s actions were selfless, Lot’s were not. 

Often it feels “holier” to help a stranger than our own family, and certainly it can be easier.  How many times do we hush our children at the Shabbat table so that we can talk to guests? Or miss a date with our spouse to help a friend?

Our “holiness” can only truly be judged not only by how we treat strangers, but how we treat our own family.

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