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by Daneal Weiner
From the Orchards of Jerusalem
Welcome to the Orchards. If this is your first time with us please read the emergency pamphlet located in the seat pocket in front of you.
Last week we ended saying how Avraham and Sarah set a foundation for the Jewish people in Egypt and Lot headed for Sodom to begin the Messianic line, which takes us into this weeks
Like last week, and every week for that matter, there is so much going on that these 15-20 pages barely scratch the surface. But we have to start and stop someplace. Oh well. Well, not well for Sodom.
Do to more than just a dispute, which will be discussed later, Avraham tells Lot he has to separate and Lot chooses the corrupt metropolis of Washingt..uh Sodom and Amorah. There he marries and has a family. Eventually the Sodomite's measure of sin is filled. They weren't just bad people. They formed a society in which wickedness and immorality were the law of the land. G-d sentences the 5 cities of Sodom and Amorah to destruction. A lesson how critical it is for government to maintain moral and ethical standards no matter who's yelling for what. In Avraham's merit, Lot's family are offered salvation but only Lot and two single daughters survive. While fleeing the upheaval, Lot's wife turns to see G-d's exacting of judgement and get's iodized. The 3 survivors end up in Tso'ar, one of the 5 cities of Sodom (???) and then flee to a cave wherein rests a bottle of wine.
The older daughter says to the younger, "All the world has been destroyed but us. We must repopulate the world. Our father is old. Let's make him drunk and we will lay with him." Seems pretty straight forward, yes? NO!!! Sorry. Policy is never to yell at the reader before the 2nd page. There are a few loose ends in the story. Rav Wolfson asks, (I never would have thought of these); if the world is destroyed then Lot is also obligated to repopulate it. Why not just hold him to it? Why the need to get him drunk? And where did the wine come from? Lot knows that it is because of Avraham's merits that he was saved. He knows at least Avraham is still alive if not the rest of the world. Why don't his daughters know?
Because of the pure intentions of the daughters, their actions are deemed righteous. Since the older daughter had the idea and acted first, she merited 4 generations prior to her sister. (???) It's a Gemorah in Bava Kama (40b). We'll explain later.
We also see in the parsha that Lot was sitting in the gates of the city when the angels arrived. Rashi says the Sodomites made him a judge on the same day that the Angels came. What is the point of the Torah telling us Lot was literally `king for a day' since the city was tsushmettered less than 24 hours later?
As long as we're asking questions, let's see how Lot got in this mess in the first place. There was a REEV (fight) between Avraham Aveinu's shepherds and Lot's shepherds. Avraham tells Lot to separate so there is not a MIREEVA (disagreement) between them "for we are brothers," he says. Rashi explains, "`brothers'? They have like faces." Seems pretty straight forward, yes?... Good answer. Who's argument is it anyway? The shepherds or Avraham's and Lot's? Why change the language from stronger to weaker (Reev to Mireeva)? And Rashi, what could their faces possibly have to do with the price of grass in Canaan?
Rav Wolfson answers all these questions beginning with a Gemorah that has troubled me my many ignorant years. In Gitin 56a is the story of Kamtsa and Bar Kamtsa, the story of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple.
Editing out a half page of background we have a disgruntled Bar Kamtsa who tells the Caesar that the Jews were revolting and suggests, as proof, a gift sacrifice be sent to Jerusalem which he assured would be rejected. The Caesar sent a cow which Bar Kamtsa blemished on the way. When the cow showed up in Jerusalem, the Sages had to determine what to do. Normally, a blemished cow is disqualified from sacrifice. It was suggested that the cow be offered anyway for the sake of peace. Piku'ach nefesh, life threatening circumstances, overrides all but 3 mitsvot. One Sage, Rabbi Zacharia ben Ovkulas, said if it's offered then all Israel will think that blemished cows can be offered. It was suggested killing Bar Kamtsa who would tell the Caesar about the rejection. Rav Zacharia said, if so then all Israel will think that anyone who brings a blemished sacrifice will be killed. The cow was not offered, Bar Kamtsa went back to the Caesar and tens of thousands of Roman legions came to squash the `rebellion'. The Gemorah credits Rav Zacharia with the destruction of the Temple. Doesn't seem at all straight forward, does it?
Rav Wolfson asks, if from the onset the majority of Sages were willing to offer the cow as a matter of piku'ach nefesh then how did Rav Zacharia change their minds? And he was a single opinion. Shouldn't the majority have won? And why did the Gemorah hang the blame on Rav Zecharia if in the end all the Sages must have concurred with him?
The Shulchan Oruch discusses the laws of Piku'ach Nefesh and putting ones life at stake. Most are familiar with the three fundamental sins that one should give their life for rather than transgress. (Killing, illicit relations and idolatry.) The idea is that since spiritual death IS worse then physical death, if one is going to be spiritually killed, which these three sins do, no point of walking around 20 more years waiting to be physically buried. Save the soul and spare the body is a more logical approach. Then again, its not only for the big 3 one must give their life. One must give their life for anything in a time of 'shmad,' religious persecution. r'l.
During a time of shmad, everything becomes a choice between defying G-d or death. If green shoelaces were a symbol of defiance than one should chose death rather than wear them. All halachic authorities concur on this.
Let's say a Jew wants to walk through Sha'ar Shchem, an Arab gateway into the old city and it's during an antifada. If this Jew walks with his kipa on and tsitsis out then he's looking for a knife in the back. How about he tucks in his tsitsis and takes off his kipa? No Tyrant ordered this. There's no act of rebellion. To save his skin he'll look like an American tourist for a few minutes. Almost all authorities say that this is allowed. There is ONE opinion who says it is forbidden and one must put his life at risk. If you are a Jew you're a Jew all the way. All the time. Every place.
The Sages of Jerusalem held the former opinion. The cow was a gift offering. It was not a time of religious persecution. It wasn't a defiance of G-d. The law of Pikuach nefesh should override. Rav Zacharia held the single, latter opinion. The law is the law is the law. No blemished animals. No way. No how. So why didn't the majority rule?
There is a Gemorah that says that the disputes of the Sages brings peace to the world. How is that? When the fighting is in the Bais Hamidrash, in the study halls. Should it hit the streets, be picked up by the masses, it brings destruction to the world. The Chasam Sofer wrote that the soton thwarted the final redemption due to a halachic dispute between Rabbi Yaakov Emden and Rabbi Yonasan Eibschitz. Their dispute was only that, a dispute and in the name of G-d. But on the streets you'd think it was an election year. It turned into a debasement of the Rabbis and the Torah they represent. When halachic debate becomes political fuel it burns and destroys out of control.
At the end of the first Temple there was a `political' battle in the streets. Although we had religious freedom in Jerusalem we had to pay taxes to the Roman government. There was a group of Jews called `Biryonim.' They couldn't tolerate Jerusalem. not being under Jewish rule. The Rabbis were saying to live a peaceful Torah life and pay the taxes. The `Biryonim' said that the Jews had to fight! The Biryonim took a difficult situation and turned it into a bloody, bloody mess. So many Jews needlessly died terrible deaths because of the Biryonim. Hashem Yirachem. There is nothing at all new under the sun.
70+ years ago the early zionists were fighting for power in Israel against the English, the Arabs and each other. The Sage of the time, Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt'l had nothing to do with them as the Torah requires. On his own the Rabbi was making efforts and had a Dr. Yaakov Dehaan as a liaison between the ruling governments insuring Jerusalem's security and peace of mind. This idea was not tolerated by the biryonim of the time and they assassinated Dr. Yaakov Dehaan.
70 years later comes full circle. The zionists are now discussing living in peace with Arab authority and a lone biryon can no longer tolerate the idea and assassinates the liaison. The parallel is so frighteningly manifest of H's judgement, measure for measure, that I wonder why Dr. Dehaan was shot with three bullets and Rabin with 2. But I more than digress.
The halachic dispute between Rav Zacharia and the Sages over the blemished cow hit the streets. It fueled the bitter political battle. The Biryonim obviously latched onto the words of R. Zacharia. The populace sided with the majority. Rock bottom just got worse. The Sages were not going to let the people destroy what little spiritual merit they had left, their only safeguard from the impending Roman doom. There is a generality in halacha. At a rare time of uncertainty the required action is no action at all. `Shev v'al ta'aseh' `Sit and don't do' Not being able to conclude the halachic dispute, the Sages fell back on `shev v'al ta'aseh.' The cow was not offered. Bar Kamtsa was not killed. By default, the Sages were forced into the opinion of Rav Zacharia. The rest is history presently being repeated. But that wasn't the first time the lesson was taught.
1800 years earlier was a similar scenario. The shepherds of Avraham Aveinu and Lot didn't get along. Not only that, the Torah tells us seemingly sporadically, "The Canaanite were in the land" "The Prizi were in the land" These were nations which were conquering portions of Israel from the descendants of Shem. Politics was a hot topic. Who's land is it really? The present victors? The future inheritors?
Avraham Aveinu was having a halachic disagreement with Lot. A mireeva. Once it hit the fields, though, it fueled the fight of the shepherds. To them it was a REEV. They began to debase Avraham Aveinu and the Torah he represents. It had to be stopped. Avraham Aveinu told Lot to separate because they were brothers. Rashi says, "They had like faces." The body is the reflection of the soul. The face is the window. Hashem chose Avraham Aveinu because Avraham separated himself from the rest of the idolatrous world by discovering and serving only Him. If Lot had a similar face then he had a similar aspect to his Neshama. But Avraham Aveinu was ALL kadosh and Lot was a mixture. Avraham Aveinu said, "Just as I must separate from you, you must also separate. Separate your holy side from your bad side. Your goodness is welcome back. Your bad side must go.
Lot's daughters grew up with daily contact with his shepherds who never grew tired of degrading Avraham Aveinu. The daughters couldn't possibly think much of their father's uncle. When Sodom was overturned, Lot told his daughters that they were saved because of the merits of Avraham Aveinu. They couldn't believe it. They felt Avraham was surely destroyed with the rest of the evil in the world. Lot told them they would travel together and they'd see his words were true. The daughters said to themselves, "Our father is old." Who knew how much time they'd have. They gave him wine.Where did the Wine come from? Rashi says it was prepared for them for the sake of 2 nations. Maybe an angel brought it. Maybe it was left behind by a couple picnickers. If it had a card it would have read, "From G-d. With love." Love of Avraham's descendants.
Why wine? Gem Sanhedrin 70a, `Don't gaze at the redness of wine, for after it comes blood.' Judaism has many uses for wine but it warns not to overdue it! Wine has a lot in common with Lot. It is also a mixture of good and evil. The Gematria of wine is 70. If you take out all that is good, (Hashem, =26) that leaves you with (70-26=) 44= dom= blood.
Friday night, when we make the kiddish on the wine, the first four letters of the first four words (said out loud) is G-d's name. An indication we are making kiddish on the good aspect of the wine. We learn from psalms that in the world to come, King David's goblet will hold 221 measures of wine. What about the Gemorah warning against too much? Since at that time all evil will be eradicated from the world, all there will be to the wine is goodness. All 221 measures and all for the sake of Heaven. In those days you won't be able to get too much of a good thing.
Speaking of King David and good things- The eldest daughter of Lot, the one who acted first, named her son Moav. Moav is a nation who's men are forbidden to marry into Israel. A descendant of Moav was Ruth, the Mother of the House of David. The younger sister had a son she called Ammon. Another forbidden nation. 4 generations after Ruth was born a descendant of Ammon named Na'ama was born. Na'ama grew a righteous woman and married King David's son, King Solomon. Lot's mission was finally completed! His evil went by way of Moav and Ammon and are separated for eternity. His holy side came back to Avraham via Ruth and Na'ama.
The only remaining question is why was Lot "king for a day?" The Torah is showing the manifestation of the fact that Lot does contain this incredible spark of kedusha of the Mashiach, the final leader of the Jewish people. The Sodomites sensed this `energy' in Lot, (ie: charisma, magnetism, good teeth) and they responded to it by making him a leader.
The first place Lot and daughters fled to was the newest of the 5 cities. Lot said since it is `near' [Rashi says, `young in years'] then maybe its measure of sin is not as great and it may be spared? The angel told Lot that G-d heard his prayer and agreed. Lot saved one of the cities! Being near to the upheaval Lot decided not to stay. The daughters thought it was spared only as long as they were there. They then fled to a cave.
One LAST question. Avraham Aveinu prays for any part of Sodom and Amorah to be saved and the answer was no! Lot says how `bout it and he saves one?!? How is that? The answer is, that Avraham Aveinu may be Avraham Aveinu, but Lot is the Mashiach. The power of the Mashiach will be to see the good in everyone. That's someone whose prayers Hashem is always eager to answer positively. Something good is just around the corner. Have yourselves a positively spectacular Shabbot Shalom.
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