Richard Kronenfeld
Adult Ba'al Teshuvah Ph.D. Physicist

Lot: An unlikely ancestor for Mashiach

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Lot is an enigmatic character. One wonders why Avraham took him along on his journey to Canaan, other than a sense of responsibility to the son of his brother Haran, who gave his life supporting him. In fact, Lot’s inconsistent behavior, as we are about to discuss, arises from being Haran’s son.

As we recall from the Midrashim, [The Midrash Says, Vol. I, The Book of Beraishis, pp. 120-124] King Nimrod ordered that Avraham be thrown into a blazing furnace for having refused to bow down to idols. This put Haran in a quandary. Should he play safe and side with the powerful and vindictive Nimrod or should he put family first and support his brother? After considerable internal conflict, Haran decided to go with the winner: if Avraham dies, Haran will pledge his loyalty to Nimrod; if Avraham emerges unscathed, Haran will back him.

We know how it turns out. Avraham emerged from the furnace unharmed, so his brother supported him against Nimrod. The enraged king ordered Haran thrown into the furnace, and since his support of Avraham (and thus of Hashem) was conditional, he was unworthy of a miracle and perished.

Now we consider Lot’s story, which has a somewhat happier ending.

He willingly accompanied Avraham and Sarah on their journey to the land of Canaan, although he wasn’t given a Divine command to go as they were. He subsequently earned merit in his own right by keeping silent when Avraham identified Sarah as his sister, not his wife.

He separated from Avraham when their herdsmen quarreled and chose to live at the outskirts of Sodom – that is, he chose materiality and money over spirituality.

Yet Avraham rescued him when he was captured by the four kings. As The Midrash Says observes [Vol. I, The Book of Beraishis, p.137], “…even if Lot personally did not deserve aid, Avram saw in him the ancestor of a righteous woman, Ruth the Moabite, mother of the dynasty of David and the future Mashiach.”  Similarly, he was saved from the destruction of Sodom, albeit mostly on Avraham’s merit. Another reason is, again as The Midrash Says notes [pp. 173-174], “Lot imitated Avraham’s conduct toward guests. He had stayed in Avraham’s house a long time, and although he had not adopted Avraham’s way of life, he had learned from him to go out of his way to do kindness to others.” So it was that while roaming the streets of Sodom at night, looking for travelers to invite as guests, he encountered to the two angels who come to save him and his family, and defied the laws and norms of Sodom in offering them hospitality.

The angels escorted him and his daughters out of Sodom as it was being destroyed. He successfully requested permission from them to rest at Tzoar when he felt he couldn’t keep going, but fear of being so close to Sodom drove him and his daughters to take refuge in a cave in the mountains, disregarding the angel’s instructions. As described in The Midrash Says, the following events occurred:

“Two great women were destined to descend from Lot’s daughters – Ruth, the Moabite woman who was to be the ancestress of the dynasty of David and, ultimately, of Mashiach, and Na’ama, the Ammonite woman who would marry King Shlomo and become the mother of King Rechavam. Lot’s daughters were allowed to survive the annihilation of Sodom for the sake of the two precious souls, Ruth and Na’ama, who were later to emerge from them. Both of Lot’s daughters were righteous and had learned in Avraham’s house to love Hashem. After witnessing the destruction of four big cities and the earth’s swallowing up all the inhabitants of Tzoar… Lot’s daughters were under the impression that a second Deluge had swept the world, leaving them the sole survivors.”[pp. 178-179] Consequently, they got Lot drunk and committed incest with him.

Lot’s seeming duality carried over to his daughters. The elder daughter named her son Moav (“from father”), which can only be described as “in your face”. The younger daughter was more discreet; she named her son Ben-Ami (“son of my people”). [ibid. p. 179]

Lot’s desire to separate from Avraham carried over to his descendants. Balak king of Moab hired Bilaam to curse the Israelites when they passed his border – but Balak was a Midianite whom the Moabites set over themselves as king.

Because the Moabites and Ammonites didn’t show kindness to the Israelites as they passed by those nations en route to Eretz Yisrael, Hashem issued a ban on accepting them as converts even to the tenth generation. The Sages later clarified the ban as referring only to males. In the meantime, however, the ensuing makhlokes [dispute] obscured the Jewish status of Dovid HaMelech because Ruth the converted Moabitess was his great-grandmother. [Art Scroll Chumash, Deuteronomy 23:4-5 and footnote thereto, p. 1055]

As an ancestor of King David, Lot is an ancestor of Mashiach ben Dovid! Go figure. As the late Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

About the Author
I'm a native New Yorker (Brooklyn, to be precise) transplanted to the desert as a teen-ager. I hold a Ph.D in Physics from Stanford and have taught mathematics and physics at the high school, community college, and university level. I'm an adult ba'al teshuvah and label myself as centrist Orthodox and a Religious Zionist along the lines of OU, Yeshiva University, and Mizrachi.
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