Abraham and Lot – A Paradigm
At the start of our Sidra, Abraham (then known as Abram), the tsadik of his generation, is directed by G-D to leave his extended family and travel to an unknown land in order to establish a new and unique nation.
That his wife Sarai (later renamed Sarah) accompanies him is a given. However, it was Abraham’s own decision to take his nephew Lot along. According to Zohar Chadash, it was at Lot’s insistence. The commentators are divided over whether Avram did the right thing, as it appears Lot was still idolatrous at this time.
The experiment didn’t turn out too well. Lot was never ideologically wedded to his uncle’s unwavering, unadulterated ethical monotheism. The Torah relates “they were unable to dwell together” (Gen 13:6, Malbim loc.cit.) Abraham, not wanting strife, requests that they separate (13:9). Lot travels east to Sodom while Abraham remains in central Canaan.
However, when Abraham later hears that Lot has been taken captive, differences cease to matter. “He armed his trained men …. and pursued ….and struck them [Lot’s captors] …and brought back his brother Lot with his possessions …” Lot, the formerly estranged nephew, but now seized by terrorists and in mortal danger, becomes again a “brother” for whom Abraham is willing to risk his own life in an Entebbe-style raid which thankfully meets with spectacular success!
The parallel with what is happening right now, though uncannily close, is not exact. Lot was not Abraham’s immediate flesh-and-blood. He was the son of his brother, Haran, who vacillated between the G-D of Avram and the ‘gods’ of Nimrod. Tragically, Lot was to become the founding father of the Moabite race which treated the nascent nation of Israel abominably in the desert and whose menfolk consequently were barred from marrying into the Jewish people even after conversion.
The synchronicity is nevertheless striking. A divided nation whose seemingly irreconcilable differences almost led to civil war have come together k’heref ayin (in the blink of an eye) in the most unwanted and unimagined of circumstances, the threat of decimation from a brutal external enemy.
That nation, of course, is ours. Am Yisrael! And the epoch is now!
What G-D Has Wrought
The prophet Habakuk (1:5-6) expresses astonishment at how the Chaldeans, which he calls the most unworthy and lowliest of the nations (see also Isaiah 23:13) are about to “go across the breadth of the earth to possess dwelling-places that are not their own”. How will it happen that such a squalid nation will be able to wreak such damage? Habakuk furnishes the only possible answer: “G-D is bringing it about!”
How was it possible that Israeli intelligence, always so awesomely on-the-button, failed so dismally on that fateful Shemini Atseret two weeks (it feels like two years) ago to anticipate the savage invasion of southern Israel by the squalid terrorist thugs of Hamas? There can be only one explanation. Me’eit haShem hayeta zot!
I am going to resist any temptation to postulate a reason why. But one thing is certain. Even though we would give anything to turn the clock back to October 7th and rewrite the tragic script, the result has been that the two halves of Jewish Israel, so bitterly divided these last nine months, have now bonded as one.
A wondrous 180-degree volte-face has occurred overnight. Former anti-overhaul demonstrators who had refused to serve as reservists in the IDF are now begging to be enlisted even if they are overage. Those who supported the disruption of sex-segregated open-air Yom Kippur services in Tel Aviv are now packing boxes of long skirts and tights for dispossessed religious females. Avowedly secular soldiers are asking for tsitsit to protect them! In a room in Bet Kama, charedi journalist Yishai Cohen witnessed Orthodox Israelis and members of judicial-protest reservist movement Brothers In Arms (now rebranded Brothers And Sisters For Israel) working together to get boxes out to those in need. The former ultra-left movement’s co-founder’s sister, lawyer Galia Scherf was working with a team distributing shiv’a kits for the hundreds of bereaved families of the slain. Times of Israel journalist Sue Sirkes movingly documents all this and so much more unimaginable outpouring of chesed throughout Israel in her benchmark October 22 op-ed which is a must-read. And as for diaspora Jewry, almost every heart has been touched by the events of this past fortnight and unsurpassed levels of tsedaka are being pledged and given. Since Simchat Torah, we are all Israel! Our hearts beat as one, ke-ish ekhad be-lev ekhad! I am so very proud of Israel and of our nation at this watershed moment in our history.
I daven that operationally Israel will return to ‘normal’ very soon – albeit a new Hamas-free normal – but that morally and ethically Israel and world Jewry will remain as it is now.
What the Future Holds
Can it happen?
One doesn’t need to be a prophet to predict what is likely to occur in the ensuing weeks. More foreign-national hostages could be released by Hamas whereupon the world won’t care about hanging the Israeli captives out to dry, crying out ever louder for a “ceasefire”. Even if no more are set free, the more casualties that are incurred in Gaza the more the West will gradually walk back its moral support of Israel and censoriously call for “restraint”. And the sad likelihood is that those voices will also include a few of our own radical spokespersons. Already ultra-left Ha’arets journalist Gideon Levy has unconscionably declared on ABC News Radio (where else!) that while Hamas’s actions (which included the beheading of babies) could not exactly be condoned, they were “understandable” (sic.). Sadly we have to brace ourselves for much more of the same (or worse) in the coming weeks.
We as a nation will need to remain strong and unified. With the help of G-D, the mortal threat of Hamas will be eliminated with the minimum of civilian casualties and everyday life in Israel will return. That will be when the moral challenge will begin.
There will need to be an inquest into how intelligence failed, and subsequent accountability – but there must be no bloodletting, no more witch-hunts, no more hate, no more public shaming. G-D forbid that we should resort to the uncivil discourse of the recent past or angry recriminations. The Left must never again revert to wild, anarchic behavior in their attempt to prevent the democratically-elected government from governing. And the government – secular and religious factions alike – must be seen to be a government for all Israelis, not one tied to narrow self-interests. All Israel who now array as one must stay as one! This is no less than the legacy of our founding father Abraham!
And if that mini-miracle transpires, who can tell what other amazing wonders may follow in its train?