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Torah Sparks

October 26, 2002 - 5763

Annual Cycle: Genesis 18:1 - 22:24 (Hertz, p. 63; Etz Hayim, p. 99)
Triennial- Year II: Genesis 19:1 - 20:18 (Hertz, p. 66; Etz Hayim, p. 104)
Haftarah - II Kings 4:1 - 37 (Hertz, p. 76; Etz Hayim, p. 123)

Prepared by Rabbi Lee Buckman
Head of School, Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit

Department of Services to Affiliated Congregations
Rabbi Martin J. Pasternak, Director

Torah Portion Summary

(18:1-15) Abraham welcomes three wayfarers with full hospitality, not realizing that they are angels. They tell Abraham that Sarah will have a son. Sarah, overhearing, laughs in disbelief.

(18:16-33) God tells Abraham of his decision to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham tries to dissuade God, with the famous words," Shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?" Abraham bargains with God, who promises not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if even ten righteous men can be found there.

(19:1-19) The angels warn Lot to flee Sodom with his family. His wife disobeys the order not to look back, and is turned into a pillar of salt.

(19:30-38) After the destruction, Lot's daughters, believing there is no one else left on earth, trick him into an incestuous union. They each bear sons, the founders of the nations of Ammon and Moab.

(20:1-18) Abraham and Sarah are in Gerar. Abraham says that Sarah is his sister, so Abimelekh king of Gerar has Sarah brought to him. In a dream, God appears to him and frightens him away from Sarah. Abimelekh rebukes Abraham, but then compensates him for his trouble.

(21:1-8) God keeps His promise; Isaac is born. Isaac is circumcised on the eighth day of his life, and there is a banquet on the day of his weaning.

(21:9-21) Sarah fears the negative influence Ishmael may have over Isaac. Hagar and Ishmael are sent away. God promises Hagar, "I will make a great nation" of Ishmael.

(21:22-34) Abraham and Abimelekh make a covenant of peace at Be'er-sheva.

(22:1-19) The Akedah, the story of the binding of Isaac.

(22:20-24) Genealogy which includes Rebekah, future wife of Isaac.

Torah Text Being Considered

As dawn broke, the angels urged Lot on, saying, 'Up, take your wife and your two remaining daughters, lest you be swept away because of the iniquity of the city.'

Still he delayed. So the men seized his hand, and the hands of his wife and his two daughters - in the Lord's mercy on him - and brought him out and left him outside the city.

When they had brought them outside, one said, 'Flee for your life! Do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, lest you be swept away!'

Lot's wife looked back, and she thereupon turned into a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:15-17)


  1. She had pity on her married daughters, and turned to see if they were following behind her or not. In doing so, she saw the back side of the Divine Presence and turned into a pillar of salt. (Midrash Hagadol)
  2. She turned to see what would be the end of her father's house. (Targum Eretz Yisrael)
  3. She gazed beyond Lot, who was following them, acting as a rear guard for all his household who were hurrying to be saved. (Ramban)
  4. A poor person came to her door and requested salt and she refused to give it to him. For that reason, she was punished - "measure for measure". She sinned with salt and was punished by becoming a pillar of salt. (Bereisheet Rabbah 51:7)
  5. Rabbi Jacob Chinitz, in his writings, observes that Lot's wife was warned not to look back - with disdain, with conceit, with condescension upon her neighbors who were being destroyed while she was being saved. But she did look back. She could not resist enjoying their failure and her success even though it was only her good fortune to be married to Abraham's nephew. By standing still in this circumstance, she was overtaken by the form of death which was following close behind them. (Samson Raphael Hirsch)

For discussion:

What was so bad about Lot's wife turning around and looking back? What's so sinful about it? Not all of the comments above seem to accuse her of wrongdoing or condemn her. Or perhaps, we should read more into what they are implying?

Some points to consider:

When in life do you think it is not good to look back? What about the modern American credo - "get over it" or "get past it"? Are there any applications to events that have happened to us in recent times?

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