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Parshas Vayeira - Recovery

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 10/25/18

There is a popular Yiddish aphorism describing someone so inebriated that he is unaware of his actions that goes: Ehr iz shikkur vi Lot!


This literally translates as ‘He is as drunk as Lot’. This refers to the incident after the destruction of Sodom when his daughters fearing they are the last survivors in the world ‘drug’ him with wine, bringing him to a state of unconsciousness that enabled them to commit incest for the sake of preserving the human race.


It seems that despite his having been numbed beyond awareness by the alcohol, he was faulted and derided for his behavior.


When the Torah describes him waking up the next morning after having experienced intimacy with his older daughter it states that ‘he was not aware of her lying down, ובקומה, and of her getting up’. In a Torah scroll there appears a dot above the word ובקוֹמה, which indicates some ambiguity as to the proper placement of the word here. We are taught that indeed upon arising he had some recollection of her having gone off the bed but had no further memory of what actually transpired. On the second night when his younger daughter implemented the same strategy to dose him with spirits, despite suspecting her intention, Lot readily submitted to her offer of a stiff drink. For this lecherous consent he is forever remembered in disgrace.


There is in fact a Midrash that many understand to be referring to a custom in ancient times to publicly read this paragraph weekly, every Shabbos, in spotlighting Lot as an object lesson of the pitfall of indulging in drink ‘to instruct the populace of the dangers of intoxication and how it can bring one to licentiousness’. (ב"ר נא ט ובפי' עץ יוסף שם)


What is baffling though is the fact that Lot entertained the opportunity to drink the second time despite knowing he would likely have no memory of the experience whatsoever. In fact when reporting his waking up the second time, the Torah reiterates once again his having been unaware of ‘her getting up’, it is not dotted, indicating that this time he had no recall whatsoever of her even arising. Clearly they must have doubled the dose having perhaps sensed his suspicion the first time.


It also seems that it was necessary for his daughters to put Lot asleep to accomplish this mission, and that they didn’t even consider the possibility that he would concede such an inappropriate act otherwise. He must have had some healthy pangs of guilt.


What would compel Lot to imbibe in pursuit of a pleasure that he would have no consciousness of anyway?


Was Lot that vulnerable that his daughters were so confident they could get him to drink to such an extreme that he would lose cognizance?


Lot parts ways with his beloved brother-in-law and uncle, Avraham, declaring, אי אפשי לא באברהם ולא באלוקיו, “It is impossible for me to accept Avraham or his G-d.”


Impossible?! Was it really ‘impossible’ or simply difficult and not enticing?


Throughout the entire episode with Lot he is driven by the pursuit of pleasure, whether it be wealth, the beautiful atmosphere, or the alluring and freewheeling lifestyle of Sodom.


Lot constantly struggles with what he knows to be true and his seeming blind ambition for pleasure. He valiantly champions the rights of foreigners at risk to his own life, in facing off with the maddening masses that seek to abuse his guests, yet so callously offers them in exchange the carnal pleasure of taking his virgin daughters in order to placate the dangerous mob.  


Perhaps the most distinguishing hallmark of an addict is the lack of ability for self-control.


Lot perhaps was the world’s first pleasure addict, who by his own admission was totally incapable of controlling his habits. He acknowledged the just life of Avraham, but was so entrenched in his addiction that the restrictions of Avraham and his G-d were ‘impossible’ to abide by.


Only one addicted mindlessly to behaviors that one inherently knew to be improper would pine to drink even in the pursuit of what couldn’t possibly give him sensorial pleasure in his drunken stupor.


He was an addict, his daughters well knew, who could be easily lured by the promise of powerful and enticing alcohol.


Might the ‘blindness’ the angels brought upon the lynch mob and their subsequent exercise in futility in searching for the door nevertheless instructive in revealing the nature of addiction to recklessly pursue that which may bring them further danger?


Might Lot’s wife’s inability to control herself from looking back knowing that she’s be doomed another piece of evidence in the dossier of addiction this family and the inhabitants of Sodom struggled with?


The Ibn Ezra avers that this was not simply a physical malady of sightlessness but more so a blindness of the ‘eye and heart’, a temporary insanity that blocks clear perception of truth.


One of the first steps one must take to overcome an addiction is to realize that one is powerless to break those chains alone, without the help of a Higher Power.


When Lot is instructed by the angels to escape to the mountain in the direction of Avraham, he hesitates. Turning to the angel he first begs אל נא, “Please don’t” ask that of me. He then, for the first time in the entire account of Lot until now, beseeches of G-d, אדנ-י, declaring, לא אוכל להמלט, “I cannot escape...”. (בראשית יט יח-יט)


Lot for the first time in his life turns to the Higher Power, G-d, and admits that without His help he cannot conquer his demons. He knew he couldn’t simply return to the rigors of life according to the House of Avraham just yet. He asks to relocate to Tzoar a town not yet as corrupt and indulgent as Sodom where he stands a chance to rehabilitate himself with the help of G-d.


The child his oldest daughter begets is named מואב, Moav, meaning ‘from my father’. Refusing to hide the taint of this conception and declare the reality for what it is, is another step in the direction of recovery. One must take inventory of one’s wrongs and admit the exact nature of that flaw in order to affect repair.


The Midrash adds that מואב is also a contraction of the sentiment, מי אב?, a rhetorical question, ‘who is our true father?’; certainly Avraham and his legacy. We are ready, his daughter declares, to proceed healthily and with proper direction and help in removing our defects.


From these daughters’ descendants, Rus and her progeny, the destiny of our nation will come to fruition with the coming of Moshiach.


Although we no longer recite this paragraph weekly, but once a year we recall this remarkable comeback that began with one finally accepting one’s shortcomings and committing to be guided by the only One who can bring us home.


May we each take an inventory of our ‘addictions’, no longer wallowing in the ‘impossible’ task of ridding ourselves of our flaws, acknowledging G-d as the only one who can bring us up to greatness, as long as we submit totally to His embrace and authority.


If we do succeed, we will hear soon the footsteps of Moshiach.


באהבה,


צבי יהודה טייכמאן