The Temptations of Wealth by Daniel Weintraub


In the beginning of Parashat Lech Lecha, Hashem commanded Avraham to go where He would tell him (ultimately, Canaan).  One Pasuk notes that Lot went with Avraham and that Avraham was 75 years old when he left Charan (Bereishit 12:4).  The following Pasuk adds that Avraham took Sarah, Lot, their property, and the people they had gathered in Charan and left to go to Canaan and arrived there (12:5).  Why was it necessary to begin with Lot’s arrival and follow with Avraham’s taking Sarah, Lot, and others?  Why couldn't the list of travelers have been combined into the first Pasuk?  Why was Lot alone mentioned in the first Pasuk?

More questions arise in the subsequent section, which tells of Avraham's arrival in Mitzrayim and his attempt to keep the Egyptians away from Sarah.  The Midrash, quoted by Rashi, states that Avraham hid Sarah in a crate and paid the Egyptian border guards whatever they asked for as a tariff on the unrevealed contents of the crate.  When they continued to raise the price and Avraham continued to pay, they became suspicious and opened the crate, finding Sarah.  After Paroh got angry at Avraham for deceiving him by saying Sarah was his sister, he basically expelled Avraham from Mitzrayim.  “VaYaal Avram MiMitzrayim Hu VeIshto VeChol Asher Lo VeLot Imo HaNegbah,” “And Avraham went up from Mitzrayim – he, his wife, all of his things, and Lot with him, to the south” (13:1).  This is the first time after Avraham's departure from Charan that Lot is mentioned.  We don't hear about him at all when Avraham is in Egypt.  What did Lot do in Mitzrayim?

The episode with Avraham and the five kings creates further mystery surrounding Lot.  The five kings defeated the four kings and seized control of Sedom, Lot’s place of residence.  Avraham, seeing that his nephew was in danger, rallied his 318 followers to try to rescue Lot from the five kings.  The Gemara (Nedarim 32a) states that the Pasuk, “VaYarek Et Chanichav,” “(Avraham) armed his followers” (14:14), means that Avraham gave them gold.  One explanation is that Avraham was worried that his soldiers, upon seeing the vast riches in Sedom, would get so caught up with gathering spoil that they would forget about rescuing Lot.  He therefore had to make them rich enough that they would not care about the things they saw in Sedom and would instead be able to concentrate on the task at hand.  This is very troubling.  The very nature of Avraham's followers shows that they were dependent on Hashem; not only did they subscribe to Avraham's beliefs, but they were prepared to fight against five powerful kings with such a small army.  If they believed that Hashem would help them, how would they have been in a mindset which would lead them to be distracted or tempted by the riches of Sedom?

As the Gemara shows us, anybody is susceptible to mindless attraction to riches.  This is what happened to Lot earlier in the Parasha.  When Lot was singled out in 12:4 for accompanying Avraham (“VaYeilech Ito Lot”), the Torah suggests that Lot followed Avraham because he was 75 years old.  Lot felt that he could ingratiate himself with Avraham by tagging along, which might be valuable since Avraham was a rich, old, and childless man.  The next Pasuk (12:5) reverses the action, “VaYikach Avram… Et Lot,” “Avraham took Lot,” which implies that Lot had lost some enthusiasm, and was instead coming in a passive sense.  He might have changed because he saw that Avraham had so many followers (“HaNefesh Asher Asu VeCharan”) and concluded that he was in fact unlikely to get a significant inheritance from Avraham.  Nonetheless, he came with Avraham because Avraham was taking “Kol Rechusham Asher Rachashu,” “all of their wealth which they had amassed,” which was still tempting enough.  When Avraham arrived at the border of Mitzrayim and gave the Mitzrim all of his money as a tariff, Lot seemingly disappeared because Avraham was no longer rich.  However, while Avraham was in Mitzrayim, he gained wealth: “ULAvram Heitiv Baavurah,” “(Paroh) was generous to Avraham because of Sarah” (12:16).  When Avraham left Mitzrayim “Kaveid Meod BaMikneh BaKesef UVaZahav,” “very rich with cattle, silver, and gold” (13:2), Lot was back with Avraham.  After this constant back-and-forth, Lot saw that Avraham was not as close to death as he might have hoped, so he went to Sedom in search of wealth.

When Lot was captured in the battle of Sedom, Avraham's God-fearing followers were given riches.  We have asked why they needed the riches if they were God-fearing.  Perhaps we confused the cause and effect of these riches and their fear of God.  Maybe this was just a way in which Hashem rewards His followers.  When Lot saw that Avraham's army became rich, he realized that his entire plot to get rich was mistaken.  Lot overlooked the reason that Avraham became rich in the first place – as a reward for his Yirat Shamayim.  At this point, Lot gave up in his quest to attempt to take advantage of Avraham and instead took his own portion and left Avraham.

Lot’s experience teaches us that we must not be blinded by wealth, but instead remember Who put us here and provides for us.  When we internalize this lesson, we will merit inheriting some of what is offered to the righteous.

Numerical Righteousness by Mr. Moshe Glasser

King's Cunning by Doniel Sherman