Vayishlechu ha’anashim es yadam vayvi’u es Lot aleihem habaysah v’es hadelet sagaru (Bereishis 19:10)
Parashas Vayeira contains the destruction of the wicked city of Sodom and its environs as punishment for their evildoing, in particular for their staunch opposition to doing kindness for others. As evidence of this hostility, the Torah records that when the townspeople found out that Lot was hosting two foreigners, they surrounded his house and demanded that he send the men out to them. Lot went outside to plea with the mob on behalf of his guests who remained safely indoors, but they mocked his entreaties and pressed against him as they sought to break down his door.
The guests, who were in reality angels in the guise of humans, rescued Lot by pulling him inside and closing the door behind him, at which point they struck the assembled group with blindness, which made it impossible for them to find the entrance. If the angels were planning to render the crowd blind and prevent them from even locating the door, why did they need to securely close it behind Lot?
Harav Yisroel Reisman points out that we find a similar phenomenon in the Haftarah for Parashas Vayeira, which discusses miracles that Elisha performed for the widow of the prophet Ovadiah. When she complained to him about her dire financial plight, he instructed her to borrow empty vessels from her neighbors, close the door behind her and miraculously fill them up with oil that she could sell to pay her debts and sustain her family (Melachim 2 4:1-7). Why did Elisha stress that she must close her door before doing so?
The Malbim explains that Elisha understood that if the influence of the outside world entered her home, it would sever her access to the heavenly channels of blessing and prevent the miracle from taking place. For this reason, it was also necessary to close the door of Lot’s house, not to keep out the blind attackers who could not find it regardless, but to prevent the spiritual stench that permeated the streets of Sodom from infiltrating his home and rendering it unfit for salvation.
Along these lines, someone once told the Baal HaTanya that when a great Chassidic Rebbe was informed that Moshiach had arrived in Yerushalayim, he opened his window, put his head outside, and replied, “It’s not true. I don’t sense the air of Moshiach.”
The Baal HaTanya questioned why the Rebbe needed to stick his head out of the window to determine the veracity of the rumor. He explained that the Rebbe’s study was so holy that the atmosphere of Moshiach constantly pervaded it, so he was compelled to put his head outside to assess the situation there.
Rav Reisman adds that this message is extremely relevant to our generation. In the times of Lot and Elisha, it was at least possible to keep outside influences away by closing one’s door, but with today’s wireless technology, no number of doors and locks can keep the values of secular culture out of our living rooms and worse, our shuls and study halls.
It has tragically become common to see people interrupting their Torah study and prayers to check the latest messages and updates on their cell phones, oblivious to the disrespect they display by introducing the impurities of the outside world into our most sacred places, and demonstrating that they value these time-wasting trivialities more than the infinite reward for engaging in spiritual pursuits. Let us resolve to learn from Lot and Elisha that the key to bringing holiness and blessing into our lives is our commitment to leaving the morals and influences of the outside world outside, where they belong.
Q: Just as Avraham was about to kill Yitzchak, an angel called out and commanded him not to harm his son. Avraham then looked up and saw a ram caught in the bushes by its horns, and he proceeded to sacrifice it in lieu of Yitzchak (Bereishis 22:12-13). How old was the substitute ram?
A: The Mishnah teaches that the ram offered by Avraham in place of Yitzchak was created at dusk on Erev Shabbos at the end of the week of Creation. Avraham was born in the year 1948 and was 100 when Yitzchak was born (21:5), in the year 2048. Since Yitzchak was 37 at the Akeidah (Bereishis Rabbah 56:8), the ram was 2085 years old at that time. How was it able to live for so long?
The Ichud b’Chidud cites a sefer called Metzudos Dovid, whose author points out that Rashi writes that not only did Chava eat from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, but she also fed the forbidden fruit to every animal, which caused them to be included in the decree of death that resulted from the sin. The Gemara states that Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge during the tenth hour of the day on that initial Erev Shabbos. Because the ram was not yet created until later that day, it never consumed the forbidden fruit. Thus, it was exempt from the punishment of death and was theoretically capable of living forever.
Similarly, the Midrash says that the donkey on which Moshiach will ride (Zechariah 9:9) is the child of Bilaam’s talking donkey. How will Moshiach’s donkey live for so long? Since the Mishnah records that Bilaam’s donkey was also created at dusk, it never ate from the Tree of Knowledge, in which case it and its progeny can live forever.
Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.