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Dvar for Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

As two of the angels arrive in Sedom to destroy it, Lot, who positions himself at the city’s gates, invites them to his home to eat and rest (19:2). Inviting guests into Sedom is a crime (Midrash Tanchuma), so Lot technically risks his life by insisting that the angels join him. Lot even brings them to his home in a roundabout way to avoid detection, and once the city finds out about the guests and demands their release, Lot offers his daughters in place of his guests (19:8). How are these actions not more impressive than Avraham’s? Why is Lot not known for his benevolent acts of kindness?

Rabbi Yochanan Zweig proposes that the Torah conveys the motivation for Lot’s actions: “for they have come under the shelter of my roof” (19:8). For Lot, his kindness was about power and reputation, all ego-driven, to the point that he was willing to “generously” offer his daughters to the people to protect his charitable reputation. In contrast, Avraham’s actions were selfless and benevolent. Further, the fact that he brought his family into his own kindness demonstrates that it wasn’t only about him, which is a more instructive and enduring message for all of us.