By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
In Parshas Lech Lecha, we learn how Hakadosh Boruch Hu told Avrohom Avinu to leave his home and birthplace for a promised land. Avrohom received Hashem’s promise that he would be blessed in the new country. The posuk relates that following the command to leave his home, Avrohom gathered Sarai, Lot and the nefashos they had made in Choron and left for Canaan.
Lot’s shepherds were not able to get along with those of Avrohom Avinu, and Avrohom decided that they had to separate. He told his nephew Lot to choose the area where he preferred to live and said that he would find a place for himself at a safe distance from Lot.
The posuk relates that Lot saw that the Kikar Hayardein was blessed with fertile abundance and chose it as the area where he would settle. He was looking for a quick fix. He was seeking to make a fast buck. It didn’t bother him that he would be living with the wicked people of Sedom. All he was interested in was making money. The dollar bills were dancing in front of his eyes as he surveyed the territory he had chosen as his own.
He left the company of Avrohom, the holiest and kindest man alive, to go live among the most wicked and selfish people ever to walk the earth. As soon as Avrohom asked him to leave, he was gone, with not a word of protest, off to the Kikar Hayardein, where he thought he would be better off than living in close proximity to an honest and righteous man.
Avrohom had rules that Lot did not abide by. He was upset when Lot cut corners and fed his animals from other people’s property. Lot couldn’t wait to leave and join the rich and successful people of Sedom.
We all know the rest of the story. Sedom was destroyed and its inhabitants and their wealth were obliterated. Lot was saved in the merit of Avrohom Avinu.
The solution to Lot’s problem would have been to plead with Avrohom Avinu for guidance and direction. The resolution would have been to stay true to the principles taught by Avrohom since they had lived in Choron.
We are all affected by outer appearances. Promises of fame and glory tempt many people. The things we chase after may not be good for us, but we don’t admit that. We rationalize and fall prey to the lure of Sedom. The glitter dazzles us and blinds us to what lies beneath the veneer.
We look out at the beautiful foliage and comment on how gorgeous the trees are. All summer long, they seem bland; they are all the same color. But with fall, the trees change to brilliant red, bright orange and yellow. Warm brown hues emerge and we are all taken by the blast of beauty. But it doesn’t last long. The colorful exhibition is a signal that the end is coming. The brilliant red means that the leaves are about to die, fall off and be swept away to eternal oblivion.
As long as the leaves are green, we know that they will live and endure. The bright colors are a sign that they are about to meet the fate of Sedom and all of Lot’s friends and neighbors there.
Like Lot, at times we look for shortcuts. We look for excuses. We look for a way out of fulfilling our obligations. We fail to act responsibly and utilize our gifts for the betterment of ourselves and mankind.
We should recognize how lucky and blessed we are to live in this age with so many opportunities available to us. We should take advantage of these opportunities and utilize them constructively and responsibly. We should appreciate these gifts, focus on the good and endeavor to increase goodness in our world. We should seek to help more people appreciate the beauty of the old and true and help dispel the allure of the bright and colorful hedonistic enticements.
As we witness the explosion of Torah across the country we should contemplate that not all that long ago we were written off. Yeshivos went begging for talmidim and scrapping for paltry donations to keep the impoverished institutions open.
Acting responsibly means realizing that growth doesn’t come easy and is often associated with growing pangs and various difficulties, including funding. As children of Avrohom, we cannot shirk our obligation to recognize that it is incumbent upon us to do more to help the kol Torah reverberate around our local towns and cities.
Torah is what identifies us as a people. Torah is what makes us who we are and defines what we do. Our Torah institutions should be our priority. They should claim our deepest support and respect. Instead, we allow them to go begging for the financial assistance they need to survive and flourish.
If we care about Torah, if the future of Am Yisroel is important to us, then we have to be prepared to sacrifice for it. Torah has to be our thing.
We are living in a period of financial difficulty and tension and are barely able to keep up with all the demands and obligations pressuring us. Despite that, we have to realize that we live not only for ourselves. We must make time for others. We have to recognize that as members of a larger community, we have responsibilities to each other.
In the battle for the soul of the Jewish people, we have to turn inward and strengthen ourselves in our dedication to Torah, and dig deep into our pockets and our neshamos to safeguard that which is most holy and precious to us.
There is so much good in our community. There are so many people who dedicate themselves to enhancing the tzibbur in myriad ways. They need our help if they are to succeed.
We can’t take the easy way out and depend upon others to act responsibly, operate within the proper parameters, and always behave honestly as we seek to skirt the rules. As scions of Avrohom Avinu, we shouldn’t be looking to others to faithfully carry out the burdens of communal obligation as we seek easier pastures.
If we want to enjoy the benefits of Divine blessings – and who doesn’t – we have to remain loyal to the precepts of our leaders without attempting to escape their gaze to enjoy misbegotten gains on islands of neglect and negativity. The influence of Torah must guide us in all facets of our lives. Maintaining faith and stability in turbulent times is fundamental if we wish for permanent attainment and achievement.
Temptations abound. In periods of economic downturn, the appeal of looking away from the ramifications of disregarding the rules is more dramatic. The allure of quick financing for our projects while ignoring the larger message that accepting money from dubious sources conveys, becomes yet stronger. The urge to equivocate and rationalize public appearance with corrupt characters, who translate the participation with them as conferring legitimacy on themselves and their adventures, has to be condemned and halted.
That is also part of the legacy of Avrohom Avinu, who, as the Torah relates in this week’s parsha, refused to take as much a shoestring from the King of Sedom, lest he be able to issue press releases proclaiming that he aided Avrohom. We ought not to be any different. All of our actions should be able to pass the test of Avrohom.
As people of faith, we should not be cutting corners and turning a blind eye to our obligations. We must behave in a manner that causes a kiddush Hashem and not the opposite.
The promises that Hashem made to Avrohom are extant for his progeny in posterity if we follow in his ways. As the posuk states, “Venivrichu vecha – They will be blessed through you.” By abiding by the example of Avrohom and adhering to the code he lived by, everyone can be blessed. Us too.