by Brittany Feldman – Hazon – Detroit, Michigan
This week’s Torah Portion, Vayeira, discusses circumcision, birth, destruction, disobedience, and devotion. With so many themes in one portion, I’m choosing to focus on one that stood out to me the most, disobedience.
In this particular text, “Abraham pleads with G‑d to spare the wicked city of Sodom. Two of the three disguised angels arrive in the doomed city, where Abraham’s nephew Lot extends his hospitality to them and protects them from the evil intentions of a Sodomite mob. The two guests reveal that they have come to overturn the place, and to save Lot and his family. Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt when she disobeys the command not to look back at the burning city as they flee.”
I found the last line of this text to be extremely powerful in many ways. For me, it brought up thoughts about destruction and violence- if something bad happens should we choose to just move on with our lives without looking back? Although Lot’s wife disobeyed G-d’s command can her decision be justified? I started thinking about why she would choose to disobey this command. Was it just out of curiosity or was it something more? Did she feel paralyzed in that moment, unable to move forward with her life without acknowledging the destruction that was happening behind her? Was she conflicted by her emotions? Or was this violence meant to be justified because it was happening to people in a wicked city. Then I started to wonder why did Lot listen to G-d’s command and did not turn back. Was he not conflicted by the violence happening behind him? In today’s society men are often told they need to be strong and not show their emotions. Did gender play a role in Lot’s wife decision to turn back? Perhaps she was overcome by her emotions or had an internal struggle with what was happening behind her. Or maybe she was just curious and was testing G-d by disobeying .We can think of other stories from the Torah where someone disobeys G-d’s commands, there are always repercussions. Regardless of her reasoning, was Lot’s wife punishment fair? Did this disobedience deserve death? Not just death, but the type of death, being turned her into a pillar of salt. Why was this particular punishment chosen?
I started thinking about how this text relates to today’s society. With so much violence and destruction happening around the world where do we draw the line between turning back and moving forward? There are days when my hope in humanity is tested and all I want to do is turn off the news and stay in bed. However, I know I can’t turn off all the hate in the world so I get up each day hoping that in some small I can make a difference. I wouldn’t consider myself a very disobedient person but if I was put in a situation where I was asked to turn away from the violence and destruction happening behind me I’m not so sure I would obey.
Brittany is the Program Coordinator for Environmental and Outdoor Engagement at Hazon Detroit. She attended Central Michigan University where she studied Recreation, Parks, and Leisure Services Administration. Prior to joining Hazon, she worked as an Outdoor Educator for Tamarack Camps and a Program Coordinator at the Farmington Hills Nature Center. Her background includes leading educational programs in teambuilding, adventure courses and environmental wilderness classes. In her spare time Brittany enjoys hiking, tie-dyeing, and watching the Food Network.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent Hazon. Be sure to check back weekly!