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TO LEAVE OR NOT TO LEAVE - THAT IS THE QUESTIONAnd Lot traveled from the east.?(Bereishis 13:11)
The Midrash tells us that Lot rejected the Prime Mover of the world. He said, "I don't want Avram, and I don't want his God."? (Rashi)
The following was excerpted from Birkas Mordechai, by R. Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi, Rosh Yeshivas Ateres Yisrael, Jerusalem. Chazal inform us of the hidden reason behind Lot's departure. We know that the Sages always base their comments on a careful reading of the text. Thus, their explanation derives from what the Torah itself reveals about the reason for Lot's departure. The question is, what did they see in the story that prompted them to come to this conclusion?
Chazal's assertion provokes another question as well: the Chumash expressly tells us why Lot left (Bereishis 13:6-8): the land couldn't support both Avraham and Lot, and a quarrel had broken out between their herdsmen. The two men discussed the problem and decided that the best solution would be for Lot to leave. This seems to be simple and straightforward. If so, why do Chazal tell us that there was another, deeper reason? Wasn't the reason that was mentioned explicitly in the Torah enough?
Perhaps the following anecdote can provide the answers to these questions:
A student approached the Alter of Slobodka zt"l for advice, explaining, "I don't know what to do. It's Elul now, and the Yamim Nora'im (High Holy Days) are approaching. I come from a tiny village deep within Lithuania. There is a small congregation there, and no one knows how to blow the shofar except me. What should I do?"
"What's the question?" replied the Alter. "Are you going to deprive them of hearing the shofar?"
"But what will I do on the High Holy Days sitting there among the common folk, far away from the yeshivah and my rebbes?"
"And what will you do," countered the Alter, "when your fellow Jews in your hometown, where you grew up, are left with no one to blow the shofar?"
"But won't this detract from my growth in Torah study during the coming winter? Spending Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the yeshivah provides inspiration for the whole year. If I leave, it may stifle me for months! And while everybody else is flocking here, I'll be leaving!"
"Your concern is understandable," said the Alter. "But still, how can you have so little consideration for your parents, friends, acquaintances and the rest of your village? How can you take this away from them? They must hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah."
With a heavy heart, the young man traveled back home and blew the shofar - and what a shofar blowing it was! Executed to perfection! He was sure that he had been blessed from Heaven because of his tremendous self-sacrifice.
After the holidays were over, the student returned to Slobodka and presented himself to his rebbe. To his utter astonishment, the Alter received him with a cold, curt greeting and immediately turned away.
The boy was thunderstruck. Why had the rebbe ignored him? Before leaving, he had been one of the Alter's closest talmidim. Had anything happened while he was away? He had no idea what to make of the situation.
And so the days and weeks passed by. In the middle of the winter, the young man finally found an opportune time to approach his rebbe and ask what he had done wrong. Summoning up his courage, he tremulously queried why he deserved such cold treatment. Was there some reason why his rebbe was now so reserved and distant?
"What?! Don't you know? You still don't understand? You were away from the yeshivah during the High Holy Days! How could you leave? On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur!?"
The boy stood there completely dumbfounded. He managed to stammer, "But I specifically asked the Rebbe - and then I asked again to make sure! It was so hard for me. Doesn't the Rebbe remember that I went only because he told me that it was the proper thing to do?!"
Shema Yisrael Torah Network