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What is the justification for Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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Indeed, an ignominious death hardly seems to be a proportional punishment for turning around. However, we must remember that at issue isn’t whether she deserved to die, rather whether she deserved to live! All the people of Sodom were condemned to death for their evil behavior and Lot was only saved because he was related to Abraham. [Additionally, he had one outstanding merit: he did not inform the Egyptians that Sara was indeed Abraham’s wife (see Genesis, chapter 12).] His family had even less merit—their only merit was their relation to Lot, who was related to Abraham... Furthermore, Lot’s wife was the least meritorious of the whole lot; she was the most reluctant to participate in those few good deeds Lot did do.


Lot’s wife’s life was hanging on a very thin string. By turning around she “tore the string” and shared the fate which actually belonged to her in the first place
Rashi explains that Lot was instructed not to turn around for it would be unfair to witness people suffering the very fate he actually deserved—but narrowly escaped due to Abraham’s merit. He was therefore warned that by turning around he would be forfeiting his merit, and he would experience the same fate as the others.


From this perspective, Lot’s wife’s life was hanging on a very thin string. By turning around she “tore the string” and shared the fate which actually belonged to her in the first place.


Rashi also explains that her punishment was “measure for measure.” When Lot brought home the “guests,” who were later discovered to be angles, Lot asked his wife to bring them some salt. She responded, “Have you now also taken on this bad custom [of hosting guests]”! Even with regard to the very people (angels) who came to save her, she demonstrated her evilness and her similarity to the rest of the inhabitants of Sodom.


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COMMENTS

Lot's wife

Posted by: L. Ruttka, B'ham, AL, USA on Apr 18, 2006

i do not find this verse in the scripture. We should not add text to G_d's word.??

Even though no reference was given, the assumption is that it is there. Can you explain: “Have you now also taken on this bad custom [of hosting guests]”!

Editor's Comment

1. See "What is Midrash?" (http://www.askmoses.com/qa_detail.html?h=417&o=200). 2. The people of Sodom were selfishly zealous about not hosting guests. Lot's wife was influenced by her evil environment and mocked her husband for perpetuating the "evil" custom of hospitality which he took from Abraham's home.
Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Genesis
The first book of the Five Books of Moses. It records the story of Creation and its aftermath, and chronicles the lives of the Patriarchs.