The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

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Thursday, 7 January 2010

Seeing Salt

In this week's Parasha, Lot's wife is the victim of a salt. We read in Perek 19 Pasuk 26:
"ותבט אשתו מאחריו ותהי נציב מלח ."
Rashi, seeking to explain why salt of all things was used to punish her, comments "she sinned with salt and so was stricken with salt”. He quotes further a Medrash about Lot's wife criticizing Lot for welcoming guests into their house. She then went and borrowing salt from her neighbours, making a point about how it was for guests - Sodom having strict laws against having guests. But Rashi seems to have made things worse. Surely we were told by the Pasuk itself that she was punished for looking backwards at Sodom, which she had been commanded not to do (see Pasuk 17 earlier)? Why is the sin with salt relevant to this?

[I once heard my father talking about Korach's sons.] We know that as the ground opened up to swallow Korach et al, his sons did teshuva and were caught on a ledge under the ground. There is a Gemara that says they stand there still, singing "Moshe is true and his Torah is true, and we are liars" (using a poetic third-person for "we"). Obvious question: if they are standing singing that, why are they still down there? Why does Hashem not let them out?

The answer is that we should read the Gemara better. It should go, "Moshe is true and his Torah is true." "And they - Korach's sons - are liars." They stand there singing, but they still don't quite
believe. They know how to do teshuva; they accepted that they are wrong. But their teshuva is not - yet - a complete teshuva.

The same is true about Lot's wife. If you think about it, being turned into a pillar of salt is a rather harsh punishment for looking back at a fantastic fireworks display! But think a bit further and you'll realise what the meaning of the angel's command was. When someone "looks back" at something they're running away from, it's a sign of regret at what they're leaving behind. Lot's wife wasn't glancing back; she was staring at the home she was leaving, unwilling to let it go. You can take Lot's wife out of Sodom, but you can't take the Sodom out of Lot's wife. And so, she was punished just as the rest of Sodom were punished.

It should now become clear what Rashi was get-ting at by mentioning the sin with salt. Lot's wife was not being punished for looking back; she was being punished because she looked back for the sins she did in Sodom... and that was through salt.

Problem salted.

By Yisroel Greenberg - Former Editor

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