This week’s parsha begins with Avraham, Sarah and Lot travelling to the promised land of Canaan. As a result of the fact that Avraham and Sarah have no children, Lot, Avraham’s nephew, appears to be the natural choice to be his successor and inheritor of his property and his mantle of forefather of the Jewish people. Yet, although something transpires in this parsha that disqualifies Lot from this position, the Torah does not explicitly tell us what disqualified Lot.
I believe that the answer can be gleaned from the story of the quarrel between the shepherds of Avraham and the shepherds of Lot. The Torah tells us that the Land could not accommodate both of them since they both had great herds and wealth. A fight ensues between the shepherds of Avraham and the shepherds of Lot and Avraham, trying to keep the peace, offers Lot his choice of portion of land. Avraham will be satisfied with whatever remains.
The Torah tells us that Lot looks out at the “plain of the Jordan which is very fertile” and he clearly chooses this portion of the land. Then the Torah adds once final description of this piece of land, “Like the garden of God, the Land of Egypt.” Lot looked out at the plain of Jordan and he saw a portion of land that was perfect because it was like the Land of Egypt which Lot compared to the garden of God. Egypt was not unknown to the members of this family, even though they had arrived from the north. Egypt represented the center of civilization in the Ancient World. It was the antithesis of the land of Canaan, an underdeveloped land that had been promised to Avraham and to his descendants.
When Lot looked out at the plain of Jordan and chose them because they reminded him of Egypt, he showed that he was not worthy to be Avraham’s successor as he did not appreciate and understand the value and significance of the land of Canaan, the Promised Land. Lot was destined to go to Sodom and the challenge of identifying Avraham’s successor continued.
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