Everyone loves to feel validated. When someone recognizes that something we do or say is accurate, it gives us a certain sense of pride. Depending on who the person agreeing with our point of view, their haskama can indeed carry weight. When a student offers a novel idea on the material they are studying and the teacher responds by agreeing or bolstering their argument with additional sources or facts, it can mean the world to them. Often times, this feeling of validation is even greater when one thinks your idea is incorrect or chooses to not listen to your advice, and ultimately, your detractor is met with disappointment. The “I told you so!” moment is one that is even sweeter. You were right, they were wrong. They should’ve listened to you, they didn’t, and now they’re paying the price. Too bad for them. Furthermore, one need not even say anything and still relish the moment that an individual who makes poor choices yields unfortunate fruits. It serves them right! Why would anyone make such a stupid decision? They got what they deserved. Yet, we learn from the protagonist of Parshas Lech Lecha that this is not the manner in which to behave when someone close to you meets with disappointment.
We read in the Parsha of Avram being tasked by God to follow His command to an unknown land. Avram obliges, and brings with him his wife (Sarai), his nephew (Lot), and the followers that he and his wife had amassed. Ultimately, Sarai ends up being taken captive as they head to Egypt due to a famine, and as she is eventually freed, she and Avram end up leaving the country with great wealth. They return to their land and there’s a disagreement with the herdsmen of Lot and Avram’s livestock over where the animals in their care should graze. Avram tells Lot to choose a direction in which to lead his flock, and he would go the opposite way. This was done not out of anger, but to prevent further strife between the two. Lot chooses to head toward the plains of Jordan until Sdom. We know from the psukim that Sdom was a city comprised of evil, sinful individuals. Nevertheless, this is where Lot decided to settle. Rashi explains that Lot knew of the evil that ran rampant in the city, yet hung out his shingle there anyway. The story takes an unfortunate turn when Lot is captured by the Sodomites, along with his possessions.
Rabbi Soloveitchik explains that we can learn a tremendous lesson from Avram in the wake of Lot’s captivity. Upon hearing that his nephew had been taken captive, the nephew that sojourned with him great distances and was a member of his own household following the death of Lot’s father, Avram decides to act. The pasuk states that Avram heard that his brother had been taken, and he armed over three hundred of those close to him in order to retrieve Lot. This is a seminal moment. The Rav notes (Abraham’s Journey p.130) that Avram could have heard this news and reacted in a much different fashion.
“A normal reaction on his part would have been to say, ‘It serves him right; I warned him not to cast his lot with the Sodomites.’ Lot had rejected Avraham and his demanding God, preferring a pleasure-seeking society to Abraham’s covenantal fellowship. Yet, Avraham did not react this way. Lit is referred to here as Avraham’s brother. A Jew must feel a duty to save his brother even if his brother has departed from the righteous path.”
It would have been so easy for Avram to have sat back and cursed his beloved nephew for deciding to settle in a land full of evildoers. It may have even made him feel good about himself. However, when his loved one was faced with tremendous adversity, it was not enough for Avram to merely feel bad for Lot. He rescued him, and brought him back to safety.
Avram, later known as Avraham, was known for his penchant for chessed. This episode with Lot was a small example of just that.