- Parshat Lech Lecha
A responsible adult is needed
"Let there be no strife between you and me, for we are kinsmen"
Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald
The Parasha in our everyday life - Lech Lecha - 5781
The way Abraham handles the family conflict that developed with Lot is supposed to teach us a lesson for generations.
Abraham "adopted" Lot, his younger brother's son, and he accompanied him on his journey to the Land of Israel. Over the years, Abraham became kind of a 'mentor' to Lot; he accompanies, promotes, and develops him spiritually and business-wise. The results did not wait to come, Lot succeeded in his business, and Abraham was privileged to get Lot on his feet:
וְגַם־לְל֔וֹט הַהֹלֵ֖ךְ אֶת־אַבְרָ֑ם הָיָ֥ה צֹאן־וּבָקָ֖ר וְאֹהָלִֽים׃
"Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents" (Bereshit 13:5)
"his newfound wealth was due only to the fact that he was a fellow traveler of Abram" (Radak ibid).
But it is precisely when Lot begins to succeed in his business that tensions and disputes begin to form between him and Abraham, in the spiritual, ideological, and economic spheres:
וזה היה משני טעמים א] כי היה רכושם רב וצר להם המקום ב] ולא יכלו לשבת יחדו, כי לוט התחיל להתפרד מדעות אברהם וממנהגיו, וזה עורר שנאה ביניהם בלב
"The land was unable to support them. This was for two reasons: 1) There was insufficient room for their great wealth. 2) Lot had begun to deviate from Abraham’s ways, which is why they were unable to dwell together." (Malbim on Bereshit 13:6)
Lot had the impression that his further economic development may be harmed by the fact that he is with Abraham. From then on, the tension and controversy turn into a quarrel.
The family quarrel between them expands into more circles, as a quarrel between the slaves as well:
וַֽיְהִי־רִ֗יב בֵּ֚ין רֹעֵ֣י מִקְנֵֽה־אַבְרָ֔ם וּבֵ֖ין רֹעֵ֣י מִקְנֵה־ל֑וֹט וְהַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ וְהַפְּרִזִּ֔י אָ֖ז יֹשֵׁ֥ב בָּאָֽרֶץ׃
"And there was quarreling between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and those of Lot’s cattle. The Canaanites and Perizzites were then dwelling in the land." (Bereshit 13: 7)
שכאשר חדלה האהבה בין האחים, עשה זה פרי בין עבדיהם
"when the love between the brothers ceased, it influenced also their servants" (Malbim there).
The situation deteriorated and became unbearable. As a result, the Canaanite also strengthens and takes over territories in the land.
For the side observer, there is no doubt as to Abraham's righteousness and Lot's unfairness and ingratitude, disregarding the fact that the property he acquired was:
בזכות אברהם, ובכ"ז לא שם זאת על לבו
"thanks to Abraham, and yet he did not put it on his heart" (Malbim ibid pasuk 5).
Abraham, however, does come to terms with it, he is not hurt, and does not rebuke or reproach Lot's conduct. He acts as a 'responsible adult', who takes responsibility for the situation, in order to prevent the conflict from escalating, even though he is not to blame and he is not the one who 'started' it.
Abraham seeks to reach an agreed solution out of his positive attitude.
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אַבְרָ֜ם אֶל־ל֗וֹט אַל־נָ֨א תְהִ֤י מְרִיבָה֙ בֵּינִ֣י וּבֵינֶ֔יךָ וּבֵ֥ין רֹעַ֖י וּבֵ֣ין רֹעֶ֑יךָ כִּֽי־אֲנָשִׁ֥ים אַחִ֖ים אֲנָֽחְנוּ׃
"Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, between my herdsmen and yours, for we are kinsmen." (Bereshit 13:8)
As a 'responsible adult', he even generously suggests to Lot that he be given the right of way to choose the solution, of his own free will, according to his viability.
הִפָּ֥רֶד נָ֖א מֵעָלָ֑י אִם־הַשְּׂמֹ֣אל וְאֵימִ֔נָה וְאִם־הַיָּמִ֖ין וְאַשְׂמְאִֽילָה׃
"Let us separate: if you go north, I will go south; and if you go south, I will go north.” (ibid pasuk 9)
ועוד אני אומר לך כי נפשי רחבה וכל שכן לאחי אתן הבחירה. אם השמאל ואימנה, אם תרצה אתה ללכת לצפון הארץ אני אהיה לדרום הארץ
"He added, that seeing he was a generous person, all the more, so when the other person involved was his brother, he therefore offered the choice to Lot. What he meant was “if you will move north, I will be south of you, whereas if you move south, I will be north of you" (Radak ibid)
שנתן לו הברירה לאיזה צד הוא יפרד
He gave him the choice of which side he would part with (Haamek Davar ibid).
It might seem that Abraham and Lot decided on a breakup, that their paths are separated, and each is going his own way. But Abraham, as the 'responsible adult', promises that he will continue to take care of Lot's safety and security, even in his new place:
בְּכָל אֲשֶׁר תֵּשֵׁב, לֹא אֶתְרַחֵק מִמְּךָ וְאֶעֱמֹד לְךָ לְמָגֵן וּלְעֵזֶר
"Wherever you settle down I will not go far from you and I will stand by you as a shield and as a helper. " (Rashi ibid).
Even when Lot was captured in the War of the Four and Five kings, Abraham does not spite against him and as a 'responsible adult' he goes into military action to rescue him from captivity:
וְסוֹף דָּבָר הֻצְרַךְ לוֹ, שְׁנֶּאֱמַר וַיִּשְׁמַע אַבְרָם כִּי נִשְׁבָּה אָחִיו וְגוֹ.
"Ultimately, indeed, he (Lot) was really in need of him, as it is said, (Bereshit 14:14) “And Abram heard that his brother was taken captive etc.” (Rashi ibid)
ראה ענותנותו של אברהם אבינו, אחר כל המריבה שעשו עמו... לא זכר אברהם אבינו את המריבה
" Look, however, at the humility of our father Abraham after all the strife they had had with him… Our father Abraham did not remember the strife but called him his brother, as stated (in Ber. 13:8): For we are brothers". (Midrash Tanchuma Buber, Lech Lecha siman 16).
The people of Israel are in an ongoing ideological, political, and social controversy. Each side is sure of its righteousness, and it is certain that the other side is guilty and that 'they began'. It is clear to everyone that the problem needs to be resolved before it gets worse and out of control. For the time being, the leader has not been found, whose actions and utterances lower the flames, meanwhile they slap each other and kindle the fire. The people of Israel need desperately a 'responsible adult', not one who has no opinion, but one who in his wisdom will find a way to return the dispute to the level of an argument and not of a quarrel. A leader who will read: "Let there be no strife between you and me, for we are kinsmen."