This week I have the advantage that my seven year old son Nati is learning Parashas Vayeira so last week we were discussing the Rashi (Bereishis 19:1) that writes that regarding Avraham the visiting angels were referred to as אנשים, men, whereas regarding Lot they were referred to as מלאכים, angels. Rashi offers two explanations for this discrepancy. One explanation is that when the angels were by Avraham, the Divine Presence was with Avraham so it would not be appropriate to refer to them as angels. Alternatively, Avraham was on a high spiritual level and he was accustomed to visits from angels, so they are referred to as men, whereas by Lot they are referred to as angels. The difficulty with this resolution of Rashi, however, is that subsequent to the first instance where the angels are referred to as מלאכים, they are always referred to as אנשים, except for one instance (verse 15). Immediately I assumed the Chizkuni would raise this issue, and sure enough, the Chizkuni writes that the reason that subsequent to the angels’ arrival the Torah refers to the angels as men is because the Torah is offering us the perspective of the Sodomites who perceived the angels as men.
My son Nati suggested an amazing insight and I would like to present it here. True, when the angels first arrived by Lot, he was not worthy of receiving angels and the Torah therefore states that it was angels who entered his home. However, once exposed to such exalted beings, Lot could not help but become elevated and subsequent to their arrival Lot was now on par with the angels.
We find a similar idea regarding the animals that entered the Ark. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 108b) states that the impure animals who entered the Ark were איש ואשה, man and wife. The Gemara wonders how this could be, as there is a rule that אין אישות לבהמה, the animals do not have the precept of marriage. The Gemara answers that the Torah is referring to the animals that did not engage in sin. Rabbi Yaakov Galinsky zt”l asked Rav Chaim Kanievsky, “what has the Gemara gained with its answer? We still must abide by the rule that animals are not marriageable!” Rav Chaim Shlita proceeded to show Rav Galinsky zt”l the Aruch (printed on this side of the Gemara) who writes that due to the animals loyalty to each other, the Torah conferred upon them the lofty status of marriage that is normally reserved for humans. Rav Galinsky derived from the words of the Aruch that even one who lives in a decadent society can rise to the level of Torah against of previous generations.
We can suggest that Lot, too, despite his own promiscuity and that of his fellow Sodomites, was able for the moment to transcend the decadence and rise to the level of Avraham is his acts of his hospitality.
We conclude the with the Medrash that cites the verse in Tehillim (89:21) that states מָצָאתִי דָּוִד עַבְדִּי, I have found Dovid, My Servant, and the Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 50:10) comments, “I found him in Sodom.” Where do we chance upon the pious and holy Dovid HaMelech, forerunner of the Messianic Dynasty? In Sodom, of all places. If Dovid can emerge from Sodom (this refers to Lot begetting Moav from his daughter, and Rus, a Moabite convert, gave birth to Oved, who beget Yishai who was the father of Dovid) then we certainly can rise above our decadent society and continue to attaining lofty levels of spirituality.
Have a Transcending Shabbos!