Parashat Vayeira ((And He Appeared) Genesis 18:1-22:24
Haftarah: 2 Kings 4:1-37
In this week’s Torah portion there is a great example of the danger of relying on one’s own understanding of a given situation, rather than simply obeying the word of G-d. In the section dealing with the destruction of S’dom and Gomorrah, the daughters of Lot believed that humanity was destroyed and only their family was left. Therefore they felt it was their responsibility to preserve the human race by having children. The problem was that they assumed incorrectly that the only male who was alive was their father. The text says,
“And the first born daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old and there is no man in the earth to enter into us according to the way of the land. Come let us make drunk our father with wine and we will lay with him and we will make alive an offspring from our father.”
Such behavior is obviously a violation of the commandment concerning incest; however it seemed to the two daughters a reasonable action given the dire situation in which they found themselves. Here lies the problem; we often assume that a given situation demands violating a biblical law, when this is not the case. One might respond with the example that Yeshua gives in Matthew 12:11,
“And He said unto them, ‘What man among you that if one of his sheep shall fall into a pit on Shabbat, will he not take hold of it to lift it out?”
In other words, does not this verse allow for violating a Torah commandment in order to save a life? The answer is yes it does, but in the case with Lot’s two daughters no life was threatened, rather only the assumption that there will be no additional life in the future. Although the daughters may not have known that there were other people in the world outside those in S’dom and Gomorrah, Lot certainly did. Had the daughters sought his counsel, their sinful act could have been avoided. Please notice how in order to accomplish the primary sin of having sexual relations with their father, another sin had to be committed, i.e. getting their father drunk.
A good rule of thumb is if one needs to commit multiple sins in order to accomplish his objective, then this objective is clearly not in the will of G-d. The daughters did not consult with their father because they knew he would not have agreed. This shows rebellion on the part of these two daughters. Because a gross violation of the Torah was committed, the outcome was very severe: two of Israel’s enemies were established- Moab and Ammon.
Before one thinks that it is permissible to disregard a biblical commandment, seek much wise counsel and study the situation thoroughly in the Scripture. G-d would not have given such a commandment, unless He considered the very situation in which the person finds himself.
Note: I am aware that the Torah had not been given during the time of these events; but it is clear that the two daughters knew that lying with their father was wrong. An important hermeneutical principle is that the text was written for the reader, not for those about whom the text is written.
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