Genesis Fiction: Vayera
[Listen to the podcast]
Escape from Sodom
“Get your hand off of me!” Edis shrieked at Archangel Michael.
Michael did not pay any attention to Edis. With an inhuman single-mindedness Michael took the hand of Lot and his wife Edis and proceeded to walk them briskly out of the city of Sodom, under the darkly overcast sky.
Archangel Gabriel was doing the same with Lot’s youngest daughters. Madis, the older of the two was on his right and Atis, the youngest, on his left. Each girl was firmly in hand, unable to escape the iron grasp and unable to do anything but keep pace with the rapidly moving angel.
Lot’s two older daughters, standing beside their husbands looked on in disbelief as the strange procession quickly moved away from them, from the courtyard of Lot’s house.
“Where are you going?” Shutis, the oldest called out.
“We are leaving. Now.” Lot called back hastily, “Sodom will be destroyed any minute.”
“I just need to gather a few more things and I will catch up with you.” Shutis promised, while her husband could be heard still giggling in incomprehension.
“No!” Lot demanded, “There is no time. Come with us right now or you will be lost!”
“Remember to bring my jeweled hairpin!” Edis offered hopefully.
Shutis quickly ran back into the house and was out of earshot.
“We are going to destroy the entire plain.” Gabriel explained in a neutral tone, keeping up the fast pace.
“Please. Please wait for the rest of my family.” Lot pleaded.
“It is too late.” Gabriel said with a firm finality. “They are more interested in their material possessions than in their lives.”
“What are you talking about?” Edis asked angrily. “They are coming right along. And the things they are bringing are important.”
“You do not understand, woman. The sins of these cities are so great that God could not wait any longer to destroy them. And destroy them we shall. Utterly. Nothing shall remain of what you knew as Sodom. If it were not for the merit of your uncle Abraham, you too would now die in the city.”
And then they were outside the gates of the city.
Michael and Gabriel simultaneously released their captives.
Gabriel raised his hands to the sky. The dark clouds poured fiery stones and acidic rain. Lot and his family heard a crescendo of screams from inside the city. An acrid smell of burning flesh filled the air.
Michael spoke with a booming voice that resonated to the heavens.
“Flee for your life! Do not look behind you or stop anywhere in all the plain; flee to the mountain lest you be swept away.”
Michael raised his hand and a beam of light erupted from his fingertips. The light reached the side of the mountain. Rock and earth exploded sending fragments in all directions. The mountain was shrouded by a cloud of debris. After moments, the dust settled. To their complete astonishment Lot and his family saw the contours of a road. The road was the straightest and smoothest road they have ever seen. It led straight up the mountain. To Abraham.
Lot loved his uncle, but could never return to him again. In his uncles’ shadow he would always be lesser. The sinner. The bad one. Repugnant. Worthless. He would die before he returned to Abraham. No. He needed to escape elsewhere. Now.
Lot fell to his knees and begged. “Please, no! My Lord – See, now, Your servant has found grace in Your eyes and Your kindness was great which You did with me to save my life; but I cannot escape to the mountain lest the evil attach itself to me and I die. Behold, please, this city is near enough to escape there,” Lot pointed further up the plain, “and it is small.” Lot’s voice started to break. “I shall flee there. Is it not small? – and I will live.”
Michael stood pensively for a moment and then replied:
“Behold, I have granted you consideration even regarding this, that I not overturn the city about which you have spoken. Hurry, flee there, for I cannot do a thing until you arrive there.”
Michael raised his hand towards the city that would be called Zoar. Light radiated from his hand and tore through the rolling fields of grass and pasture. On the uphill slope to Zoar, Michael had again created a road.
Michael then vanished into thin air, while Gabriel continued to rain down fire and brimstone on Sodom.
The heat behind them increased. Lot grabbed his daughters and yelled to Edis: “Edis. Let us go. Let us save at least these two children.”
The family walked briskly but mechanically up the hill, through a thickening fog of ash. They were in shock, not understanding what was occurring.
The girls were the first to start crying. They slowed down.
Lot continued to pull them by the hand. “Madis. Atis. Let us go. We must keep on moving. And whatever you do – do not look back.”
The wails from Sodom were reaching a fevered pitch. The scent of fire and burned flesh was overwhelming. Then the screams quieted down. Finally it was silent. Ominously quiet.
Edis had been crying quietly, tears flowing down her soot-covered face, slowing repeating: “My babies. My poor babies.”
She looked at Lot, walking in front of her with the two girls. Her anguish turned to confusion and then to anger.
She lunged for Lot knocking him to the ground. She punched him on the back with her fists.
“It is all your fault!” Edis sobbed hysterically. “My babies are dead! My jewels gone! Why did you have to invite those beings in! You are always trying to be better than everyone else. Superior! You and your morality! You are a filthy lustful leech just like everyone else! But look at what you have done! Look at what you have done!!”
Madis and Atis quickly grabbed their mother from either side and gently lifted her off of Lot. Lot got back on his feet and looked at Edis tenderly.
“I am sorry Edis, but it is not my fault. The Sodomites were so immoral that it was inevitable that they would be punished. I did would I could, but it was not enough. The chiefs of Sodom sneered and threatened me when I raised even a hint of kindness.” Lot bowed his head. “I am sorry for our children. They too would not listen. We tried.”
“Sorry!? Tried!?” Edis asked, mad with grief. “You sniveling excuse of a man. I will go back and find them.”
“Edis.” Lot said very firmly, clasping her arm. “We cannot go back. We cannot even look back or we will surely die.”
Instinctively, Madis and Atis positioned themselves behind their mother, to prevent her from going backwards and to block her view if she turned.
Edis abruptly ripped her arm out of Lot’s grip. “How dare you tell me what to do? My wealth is destroyed. My babies are laying, maybe dead back home, or they might be following us right now, and you are too cowardly to save them, to even turn around and see? I will go myself if I have to.”
“Mother! No!” Madis grabbed her mother from behind. “Did you not hear the angel? Everyone is dead. I can feel the heat getting closer. If we do not continue, if we even look back, we will die. We will!”
“How can I go on?” Edis was sobbing uncontrollably. “My babies are dead. My husband is no husband. Where will we go? What about my house? My jewelry? My friends? I must return.”
Edis started to slip out of Madis’ embrace. Atis saw the movement and she tried to grab her mother and block her view. But Edis was quicker. She turned around now embraced on either side by her loving daughters and took a full frontal look at the destruction of Sodom.
She could not believe her eyes. The lush fields. The strong walls. The rich houses. The colorful courtyards. They were completely destroyed. The entire plain was blackened and distorted. Thick black smoke covered the entire sky. The only color in the world was the red of angry flames consuming the dead remains of a once proud civilization.
Then she understood. She understood that Sodom was completely evil. She understood that she was an active participant and she knew that she too deserved to die.
Salty tears poured freely down her face, pooling around her feet.
The tingling started in her toes. They became numb. The feeling spread quickly up her legs. Edis gasped in shock and looked down at her legs. Madis and Atis jumped backed and stared in disbelief at what seemed like salt replacing her skin. Edis could taste the salt in her mouth as the metamorphosis worked its way up her torso. Edis’ feeling of horror was mirrored on the faces of her daughters.
“MOTHER!!” they cried in unison, grabbing her again, as if by embracing her they could stop the process.
Edis had time for only three words before the transformation was complete.
“I am sorry.” she whispered with her last tears.
And then she was a pillar of salt.
* * * * * *
Sources: compiled, organized and translated in “Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities” of Yishai Chasidah (i.e. “Ishai HaTanach”), Shaar Press 1994
“Lot’s wife was called Edis.” Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 25
“She was a native of Sodom.” Targum Yonatan, Bereshit 19:26
“He had four daughters: two betrothed and two married.” Bereshit Rabbah 50:9
“The angel Gabriel went to overturn Sodom, and Michael to save Lot.” Bava Metzia 86b
“The angels urged Lot on” (Genesis 19:15). An angel leveled the road before them to expedite Lot’s flight.” Bereshit Rabbah 50:10
“I cannot escape to the mountain.” (Genesis 19:19) While I was in Sodom, the Holy One, Blessed is He, saw my deeds and the deeds of my town and I was righteous in comparison. If I now go to Abraham, whose good deeds are more numerous than mine, I will be unable to withstand his burning coal [i.e., I will be considered wicked in comparison and will be punished]” Yalkut Shimoni, Vayeira 84
“The compassion of Edis, Lot’s wife, welled up for her married daughters in Sodom, and she looked back to see if they were following her.” Midrash Hagadol, Bereshit 19:26
“She went to the neighbors under the pretext of borrowing salt and said, “We ourselves do not need salt; guests have come to us.” In this way the people of Sodom knew about the angels. Therefore, she was turned into salt.” Bereshit Rabbah 51:5