Category Archives: Parsha

Death Pangs

Genesis: Vayishlach

Death Pangs

“Push!” Yimeh, the midwife urged, “I can see the baby’s head.”

“There is no more strength in me;” Rachel breathed heavily, “this child has drained my life.”

Rachel was in birthing position on the bed in her tent. Bilhah and Zilpah held Rachel’s arms on either side, while Yimeh was squatting at the foot of the bed, ready to catch the newborn should it succeed in exiting Rachel’s swollen womb. Leah was running back and forth, preparing hot water, getting fresh cloths and doing anything to keep busy. Leah could not bring herself to be in direct contact with her dying sister.

Yes. Rachel was undoubtedly dying. Leah had seen the signs at the birthing-deaths of other women. Rachel’s loss of blood during labor was severe. It was a miracle she had not died already, and that the baby was not stillborn. There was only hope for the baby now, though that too was diminishing quickly.

“Save your breath,” Yimeh said more urgently to Rachel, “the only thing you need do in this world now is push.

“Call Jacob,” Rachel pleaded weakly, “I must see him one last time before I die.”

“I said stop talking!” Yimeh clamped the palm of her hand over Rachel’s mouth, “Push! Do not speak! Push! Push! Push!”

Rachel was shocked by Yimeh’s vehemence and awoke from her stupor. With renewed energy and concentration she started to push.

“That is it.” Yimeh encouraged, “Push in time with the urge.”

Leah in the meantime exited the tent to look for Jacob and at least fulfill her sister’s dying wish.

“You are doing it,” Yimeh reported, “the head is starting to descend.”

“Aaargh!” Rachel screamed, “it is killing me!”

“Do not talk!” Yimeh clamped Rachel’s mouth again, “Do not even scream. Use the pain to push. It is all about pushing now. There is nothing else in the world. Not pain, not limbs, not a baby, not even yourself. You must become a pushing machine, a pushing entity, for the next few moments. Push!”

Yimeh kept her hand on Rachel’s mouth, stifling the next scream.

“I can see the head!” Yimeh exclaimed, “That is very good. Now is the critical part. Listen, Rachel. With the next urge, you must push with all your might. As if the entire world depended on it. I am taking my hand off now. Do not speak. Take a deep breath. Do not do anything else but push at the next urge with your entire being.”

Rachel nodded her understanding. She took a deep breath. Her eyes focused on nothing. Then gritting her teeth, clenching the arms of Bilhah on her right and Zilpah on her left, she pushed.

“Yes! Now! Push!!” Yimeh yelled.

“Nnnggh!” Rachel grunted through her shut mouth.

“The head is out!” Yimeh proclaimed, as she tried to ease the baby out. “The hardest part is over Rachel. Just a few more pushes and you will be done.”

“More?” Rachel asked incredulously, dazed from her last effort.

“Yes.” Yimeh answered, focused on the baby, “Just two or three more pushes to get the rest of the body through.”

“Hah!” Rachel laughed weakly, “I am surprised the last push did not kill me. You will have to do the rest of the pushing, Yimeh.”

“You are not done yet.” Yimeh retorted.

“This body is –“ but Rachel inexorably started to push.

“Very good, Rachel,” Yimeh calmly said as she supported the baby’s head. “Save your breath and keep pushing. The first shoulder is out.”

Jacob suddenly entered the tent with Leah right behind him.

He was shocked by the large pools of blood on the bed and the floor.

He stood silently, looking at the pained and dying Rachel, whom he now understood he would lose momentarily. He then looked at the head of the baby struggling to escape the dying womb. If Rachel did not succeed, it might very well be its tomb.

“Jacob!” Rachel shouted out as soon as she noticed him.

“Quiet!” Yimeh commanded. “Do I need to clamp your mouth again? The very life of this child depends on you not speaking. You must focus on the last pushes. My lord,” Yimeh addressed Jacob, “please do not distract her. The life of your child hangs in the balance.”

Jacob moved to the back of the tent behind Rachel’s view and quietly said to Rachel:

“I am here, my love. Focus on the labor and what Yimeh instructs you. I shall not leave you. Have no fear.”

Rachel’s answer was only: “Nnngh!”

“The second shoulder is out!” Yimeh called out joyously as she delivered the baby.

“Whaaaah!” the baby wailed before Yimeh even had a chance to give it the customary slap.

Yimeh expertly wiped the baby down and clamped the umbilical cord. She then wrapped the baby in fresh cloth and gingerly handed it to the dying mother.

“Have no fear, for this one, too, is a son for you.” Yimeh said, knowing the last words Rachel would want to hear.

Rachel clasped the boy to her and cried tears of joy and of sorrow. She turned her head to look at Jacob. She thought back to their first meeting by the well. She thought of their history. She thought of all that went unsaid and undone between them. To the life that might have been. To the children she might have raised.

Clutching the boy to her chest, with tears streaming down her face, she used her last breath to name him. “He shall be called ‘Son of my Sorrow’ – Ben-oni.”

Rachel then closed her eyes for the last time, still holding the boy tightly.

The tent was as silent as a grave.

Yimeh extracted the boy from Rachel’s dead embrace and handed him to Jacob.

Jacob cradled him tenderly in his right arm, as wordless tears rolled down his beard.

“This is a day of deep sorrow for me,” Jacob finally exhaled, “and for you my son. For you shall not know your mother, the love of my life. But your existence should not be further colored by sorrow. You are the last gift of my Rachel. Oh! My beloved, Rachel!” Jacob wept.

“’Son of my Sorrow’ is not fitting for you.” Jacob continued through his tears, “Rather, you shall remain constantly by my side. You whose countenance is so much like my Rachel. You shall be named ‘Son of my Right Arm’ – Benjamin.”

“Whaah!” was Benjamin’s only answer.

* * * * * *


“They journeyed to Bet-El and there was still a stretch of land to go to Ephrath, when Rachel went into labor and had difficulty in her childbirth. And it was when she had difficulty in her labor that the midwife said to her, “Have no fear, for this one, too, is a son for you.” And it came to pass, as her soul was departing – for she died – that she called his name Son of my Sorrow (Ben-oni), but his father called him Benjamin.” Genesis 35:16-18

The Price of Fear

Genesis: Vayishlach

The Price of Fear

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”

The Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear, “Dune”, Frank Herbert

Paul Atreides, the hero of Frank Herbert’s classic Sci-Fi epic “Dune”, overcomes his fear by reciting the Bene Gesserit Litany. If only it were always that easy.

In Jacob’s biblical struggle with the angel, he is wounded. Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) attributes the angel’s ability to wound Jacob as a result of fear.

Jacob’s apparently bloodthirsty brother, Esau, was on his way to confront Jacob together with 400 of his men (posse anybody?). It would seem normal, if not prudent, to have some fear of the situation. Hizkuni however, is of the opinion that we should not have fear of any mortal device or intention. This requires a high level of general faith. Hizkuni seems to demand this of Jacob. Jacob is further taken to task as he had been reassured previously and directly by none other than God Himself (can’t ask for a better bodyguard):

“Behold I am with you; I will guard you wherever you go.” Genesis 28:15

Because Jacob exhibited fear –

“Jacob became very frightened, and it distressed him.” Genesis 32:8

— he became vulnerable to attack and injury. Otherwise, Hizkuni claims, he would have been impervious to attack.

In the popularized words of FDR:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945), First Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1933

When they are fearful, I often tell my children that fear is a healthy thing – a sign of intelligence. If we did not fear (and respect) the flame, we would get burned. The key is to establish the correct relationship to the fear.

One last quote:

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)

May we succeed in conquering all our fears, and thereby prevent unnecessary injury.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the memory of Frank Herbert, the creator of what many have termed the best Science-Fiction book ever – “Dune”. Even non-Sci-Fi fans might appreciate his masterpiece.

The Shepherd’s Kiss

Genesis: Vayetze

Jacob & Rachel Kiss

The Shepherd’s Kiss

“Be wary of Nerun,” Lavan called after Rachel “He may try to use his larger flock to crowd you away from the well.”

Rachel duly noted the warning as she herded her father’s small flock of sheep towards the local well.

Rachel hummed a merry tune to herself as she slowly moved the sheep along.

“Shaggy!” Rachel commanded with an authoritative voice while waving her staff, “Stay in line!”

A particularly hairy sheep immediately turned back into the formation of the flock.

From the distance Rachel could already spot three different flocks of sheep congregating around the stone-capped well.

That larger flock is obviously Nerun’s. Rachel thought to herself. I will be on guard. That speckled flock must be Shanar’s; and those beautifully combed animals can only be those of kindly Zoab.

Rachel was then surprised to see not three, but four men by the side of the well. Even from a distance Rachel recognized the outline and posture of Nerun and Zoab sitting and playing a game of shesh-besh. Shanar was sitting next to them conversing with a stranger. Shanar gestured towards Rachel and the stranger looked at her from the distance.

Who is that stranger? I do not recognize him at all. And that red hair!? I thought only our family had red hair? He must be a descendent of Terach as well. Only Terach’s descendents are noted for their red hair.

Shanar and the stranger then both started pointing at the massive stone covering the well.

Who can he be? Think girl, think! He must be of the descendents of either Lot or Abraham. The children of Lot are reputed as being fairly insular so I can not imagine they would venture north of their territories. And it cannot be from the children of Ishmael. They all have much darker complexions. It must be one of Isaac and Rebecca’s twins! It is clearly not the hairy brigand, Esau. It is Jacob!

Rachel started to flush with excitement. Jacob, my cousin, had been mentioned as a potential match for me. But the distances had made the thought impractical. And now he is here! Rachel looked herself over quickly, smoothed out her dress and combed back her hair with her hands. She knew that men were attracted to her, but she still wanted to look as best as she could. She continued towards the well, striding confidently with a bounce in her step, whistling a merry tune, radiating joy and beauty.

There was a small hill that obstructed her view of the well for a moment. And then, she was there facing him. Jacob looked into her eyes.

Their eyes connected like a shock of lightning that took Rachel’s breath away. She could not believe that a mere look could have such an effect on her. She wanted to lose herself in those eyes. But then something in those deep eyes changed. And to Rachel’s great surprise instead of stepping closer, Jacob moved towards the well.

What is he doing?

Jacob quickly inspected the massive well-stone. He found sturdy handholds and planted his feet firmly in the ground.

He means to move the well-stone himself. He must be mad! It would take at least six grown men to move it. This is why the shepherds need to wait for everyone to come.

At first the stone did not move. By now Nerun, Shanar and Zoab were on their feet laughing at the foolish stranger. But then it moved. It moved ever so slowly. Jacob, with muscles bulging, gathered momentum and pushed the stone off the well.


Then as if Jacob had annulled the laws of nature, the well water rose towards Jacob.

He is truly a grandson of Abraham. He is mighty and God is with him.

Jacob took a nearby bucket, scooped water from the well and started to give water to Rachel’s sheep.

Rachel had time to get over the initial excitement and look at Jacob more closely.

Why is he all alone? Why did he not come with gold laden camels as when his father sent for my aunt? Look at his clothing! He is in rags. He is impoverished. Is that why he is acting so strangely? Is he trying to show his worth as a shepherd?

Jacob went back and forth wordlessly from the well to the sheep, making sure to water every last one of them.

I do not care if he is a pauper. If he will have me, I will be his. I will not leave him for as long as I live. I shall do whatever I can to marry this man!

As if in response to her thoughts Jacob finished watering the sheep. He turned towards Rachel and without a single word gave Rachel a kiss. It was a kiss on the cheek the like that cousins often give to each other. But this kiss was filled with such tenderness, such love and such longing that Rachel thought her heart would burst.

Oh my God. Jacob! What are you thinking? What will the other shepherds think? I know I love him, but he has not even introduced himself to me!

And then Jacob began to weep. It was as if he had read her mind or seen some tragic future. He was embarrassed. He was destitute. He was confused. He was lonely.

Do not worry, my love. Rachel thought to him looking back in his eyes. You are safe now. We shall be together for as long as God allows.

And then Jacob introduced himself to her.

* * * * * *


“So Jacob lifted his feet, and went toward the land of the easterners. He looked, and behold – a well in the field. And behold, three flocks of sheep lay there beside it, for from that well they would water the flocks, and the stone over the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks would be assembled there they would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep; then they would put back the stone over the mouth of the well, in its place.

Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?”

And they said, “We are from Haran,”

He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?”

And they said, “We know.”

Then he said to them, “Is it well with him?”

They answered, “It is well’ and see – his daughter Rachel is coming with the flock.”

He said, “Look, the day is still long’ it is not yet time to bring the livestock in; water the flock and go on grazing.”

But they said, “We will be unable to, until all the flocks will have been gathered and they will roll the stone off the mouth of the well; we will then water the flock.”

While he was still speaking with them, Rachel had arrived with her father’s flock, for she was a shepherdess. And it was, when Jacob saw Rachel, daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the flock of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came forward and rolled the stone off the mouth of the well and watered the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother.

Then Jacob kissed Rachel; and he raised his voice and wept.

Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s relative, and that he was Rebecca’s son; the she ran and told her father.”

Genesis 29:1-12

A plague of God struck Laban’s sheep, leaving only a few alive. He discharged his shepherd and entrusted the remnants of his flock to his daughter Rachel. Targum Yonatan, Bereshit Rabbah 29:9

Rachel was known for her beauty. Bereshit Rabbah 70:16

The two arms of the Patriarch Jacob were like two pillars of marble. Bereshit Rabbah 65:17

When he saw the water rise up before him, he knew that his spouse would come to him there. Zohar 1:152a

“He raised his voice and wept.” Genesis 29:11. Why did he weep? He said, “When Eliezer went to fetch Rebecca, it is written, The servant took ten camels (ibid 24:10). I, however, have not a single ring or bracelet.” … He wept because he foresaw that she would not be buried together with him in the Cave of Machpelah… He wept because he saw people whispering to one another after he had kissed her, for the people of the east were chaste [even though he had kissed her feeling that she was part of his family (Hirsch)]. Bereshit Rabbah 70:12

Revolving Stairway to Heaven

Genesis: Vayetze

Revolving Stairway to Heaven

In art, and probably in our imaginations, Jacob’s Ladder is depicted as a simple fixed ladder, with the bottom on the ground and the top reaching heaven (see Figure 1). This ladder is purported to service the multiple angels commuting between heaven and earth.

Simple Jacob's Ladder

I don’t know how they get around in heaven. Perhaps this ladder is our equivalent of the express train and they have local shuttles up in heaven. However on earth, it seems a bit out of the way for the only and final stop on the ladder to be centered in rural Bet-El.

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) describes an infinitely more sophisticated transportation system. Even with current technology it would be difficult to replicate what Hizkuni proposes (taking into account some height shorter than ‘heaven’).

Hizkuni explains that Jacob’s Ladder has a variety of innovative elements:

  1. It is a classical step ladder (an upside-down V).
  2. It has a pole in the center that supports and reinforces the structure and enables two other functions:
    1. The ladder has telescopic legs. The starting and ending point can be at a variety of distances.
    2. Here’s the coolest part: the ladder rotates on the central shaft! That means the starting and ending points can be in any direction! (see Figure 2 below).

Angel Transport System

In the case of Jacob’s dream, Hizkuni explains that one leg of the ladder was at Beer-Sheva and the other end was at Bet-El. The top of the ladder and the central shaft are situated over the much more obvious Jerusalem (perhaps there was an express elevator in the shaft?).

Below is my layman’s attempt to illustrate (Figure 3).

Jacob's Ladder a la Hizkuni

What does it mean? I believe Hizkuni is implying that there is access to Heaven from everywhere, though some places may be a shorter climb.

May we each succeed in our ongoing ascent to God’s domain as we struggle with the rungs of the ladder of life.

Shabbat Shalom,



To Rabbi Gad Dishi on the publication of his excellent, innovative and timely book: Jacob’s Family Dynamics – Climbing the Rungs of the Ladder. Available direct from the publisher through this link.

To see a full review of the book, by yours truly – click here.

Book Review: Jacob’s Family Dynamics

Jacob's Family Dynamics (book cover)Jacob’s Family Dynamics: Climbing the Rungs of the Ladder

Gad Dishi

Devora Publishing, 2009

Reviewed by Ben-Tzion Spitz

If you have any interest in the Bible, Rabbi Gad Dishi’s new book, “Jacob’s Family Dynamics” is a must-read. A warning is in order though. Dishi rips apart many long-held stereotypical images of the Patriarch Jacob and his relationships. He then puts them back together in often innovative, insightful and even brilliant ways.

What is beautiful and inspiring about Dishi’s work is the weaving of a mostly fragmented narrative of the stories of Jacob into a fluid, consistent and comprehensive picture. Many students of the classical commentaries will want to jump down Dishi’s throat as he repeatedly negates or contradicts centuries-old interpretations. However, they will find it a challenging battle. The strength of Dishi’s book is his extreme adherence to the text.

Dishi makes Jacob very human, contrary to the often superhuman depiction that classical commentaries portrayed him as. Dishi justifies the dichotomy in his introduction:

“The human element brings readers back to the Bible repeatedly to experience the characters’ dramatic, real-life choices, while the superhuman approach draws readers to the text to be inspired once more by the perfection of the characters’ personal attributes. Thus, from a religious perspective, both approaches have validity and can operate in parallel, each appealing to a different audience.”

The analysis is based on a laser-like focus on each phrase, word and language nuance. He builds the personas and action of the stories based on these careful readings. At the same time he keeps an eye on the big picture and the continuum of Jacob’s life, actions, fears, insecurities, needs and driving forces. The scenes that are covered in detail include (but are not limited to):

–          Jacob’s impersonation of Esau to obtain Isaac’s blessing;

–          Jacob’s arrival at Haran and his meeting of Rachel;

–          The switch of Leah for Rachel on the wedding night and Jacob’s response;

–          The competition of Leah and Rachel for Jacob’s affection;

–          Laban’s confrontation with Jacob at Gilead;

–          Jacob’s reunion/confrontation with Esau;

–          Jacob’s reaction to the rape of Dinah;

–          The burial of Rachel.

What emerges is a very human, and perhaps because of that, a very heroic (and also tragic) figure of Jacob. Dishi also presents Jacob’s family members (parents, brother, father-in-law, wives and sons) as characters that seem truer to the biblical text than what many other commentaries paint.

Just one example of Dishi’s original interpretations can be found in his analysis of Jacob’s stimulus in stealing Esau’s blessing. Dishi explains that Jacob was the initiator of the deception conspiracy as opposed to his mother, Rebecca. Furthermore, he argues that Jacob’s motivation had less to do with achieving some still unknown blessing from his father, but rather to be the recipient of fatherly love and attention via this blessing before Isaac’s death.

Dishi consistently uses a plethora of commentators both classical and modern to support his points. The pure erudition required to create this masterpiece is impressive, besides the excellence of his theories themselves.

Dishi successfully pulls off another feat. That of writing a scholarly work that will be accessible to the layman. The language is never too heavy or difficult. The prose is clear and flows. Even the extensive footnotes are fun and enlightening. It is as if one was sitting next to Dishi while he is typing and he shares yet another brilliant and related nugget of information or insight.

There is a special treat in Chapter 7 of a pair of color maps and pictures that delightfully illustrate Dishi’s explanation of what really happened in the preparation and encounter of Jacob and Esau after their twenty year separation.

There are two minor flaws in this diamond of a book. Both can be attributed to the Herculean task of attempting to write for the two very different worlds of the layman and the biblical scholar in one volume. Dishi explains in a footnote of the first chapter that he uses the translation of Robert Alter’s The Five Books of Moses. He then repeatedly cites him in much of the subsequent translation in the footnotes, which is presumably the scholarly thing to do. However, it is a minor annoyance in the otherwise entertaining footnotes.

The second and perhaps more significant flaw for biblical scholars (but one that they may enjoy finding and pouncing on), are the cases where Dishi continues his theories with limited substantiation or support. From a layman’s point-of-view the theories still hold. They are compelling – even convincing at points. An analogy that comes to mind is a skater approaching a patch of thin ice. The skater takes advantage of the solid ice to forcefully propel himself as quickly as possible over the thinner section.

Because Dishi has done such a superb and persuasive job in the highly detailed and corroborated sections, one is more willing to go along for the ride and follow where Dishi leads.

It is hard to believe that there could be surprises left in a biblical narrative that is so well known to many. Dishi however keeps the suspense and the original interpretations flowing, from the first to the last chapter.

Jacob’s Family Dynamics should be part of the library of every Jewish home. It should also become required reading for any Bible/Genesis course from high school level to post-graduate degrees.

In Jacob’s Family Dynamics Dishi has set a new standard for reading of biblical text. A student of the Bible will not be able to look at Jacob or at the text the same way again.

Dishi hopes in his introduction “that Jacob’s Family Dynamics will lift the habitual blinders that have subdued the full power of the text.” In this he has succeeded admirably.

The book can be ordered directly from the publisher (discounted) at

Ben-Tzion Spitz is an engineer, Bible studies writer and lecturer. He has started a series of Biblical Fiction short stories which can be viewed at

Rebecca’s Crisis

Genesis: Toldot


Isaac blessing disguised Jacob

[Listen to the podcast below]


Rebecca’s Crisis

The words of the prophecy rang in Rebecca’s head. Since before the birth of the twins she held those mysterious words in her heart. They had done nothing to console her pain, only fueling her confusion and apprehension. She looked towards the entrance to blind Isaac’s tent anxiously, the words reverberating in her mind:


“Two peoples are in your womb;

two nations from your insides shall be separated;

one nation shall strengthen over the other nation,

and the Elder shall serve the Younger.”


Rebecca could not bear the tension much longer. Esau, her eldest, was approaching blind Isaac’s tent, but after what seemed like an eternity, Jacob, young, sweet Jacob, had not yet exited.

She sat discretely and quietly outside Isaac’s tent. Esau brusquely opened the flap of the tent and strode in, but still there was no Jacob. Rebecca held her breath for the imminent explosion. She knew Esau’s temper. Esau would immediately understand Jacob’s impersonating him, and the charade would be over. The blessings might indeed turn to a curse as Jacob feared, perhaps even violently so.

Then from within the fold of the tent Jacob silently stepped out unnoticed and left the area.

Thank You, God. Rebecca thought to herself with great relief. Jacob received the blessing that Isaac intended for Esau, undiscovered.

Esau’s growing agitation was heard clearly from outside. The confusion emanating from the tent was palpable. And then she heard a blood-curling scream.

“Nooooooo!!!” Esau moaned.

What have I done? Rebecca asked herself.

She could not believe her ears. Her strong, forceful son, Esau, started crying. A bitter, deep cry that cut her to the bone. “Have you but one blessing, Father?” Esau pleaded, “Bless me too. Father!”

I am sorry my son. Rebecca told herself. I had no choice. The prophecy must be fulfilled. You are truly not worthy to succeed Isaac. “The Elder shall serve the Younger.”

Isaac bestowed some makeshift blessing on Esau. Esau left his father’s tent in a furry, with murder on his mind. The blood drained from Rebecca’s face when she caught a glimpse of his eyes.

He will kill my Jacob. I must warn him. I must get Jacob away from here.

There were a few minutes of silence in the tent, as Isaac composed himself.

“Rebecca, my wife.” Isaac called out. “I know you can hear me. Please come in.”

Rebecca gracefully entered the tent and knelt on one knee beside her sightless husband.

“Yes, my husband.”

“Please sit, my dearest.”

“Thank you, Isaac.”

“Rebecca, I know you orchestrated this deception. Why did you not discuss with me?” Isaac asked in a pained voice.

Rebecca was prepared for this moment. I must break the news to him gently. Isaac loves Esau so. He is blind to Esau’s evil, to his anger and fury. I myself do not know where it comes from.

“Would you have listened to my words?”

“You are wise and kind-hearted. Your words are always of great value.”

That is his polite way of saying no. I was right to deceive him. I must tread carefully. I must protect Jacob so he will fulfill the birthright. “The Elder shall serve the Younger.”

“Esau is not the innocent that you imagine. He is not worthy of continuing your traditions.”

“He is the Elder. He is a man of the world. It requires a certain roughness. A capacity for leadership. Esau possesses these attributes. Even more than I do. And more than Jacob.”

He does not see. He does not understand. He is justifying his blind love for Esau. He should understand by now.

“Nonetheless, my darling. He can be cruel, even wicked.” Rebecca retorted. “This is not our way. It is not your way. It is not what your father Abraham would have wanted.”

“So now my love, you are the interpreter of my father’s traditions?” Isaac asked with some incredulity.

I must try a different angle. I must bring some proof and move him to action. He will not be persuaded with unverified accusations.

“Look at Esau’s wives. They are idol worshipers! I am disgusted with my life on account of these daughters of Heth.” Rebecca stated vehemently. “If Jacob takes a wife of the daughters of Heth like these, of the daughters of the land, why should I live?”

Isaac was taken aback by Rebecca’s ferocity. For the third time in one day, he found himself confused and disoriented, surprised by each encounter, yet feeling greater revelation at each. He did not respond, but leaned forward, looking at nothing, pensively.

Isaac could perceive God’s hand heavily involved in the day’s events. Isaac had always presumed that Esau was the correct choice, yet God had clearly intervened. Jacob had shown great courage and skill in impersonating Esau.

And the blessing held. Isaac had felt the Divine Presence endorse the blessing. Jacob is truly blessed now. There must be some validity to the claimed sale of Esau’s birthright to Jacob. The more Isaac thought about it, the more he realized that Rebecca was right. As much as it pained him, he realized Esau was not the one – it would be Jacob. The Elder shall serve the Younger.

Rebecca looked at Isaac’s flowing features. His face seemed to contort with the emotions of his thoughts. Have I pushed him too hard? How do we get past this?

Esau was too rough, Isaac thought. Esau however showed such tremendous respect to Isaac that it was a pleasure to have him around. The strong, confident, fearless son had been Isaac’s hope for the future. But it was not to be. God had indicated as much.

Isaac held out his right hand to Rebecca. Instinctively Rebecca placed her hand in his. Isaac covered her hand with his left hand and gently caressed it.

“Love of my life,” Isaac said softly, “why has it come to this? Why must you manipulate and scheme behind my back? Is there no trust between us? Is there no trust left in this family? In the descendents of Abraham?”

Small tears started to roll down Rebecca’s face.

Oh Isaac. I love you so much! How do I explain my deception? How do I tell you about the secret prophecy I have carried for so long? How do I show you what you refuse to see?

“Despite our instructions and efforts, Esau has taken an evil path.” Rebecca said softly. “It breaks my heart to see it. But we must remember our mission. We cannot forsake the God of your father and the kindness and goodness that he directs. Jacob is the one that will follow your path. The blessings you have now bestowed confirm that. Now we need to ensure he marries properly to have the next generation to transmit to.”

“You have not answered my question.” Isaac said as he tenderly wiped the tears he could not see from Rebecca’s cheek. “Do you think I am so blind that I do not know my own children?”

Stubborn. Stubborn. He is focusing on the charade and not on what we need to do next. He has been deeply offended by the deception.

“I am sorry.” Rebecca answered. “I did not see another way. Esau has always been your favorite. I did not believe you would change your mind just on my saying so. I could not take a chance that the wrong child would receive your blessing.”

“What about trust? How can there be love, how can there be marriage or a relationship without trust?” And now it was Isaac who shed tears.

He is in so much pain. Please God, help me! I do not know what to say anymore.

Isaac and Rebecca sat quietly, holding each other’s hands.

“It is God’s will.” Isaac announced. “Perhaps my blindness is not only physical. This issue of the children has divided us for some time. We should never have chosen favorites.”

Yes. Now you begin to understand.

“I showed too much affection and understanding towards Esau.” Isaac continued. “The acts of the fathers are a sign for the sons. It seems I have repeated the mistake of another.”

Just as Abraham accepted and justified Yishmael’s behavior, you have turned a blind eye to Esau’s.

“Isaac, we have both made mistakes,” Rebecca explained her hand still in his, “let us learn from them but not harp on them. Please do not doubt my commitment and dedication and love of you. I will do whatever is necessary to fulfill your life’s work. Even if it means deceiving you or hiding things from you.”

Isaac faced her with his sightless eyes. “It must have been very difficult for you. You were very strong and brave to engineer and accomplish the ruse.”

Thank You, God. He understands!

Isaac and Rebecca embraced and held each on to each other silently. A chasm of many years had finally been bridged.

“Let us call for Jacob.” Isaac stated. “I will reconfirm blessings to him knowing his full identity. I will direct him to find wives from your family and not from the daughters of the land.”

Thank You, God! Thank You, Thank You. Thank You. My mission is set and my love has returned to me.

* * * * * *


“His eyesight dimmed” Genesis 27:1. By justifying the behavior of the wicked Esau, he caused his eyes to become dim, for ‘a bribe blinds the yes of the wise’ Exodus 23:8 (and Isaac is viewed as having taken a bribe from Esau). Bereshit Rabbah 65:5

Rebecca escorted Jacob as far as Isaac’s door and said, “I have done all that I can for you. Henceforth your Creator will stand by you.” Bereshit Rabbah 65:17

Isaac’s initial blessing (to disguised Jacob):

“And may God give you of the dew of the heavens and of the fatness of the earth, and abundant grain and wine. Peoples will serve you, and regimes will prostrate themselves to you; be a lord to your kinsmen, and your mother’s sons will prostrate themselves to you; cursed be they who curse you, and blessed be they who bless you.”

Genesis 27:28-29

“Jacob had scarcely left.” Genesis 27:30. The doors folded back. Jacob stood behind the door until Esau entered; then he left. Bereshit Rabbah 66:5

Rebecca tells Jacob: “It will be incumbent upon me to enter and tell your father, ‘Jacob is righteous and Esau is wicked’ “ Bereshit Rabbah 65:14; Eitz Yosef

Isaac’s reaction to Esau’s entry:

“Then Isaac trembled in very great perplexity, and said, “Who – where – is the one who hunted game, brought it to me, and I partook of all when you had not yet come, and I blessed him? Indeed, he shall remain blessed!”

When Esau heard his father’s words, he cried out an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me too, Father!”

But he said, “Your brother came with cleverness and took your blessing.”

Genesis 27:33-35

When Isaac sought to bless Esau, he did not know that Esau had embarked on a career of wickedness. When Esau’s deeds were revealed to him, Isaac trembled in fear of the Day of Judgment. Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 32:68

“Isaac was seized with terror” Genesis 27:33. Greater than his terror on the altar. He said, “Who is it that became a middleman between the Holy One, Blessed is He, and me so that Jacob would take the blessings?” He said this about Rebecca. Bereshit Rabbah 67:2

God revealed to Isaac after the fact that the blessing was meant for Jacob. Bereshit Rabbah 67:2

“Now Esau harbored hatred toward Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau thought, “The days of mourning for my father draw near, then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Genesis 27:41

“Rebecca was told of the words of Esau.” Genesis 27:42. Who told her? Divine Inspiration. Shocher Tov 105:4

Rebecca did not wish to tell Isaac that Jacob’s life was in danger, so she used the unsuitability of the Hittite women as a pretext for sending him away. Rashbam Genesis 27:46

“I am disgusted with my life on account of the daughters of Heth” Genesis 27:46. She expressed herself with violent gestures of abhorrence. Bereshit Rabbah 65:17

Isaac’s second blessing (to undisguised Jacob) (interesting to note differences):

“So Isaac summoned Jacob and blessed him; he instructed him, and said to him, “Do not take a wife from the Canaanite women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take a wife from there from the daughters of Laban your mother’s borther. And may Almighty God bless you, make you fruitful and make you numerous, and may you be a congregation of peoples. May He grant you the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may possess the land of your sojourns which God gave to Abraham.” Genesis 28:1-4

* * * * * *


Though the text has Rebecca warning Jacob of Esau’s murderous intent before she speaks with Isaac, I’ve excluded it from the story. She just as easily could have warned Jacob between the summons and his second blessing by Isaac. There’s a principle that there isn’t necessarily order in the narrative, especially when we are dealing with multiple and compressed scenes, characters and points-of-view.

Who cares what they say?

Genesis: Toldot

Who cares what they say?

There is often an inordinate amount of sensitivity as to what the nations of the world think about Israel and its actions. The obvious contrast is that other nations (take your pick, including U.S., Russia, China, etc.) don’t seem to care or even deign to respond to any criticism of their actions.

Rabbi Yaakov ben Manoach (Hizkuni) has an unusual approach regarding what the nations of the world say about Israel. Not only does he seem unperturbed by any criticism, but he doesn’t even want positive attention: “Don’t bless us – don’t even pray for us.”

Hizkuni wonders as to the source of our Matriarch Rebecca’s infertility. He claims that it was actually a result of her mother’s and brother’s farewell blessing. As Rebecca prepares to depart her hometown of Aram Naharayim together with Abraham’s servant, her family proclaims a munificent, if not bombastic blessing:

“Our sister, may you come to be thousands of myriads, and may your offspring inherit the gate of its foes.”

Genesis 24:60

Hizkuni explains that God did not want the nations of the world to take credit for the progeny that would be born, claiming that their generous blessing was the cause. God did not want them involved. He preferred that the prayer come exclusively from the immediate family:

“Isaac pleaded of God opposite his wife, because she was barren. God allowed himself to be entreated by him, and his wife Rebecca conceived.”

Genesis 25:21

God seems much more interested in our own self-determination, in our true actions (which He sees quite well, without the intervention of biased media) and our own connection and relationship with Him, rather than anything anyone else has to say about us – whether it is bad – or even good.

May we know how to judge ourselves correctly, before succumbing to the rants of hypocritical demagogues.

Shabbat Shalom,



To all those who defend Israel’s name and honor. We shouldn’t have to, and I’m not sure how effective it is, but it is noble nonetheless.


Genesis Fiction: Chayei Sara


Though Ishmael was thirteen years Isaac’s senior, he still looked more muscular, more vigorous than the scholarly-looking half-brother. Ishmael’s decades as a marauder had done nothing to lessen his vitality. The enormous assembly opened a path for Ishmael as he strode confidently, making his way to meet Isaac at the entrance to the Machpela cave, nestled in the Hebron hills.

Isaac had thought about this meeting for some time. He would show the traditional honor to his estranged, exiled older brother.

Ishmael stopped within two paces of Isaac with an unreadable expression on his face. The assembly seemed to be holding its breath, waiting to see how this reunion of the sons of Abraham would unfold.

Isaac outstretched his arms to Ishmael, giving him a light embrace and perfunctory kisses on either cheek. Ishmael reciprocated instinctively, but still held himself tightly.

“Brother,” Isaac said formally, bowing his head lightly.

“Brother.” Ishmael mirrored the motion.

“It is a great honor to our father that you came to participate in his burial ceremony,” Isaac announced.

“Isaac, it is you who honor me, by allowing me to participate.”

“How could it be any other way? You are his Eldest. Please lead us into the cave to commence the ceremony.” Isaac beckoned to the narrow cave opening.

“No Isaac. You should enter first.”

“Father would have wanted me to honor you and let you start the proceedings.”

“You honor me by having waited for me and allowing me to participate at all. I am not even deserving of this honor. I have been a disgrace and a blemish to our Father’s name. You are his true heir. The world knows this.” Ishmael looked Isaac in the eye and then lowered his head.

Isaac reached out to hold Ishmael by the shoulder. “It is true that Father might have been disappointed with your lifestyle, but do not doubt that he ever loved you any less.”

Ishmael looked up, his voice heavy with emotion. “That is what is perhaps most painful. He loved me, yet he still exiled me.”

“You left him no choice. You threatened to ruin his mission and everything he stood for.”

“Now I know. I was too headstrong. I did not understand what he kept telling me. He kept giving me second-chances. I presumed there was no line I could not cross.”

“I think that if it had been solely up to Father, he never would have banished you. God gave him a direct command.”

“Yes. Father probably should have been firmer with me at an earlier stage, before he had to take such drastic measures. I almost died in the desert.”

“God has been with you, in His own way. I do not believe He ever abandoned you, even in the depths of your trouble.”

“God has indeed been with me, and He has given me great wealth, children and success in all my undertakings. However, I was not always with God.”

“Come then my brother.” Isaac tried maneuvering Ishmael towards the entrance. “Lead us into the cave. I can see clearly see you have repented from your ways. God loves the penitent and it would give Father great pleasure for you to initiate the ceremony.”

“No.” Ishmael said with quiet finality, not budging from his place. “Of this I am adamant and have given much thought. You have been and always will be Father’s true heir, son of his beloved soul-mate Sarah. Whatever claim I might have had as Firstborn, I renounced by turning my back on Father’s teachings and ways. While I deeply regret what I have done with my life, and will try to make amends with what remains of it, some things cannot be changed. Some wrongs cannot be righted. The blemishes may never completely heal. You are the true and only heir. Father’s faith and mission will run true in your bloodline.”

“Are you certain that you wish to relinquish this honor?” Isaac asked tenderly.

“Yes, my brother. Besides, it is disrespectful to both our Father and the assembled multitude for us to debate further.”

Isaac squeezed Ishmael’s shoulder, and then suddenly embraced him in a strong and long embrace. Tears flowed down both their eyes.

Without another word, Isaac turned around and led the way to the narrow cave entrance, followed closely by Ishmael.

For the first time in their relationship, Isaac felt that his back was not in danger from his brother. In fact, he felt safer.

* * * * * *

Biblical Sources:

Genesis Chapter 25:

8 And Abraham expired, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people. 9 And Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre; 10 the field which Abraham purchased of the children of Heth; there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.

Secondary Sources: (from Eshai HaTanach)

Since his father Abraham doted on him and did not rebuke him, Ishmael embarked on an evil course, so that eventually Abraham came to hate him and banished him from his house empty-handed. Shemot Rabbah 1:1

After his father had banished him, he sat at the crossroads and robbed people. Shemot Rabbah 1:1

His mother sent to her father’s house and took for him a wife by the name of Fatimah. Three years later Abraham again went to see his son. He arrived at midday and found Ishmael’s wife at home. “Give me a little bread and a little water, for my soul is weary from the road,” he asked. She took it out and gave it to him. Abraham stood and prayed before the Holy One, Blessed is He, and Ishmael’s house became filled with all good things. When Ishmael came, his wife told him about it, and Ishmael knew that his father still loved him. Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 30

“These are the years of Ishmael’s life” (Genesis 25:17). Why did Scripture trace the years of a wicked person here? Because he came all the way from the middle of the desert to perform an act of kindness – burial of his father. Bereshit Rabbah 62:5

His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him (Genesis 25:9). Here Ishmael the son of the maidservant showed honor to Isaac the son of the lady, by giving him precedence. Bereshit Rabbah 62:3

Since the older Ishmael gave precedence to his younger brother Isaac, we infer that he repented. Tractate Bava Batra 16b

Is your child a bully?

Genesis: Chayei Sara

Is your child a bully?

Most of you will answer “no”. However, many of you will be wrong. It is curious that parents are often the last ones to realize or find out that there child is either physically, verbally or emotionally bullying someone. Such parents are then naturally shocked and/or defensive when confronted with such reports.

Bullies come in all shapes, sizes, ages, tactics and situations. The child (or adult) that is well-behaved, considerate, conscientious, helpful and an all-around darling at home, may be an entirely different animal in the playground or at the office.

Rabbi Hizkiyahu ben Manoach (Hizkuni) was aware of this potential duality and brings this psychology to bear when analyzing the courtship strategy of Abraham’s servant.

Abraham’s servant (who is often identified as Eliezer) travels a significant distance to find the home of his master’s family. Instead of asking directions (maybe it’s a male thing), and going straight to Betuel’s or some other relative’s home, he first goes to the local watering hole and hangs out, watching the young girls for a potential match for Isaac.

Hizkuni explains that Eliezer had a very specific purpose. He wanted to see the girl (Rebecca as it turned out) outside of her home environment. Observing Rebecca anonymously in a public place where she is not surrounded by authority figures would give a truer indication of her nature.

Thankfully for us, our Matriarch Rebecca turned out to be as kindhearted outside the house as in it.

May we all be as fortunate in our children, in our friends and in our children’s friends.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the staff and administration of Orot Etzion Boys School. They do a noteworthy job on controlling bullying.

Escape from Sodom

Genesis Fiction: Vayera

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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