May 29, 2024
Close this search box.
Close this search box.
May 29, 2024
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Blessings Upon Seeing Lot and Lot’s Wife

 The Mishnah in Tractate Megillah lists a number of passages in Tanach that should and should not be translated during the public Torah reading. The reasoning for the different rulings are varied.

:The Talmud in Megillah 25b

  מעשה לוט ושתי בנותיו נקרא ומתרגם פשיטא מהו דתימא ניחוש לכבודו דאברהם קמשמע לן

The story of Lot and his daughters is read and translated. [The Gemara asks: [It is simple!]. [The Gemara answers:] One would have thought that it impugns the honor of Abraham, therefore this must be said [and we do not fear impugnment].

Why? See some possibilities later.

A word about reading and translating: The custom since Temple times (and even down to recent times in certain circles such as the Yemenites) was to read publicly the Hebrew verses of the parsha followed by an Aramaic translation. Aramaic was, of course, for many years the lingua franca of the Jews both in Judea and in large parts of the Jewish Diaspora. (We still do a scaled-down version of this when we recite the parsha privately with Targum.)

The Talmud in Brachot 54a writes:

הרואה..אשתו של לוט.. על כולן צריך שיתן הודאה ושבח לפני המקום… בשלמא כולהו ניסא [כל הניסים], אלא אשתו של לוט – פורענותא הוא [הלא זוהי פורענות]? דאמר ‘ברוך דיין האמת’. והא הודאה ושבח קתני [והרי נאמר ‘הודאה ושבח’]? תני: על לוט ועל אשתו מברכים שתיים: על אשתו אומר ‘ברוך דיין האמת’, ועל לוט אומר ‘ברוך זוכר את הצדיקים'”

One who sees…the wife of Lot..must offer praise before God… On Lot and his wife, we offer two blessings, on his wife we say “Dayan Haemet,” and on Lot we say “Blessed is the One who remembers the righteous.”

Rashi and other commentators point out that “the righteous” here is referring to Abraham in whose merit Lot was saved from Sodom’s tragic fate.

שולחן ערוך, אורח חיים, ריח, ח See also 

Where exactly are Lot and his wife located that the Talmud prescribes blessings upon seeing them?

Apparently there was an ancient landmark in the area of the Dead Sea known as “Lot’s Wife.”

The Talmud in Niddah 70a brings a baraita where the Jews of Alexandria inquired of the rabbis whether the pillar known as “Lot’s Wife” confers impurity as would any other carcass.

The ancient Jewish historian Josephus in his “Antiquities of the Jews” writes that this pillar of salt was still around in his time.

As late as the 17th century, the Sephardic Rabbi Refael Malki, who ascended to Israel, mentioned that he heard about the site and people still visited it in his day.

The question regarding the site has been raised in recent times. Both Rabbi Simcha Rabinovitch in his “Pitchei Teshuvot” and Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky ruled that the pillar by the Dead Sea known as “Lot’s Wife” (pictured) is not in fact Lot’s wife and one should not make any blessing on it even without pronouncing God’s name (פסקי תשובות סימן ריח, הערה 31).

Rabbi Kanievsky, when consulted about this, inquired whether wild oxen regularly roam the area. When he was notified that the area is almost entirely barren, he concluded that this cannot be the site of Lot’s wife, as Lot’s Wife is a pillar wherein wild oxen lick and gnaw at it until it is no more, but it miraculously “grows” back every day (this is based on a late Midrash, namely Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer, Chapter 25).

An imposing pillar of salt on the west bank of the Dead Sea. Apparently not Lot’s wife after all.

Chazal seem to have a very nuanced view of Lot. Some midrashim do explicitly refer to him as a rasha, an evil man, while others claim that he learned from his uncle Abraham’s righteous deeds and was of course rescued in his merit. Ironically, his daughters seem to earn almost universal praise. The rabbis in the Midrash (also Philo and Josephus but not the Book of Jubilees) explain that their incestous act was done solely in order to ensure the survival of the species, as they thought that the world had been destroyed. This is especially reflected in the Sifri, which inquires where the daughters could have gotten wine in the isolation of their cave refuge. The answer given is that God somehow supplied it to them in order to facilitate an act that they intended to commit for the “sake of heaven” (!) It was in this merit that one of them was the progenitor of King David and his dynasty. 

And where does one see Lot? Judaism does not seem to have a tradition regarding his resting place. In fact, the Shulchan Aruch seems to imply (this is explicit in the Taz) that when one sees Lot’s wife, he/she “sees” Lot as well (and both blessings can be recited at that point).

Arab tradition, however, does claim knowledge of Lot’s final resting place.

Muslims revere this site in Bani Naim, near Hevron, as Lot’s Tomb. In the Koran, Lot is cast as a completely righteous man and prophet.

Please feel free to write to the author at [email protected].

By Joel Davidi Weisberger


Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles