June 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Loyalty is a core Jewish value and one of the primary elements of our legacy from Avraham, as evidenced from this week’s parsha.

Avraham’s nephew, Lot, chose to follow Avraham on his journey to the unknown, to Canaan. Evidently, Lot was initially taken with Avraham’s vision and values. (see Rashi Bereishit 13:14). After their time in Egypt, perhaps influenced by its corrosive moral environment or by his newfound prosperity, Lot seems to have changed for the worse, ultimately leaving Avraham to take up residence in the immoral and prosperous Sodom.

When the friction and arguments grew between the employees of Lot and Avraham to the point that it became apparent that they needed to separate, Avraham spoke with Lot (Bereishit 13:8-9): “Avram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no strife between you and me, between my herdsmen and yours, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if you go to the left, I will go to the right, and if you go to the right, I will go to the left.”’

Read simply, Avraham is giving Lot first choice of location, saying that he will go to whichever location Lot does not choose. Rashi (13:9), however, reads it differently: “Wherever you settle down I will not go far from you, and I will stand by you as a shield and as a helper. Ultimately, indeed, he (Lot) was really in need of Avraham, as it is said, (Bereishit 14:14) “And Avram heard that his brother was taken captive, etc.”

Avraham was making a commitment of loyalty. Yes, they could not live together. Their conflicting values were a recipe for day-to-day conflict, and there was no way that Avraham could alter his values to comport with the path Lot had chosen. Yet, even as Lot was rejecting Avraham’s value system, Avraham expressed his continued and unconditional commitment to him and his well-being. “We may not be able to live under the same roof, but I will be there for you whenever you need me.”

It was not long at all before Avraham was given the opportunity to demonstrate that commitment. When Sodom was attacked and Lot was taken captive, Avraham—against all odds—set out to rescue him. And it was upon returning from that battle where he had stood up in loyal commitment to Lot, where brotherhood stood as an unfailing value over other principles, that the nations acknowledged Avraham’s moral superiority (see Rashi to 14:17).

We must always affirm to each other in word and deed: “We are with you. You will not need to travel this road alone.” Despite any differences we may have, caring for one another’s needs is core to our mission and identity as klal Yisrael.


Rabbi Moshe Hauer is executive vice president of the Orthodox Union (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.

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