by Rabbi Gila Caine
(TBO) – Our week’s parasha talks about seeing, and the power of seeing reality and beyond reality. One of the more interesting moments in this Parasha tells us about Lot’s wife (another biblical woman with no name).
From one of my teachers, Rabbi Ayala Sha’ashua-Meiron I learned to understand how Lot’s wife must have been traumatized by the way her husband had treated their daughters.
“He said, Please, brothers, do no evil. Look- I have two daughters who have never been intimate with a man; let me bring them out for you and do to them as you please. But do nothing to these men, for they come under the shelter of my roof” (Breishit, 19:8-9).
Rabbi Meiron understands the way Lot’s wife turned her head and froze into a pillar of salt as traumatized freezing – she was not able to stand up to him and save her daughters (though thankfully the “strangers” did that for her), and she was not able to go on with him.
I would like to add to Rabbi Meiron’s line of thought and compare the pillar of salt with the rainbow. There are many similarities between the story of S’dom and Amorah and the story of the Mabul (deluge), one of them is the “Covenant” sign appearing after the event. In the story of the Mabul, we all know about the Rainbow – promising us that Adonai will never wipe out creation again. In this story of destruction, the pillar of salt is sign of Brit, as we know that salt is a symbol of eternal covenant in our tradition. And that symbol sits in the lowest place on earth – as tradition has it that those evil cities existed where today lies the Dead Sea.
Lot’s wife saw the depths into which humanity can fall, both outside in her city and inside in her home. On the one hand, the salt pillar is Elohim’s eternal promise that human cruelty will be punished, regardless of the Rainbow. Lot’s wife was turned into salt in her agony, the agony of having nowhere to look, for all around her was evil. But the salt pillar is also Elohim’s reminder to us that looking backwards or even forwards, are not the only options. We can look up or down, outside of the situation, to try and find help.
This Parasha is about many moments of despair, and many moments of finding miraculous solutions. Hagar’s son was saved, Sarah’s son was saved, and so were the daughters of Lot’s wife. This won’t always happen, but the pillar of salt is G-d’s covenant that we will have the strength within us to keep searching.
Gila Caine is the Rabbi at Temple Beth Ora, the Reform Congregation in Edmonton Alberta.