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Written by Sender Rozesz. Sender Rozesz is a practicing attorney with a background in Jewish pluralistic education for adults. The views reflected in his columns represent his own personal views, and are not intended to reflect the views of any organizations, institutes or associations with whom he may be affiliated. For more Double Mitzvahs by Sender Rozesz, check out A Woman’s Vow, Sexual Motive, Choose Your Own Spouse, The Post-Honeymoon Journey, A Wise and Understanding People, The Blessing of Fertility, Abominations, Coitus Interruptus, Sexual Struggles,The Unspeakable Language of Passion, Cut vs. Uncut, The Silence of Bitterness, Sex and the Holiest Day of the Year, Shifting Beds and Sex in the Sukkah,Sex…In the Beginning, A Sexual Reboot, and She’s My Beautiful Sister.
While Abraham was busy tempting fate by putting Sarah in the eye of various kings, from Pharaoh to Abimelech, his nephew Lot was having his own sexual issues.
Despite Lot’s familial ties to Abraham, Lot is a man of odd moral standards. He initially impresses us by leaving his grandfather Terach and following Abraham on his journey to a land promised to Abraham. Why? Perhaps because he admires Abraham’s steadfastness in his faith, and his sense of morality. Or perhaps because, as tradition tells us, Sarah was Lot’s sister, and he may have wanted to remain with his sibling.
Later however, Lot disappoints us. In parting from Abraham in Parshat Lech L’Cha, Lot chooses to live in the city of Sodom, a city which was already then famous as a den of iniquity and immorality. There, apparently, Lot retains some vestige of the family ethics, and is elected to be the city’s judge as a result. So he has some strength of character; but perhaps he felt that it is easier to be righteous when everybody around you is wicked – then the bar is set quite lower. Lot’s moral sense would be particularly tested, however, when he is visited by two angels in Parshat Vayeira – and his ethical priorities would reflect poorly on his role as a father to his two single daughters.
Lot’s innate sense of hospitality compels him to invite the two men into his home for the night, well knowing, however, how hostile Sodom is to visitors, and those that harbor them. Sure enough:
When they had not yet retired, and the people of the city, the people of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, the entire populace from every end. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, and let us be intimate with them.” And Lot came out to them to the entrance, and he shut the door behind him. And he said, “My brethren, please do not do evil. Behold now I have two daughters who were not intimate with a man. I will bring them out to you, and do to them as you see fit; only to these men do nothing, because they have come under the shadow of my roof.” Genesis, 19:4-8.
Say that again? “Do no evil” – so take my daughters instead? FAIL.
Lot loses major points over his callous willingness to sacrifice his daughters’ virginity and well-being for the sake of his hospitality towards his two male visitors. Ramban makes short thrift of Lot’s twisted sense of morality, noting that (as cited in Midrash Tanchuma), a normal person typically kills or is killed in protecting his wife and daughters – and here, Lot freely offers them out of a misguided sense of hospitality. Ramban also notes that Lot obviously had an extreme case of female-objectification. He must have seen females as natural sex objects, which is why it did not occur to him that there was anything particularly terrible in offering his daughters for a gang-rape. This view of his own daughters, the Ramban concludes, is what permitted what came next, in karma-like fashion.
The very next morning, Sodom and Gomorrah are laid to waste, Lot’s wife is transformed into an inanimate pillar of salt, and Lot and his two daughters escape into the mountains, where they find a cave. The two girls looked out from their mountain perch, and, as far as the eye can see, they saw pillars of smoke, destruction and devastation. They apparently had not heard the midnight discussion between their father and the angels, and so they were unaware that it was just Sodom and Gomorrah that were destroyed. From their vantage point, therefore, it looked as though the whole world had been scorched, and they, its only survivors.
Perhaps they recalled stories of the Great Flood, and how only a single family was spared from that worldwide calamity. Perhaps this even raised their estimation of their father in their eyes; after all, isn’t only the most righteous who G-d decides to spare? It stands to reason that they had not heard Lot’s disturbing offer to the townsfolk the night before, and so they likely were unaware of Lot’s deep moral flaws; or if they had heard Lot offering to sacrifice their virginity, perhaps they simply accepted it as a feature of the environment in which they had been raised? We don’t know.
What we do know is that the two girls were troubled by what appeared to them to be the end of the human race. At least Noah had his wife, and his sons, their wives. The daughters were determined to not allow this to happen. Thus, in low voices, the two girls conspired to get their father drunk that night. Then, the eldest daughter laid with her father, and coaxed him to sexual intercourse. The following night, it was the younger daughter’s turn. Once again, they manipulated Lot into become intoxicated, and then the younger daughter lost her virginity to her father.
Their plan bore fruit – literally. Both daughters became pregnant on the first try (we don’t know if there were others). “And the elder bore a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of Moab until this day. And the younger, she too bore a son, and she named him Ben-ami; he is the father of the children of Ammon until this day.” Genesis, 19:36-38.
We don’t know whether Lot and his daughters were still in the cave when the two little boys were born nine months later. In fact, we don’t hear from Lot and his daughters again; they simply fade into oblivion. We do know that the two ill-begotten sons are highly significant, however. So significant, in fact, that hundreds of years later, the Israelites were prohibited from waging war with either the nation of Moab or Ammon as they entered the Promised Land. And one of the most famous women of the Tanach – Ruth, the first formal convert, and the great-grandmother of King David – was a descendant of Moab, and Rehobam, the son of King Solomon, was a descendant of Ammon.