Vayera - I Wasn't about to Put a Pillar of Salt on My Bat Mitzvah Invitation

by Batya Yisraela

Upon preparing for my dvar torah, I came upon a woman worth recognizing and that was Lot’s wife, and I wasn’t about to put a pillar of salt on my bat mitzvah invitation. During my dvar torah you will learn why she is my hero and why she is so important in my heart. Then you will stop focusing on her being nameless, but realize the great deed she has done.

This week's sidrah is about Abraham making an effort to save S’dom and G’morrah. In this portion Sarah learns she will have a baby at the age of 99 which seems impossible, but it happens. Also in this portion two cities are destroyed S’dom and G’morrah, but fortunately Lot and his daughters flee. The portion which I will be discussing deals with symbolism and deeper meaning. There are hidden messages behind the text; you just have to search for the meaning.

In this portion there is one verse that calls out to me (verse 26) “Lot’s wife looked back, and she there upon turned into a pillar of salt”. When I read this line there are facets of it that challenge my understanding. There are many questions that come to mind. For instance Why? How could G-d let her turn into a pillar of salt? Why salt? What does the salt symbolize?
Through my investigations of this portion I have found many answers to my questions. I have also learned there are many ways at looking at this portion.

Rabbi Cynthia Culpeper had an interesting way of looking at this line. In her article positive pillars in the Woman’s Torah Commentary she states, “We tend to interpret verse 26 to mean that G-d had turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt as a punishment, but what if she herself radically chose to become such a pillar, both of memorial and of direction? Memorial of what and direction to whom? Lot’s wife was a pillar to her daughters. Perhaps the most powerful message she could send to them, given her circumstances, was in her turning around, stopping, and setting herself up as such a unique memorial. As we fill in the silences, her message to them could have been, this is where I come from, the only world I know. Remember that this too is a part of your heritage and will always be a part of who you are. Use the lessons it has taught you and build from them."

My interpretation of this is that Lot’s wife was in a difficult position. She had to leave her married daughters and their husbands behind but take with her, her two unmarried daughters who chose to move on and make a new home. Ram Bam says that S’dom and G’morrah were not punished entirely for their wickedness and bad deeds but the fact that it became part of a lifestyle. There is evil happening everyday but when it becomes a lifestyle that is when there needs to be punishment. For instance during the holocaust, Jews were killed in anti-Semitic acts all the time, but when Hitler made it a community life style that is when it became evil.

Lot’s other children decided to stay in their wicked town. Even Lot himself was resistant to leaving. But Lot’s wife had to move on with her daughters, she had to guide them. Although she had to go with her daughters who chose to move on, her heart was still with her children left behind. Her heart was torn in two because she is a mother and that is what mothers do, they can’t leave their kids behind no matter what evil they have done. That is when she chose to become a pillar to her daughters. This pillar is a symbol for many things. It is a symbol for her daughters to lean on, an object for them to look up to. I believe it is also a barrier separating out the past and where they need to move onto.

What Lot’s wife does when she becomes a pillar is she gives her daughters roots and wings. She says this is where you came from, never forget it, but you need to move on. This is one of the most important things a parent can do, it is to give their child roots and wings. Since she is a pillar and can not speak, her daughters are left to figure out her message on their own. Which they do. Also I believe the reason why she become salt is because salt is a substance for life. And if the daughters want to live a great life they must listen to their mother.

The main message in this portion is that you need to remember your roots and where you come from because that is a part of you and it affects where you go and how you will get there. This is the most important gift a parent can give to a child. Because children see their parents as pillars.

My parents have given me roots and wings. I have moved many times throughout my life. From experience I can say it is very hard to leave behind a place you have called home. Every time we have moved to a new place my parents have reminded me of my roots but given me wings to make new friends and adapt to new situations. I want to thank them for being a pillar to me.