Thursday, May 5, 2016

Omer 2016 Day 12: Lot's wife

Day 12/Yom HaShoah: Hod in Gevurah, Majesty and Humility in Bravery and Strength
Day 12 of the Omer is always Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 2013, I remarked that hod, which translates as majesty and humility, is a fitting word for the mix of sadness at the tremendous horrors and loss of the Holocaust and thankfulness for the resilience and bravery of the human spirit and the Jewish people. Today, we remember Lot's wife, who, while fleeing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, disregarded the angels' warning not to look back as they fled, and turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).

Lot's wife was only given one rule: don't look back. Why couldn't she follow it? My rabbis in Nashville posited that she looked back out of concern for the daughters they had to leave behind, unable to convince their husbands of the imminent destruction of the cities. In hindsight, it is easy to say that Lot's wife should not have looked back, just as some question why European Jews did not see the signs of Nazism and leave their homes for safer shores before it was too late. Of course, in the moment, things are different. It takes incredible bravery to flee your home, leave behind loved ones who will not or cannot follow, and start over somewhere else, but as we learn from Lot's wife, it also takes a great deal of strength to stay. to think of others, even at the risk of your own life.

Today, as we mourn the many we lost and celebrate those who survived the Holocaust, I am humbled by the strength of the Jewish people and the bravery and compassion of Lot's wife.

Sculpture at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem