Early in this Parshah, there are hints that Lot (Abram’s nephew) is on a different spiritual level than Abram. We are told that “Abram went as Hashem had spoken to him, and Lot went with him.” There is no indication of Abram embracing the fatherless Lot as an immediate family member. In the next sentence, Lot is identified not as Abram’s nephew, but rather as “his brother’s son.” It should therefore be no surprise when we are told a short while later of quarrelling between Lot and Abram’s herdsmen, thought to reflect differences in opinion of the owners regarding where the animals should be allowed to graze. Abram considered it theft to allow an animal to graze in pastures owned by someone else. Lot had no problem with it.
Not all differences can be resolved. Sometimes, parting ways is the best way to go. If Cain and Abel had gone their own ways, how different would our human history have been? If Hashem had not separated the people who used their unity to build an idolatrous tower, the Tower of Babel, how different would our world be? So Abram’s request of Lot, “Please let there be no strife between me and you… Please separate from me” reflected wisdom, not impatience. Abram and Lot’s basic natures were so contrasting that their differences could not be reconciled. The old aphorism that “divided we fall” does not always apply. Sometimes we must separate to survive. In going his own way, away from Lot, Abram paved the road to becoming our forefather.
Lot chooses where to live based on material considerations. He pitches his tent “as far as Sodom,” a city whose inhabitants are “wicked and sinful toward Hashem, exceedingly.” Abram’s single housing requirement is that he must live where Lot is not present. Already spiritually weak to begin with, Lot believes that he can transcend bad influences around him. Lot is a lesson in the dangers of compromising on where to live, trading good influence for material comfort. In real estate, the most important factors in pricing a home are “location, location and location.” In childrearing, as well, “location, location, location” is a profoundly important factor in determining the appropriateness of a home in which to raise our children. The influence of a community on the children living in it should never be discounted. Even after living with Abram, Lot was not immune to the negative influences around him.
Despite their differences, it is Abram who rescues Lot when he hears that “his kinsman” has been taken captive. In the end, no matter what our differences, family is family.