The story of Am Yisroel is a story of arising from the depths.
This is also the story of each individual. The greatest of the great admit that they have a mountain to climb. Listen to King David: “I am a worm and not a man, scorn of humanity, despised of nations.” (Psalm 22:7)
At the beginning of history, Adam and Chava rebelled against Hashem. The rest of history consists of their children’s efforts to climb up from the pit.
Then the Mabul destroyed the world. Noach’s children have to rebuild it.
In this week’s Parsha, Lot debases himself. He could have been the closest talmid of Avraham Avinu, but instead he embarked on a shocking freefall into moral decadence.
And from him, Moshiach comes! How on earth can we understand this?
My friends, this is the very secret of Redemption.
King David exemplifies this spiritual journey. This is why he is the eternal king. He is the one who says of Hashem, “Mikimi mai afar dal … He raises the needy from the dust. From the trash heaps He lifts the destitute, to seat them with nobles….” (Psalm 113) The word “dal” means “needy.” Why are only the “needy” raised from the dust?
Because in order to be raised from the dust one has to know he is in the dust!
Only the needy will cry out to Hashem! The arrogant, who think they are already high, will not call for help because they don’t think they need it. Only the one who knows he is destitute will eventually be seated with “the nobles of his people.”
King David descended from Lot, who made such mistakes that he truly descended to the trash heap. From Lot came Ammon and Moav, who alone were prevented, among all the nations in the world, from ever joining Am Yisroel as converts. Their entire behavior pattern is in opposition to the life of chessed by which the descendants of Avraham Avinu live. Ammon and Moav to Am Yisroel are like two positive or two negative magnets which repel each other by nature.
And yet, buried in this trash heap was a diamond which had rolled there from the earliest days, a diamond broken off from Lot’s uncle Avraham Avinu, the Prince of Chessed. Rus, great grandmother of King David, emerged from the darkness of Moav.
In the trash heap, hidden from all eyes, the diamond is hidden. Perhaps there, the Satan, the Yetzer Hara will leave it alone. Perhaps he will not see it.
Among the greatest people, the talmidei chachamim, the righteous of the righteous, the yetzer hara is forever at work, trying – G-d forbid -- to seal the fountain of sanctity flowing out into the world. But in the trash heap, who even notices! It’s not worth even looking! Who wants to sift through the garbage?
Years ago, our daughter in Israel was working in the kitchen. Her key chain was accidentally pushed off the counter into the garbage. When she discovered the loss, she was extremely upset. These keys were irreplaceable! She had looked “everywhere.” Perhaps she should search the dumpster outside; maybe the keys had dropped into the garbage bag. But she could not bring herself to dive into that pile of filth.
Her youngest child is a lively young man named Eliyahu. On this day, years ago, he had been a little obstreperous at cheder and the rebbe had sent him home. He walked in as his mother was contemplating diving into the dumpster. What a great thing for a good-hearted kid just sent home from school! He would love to dive into the dumpster. What an adventure!
Shortly afterward, Eliyahu walked in with his mother’s keys!
My friends, pardon me, but we have to be willing to jump into the dumpster of our own soul. This is where we are going to find the diamonds. Like Dovid ha Melech, who said “Min ha maitzar … from the depths I called upon G-d….” (Psalm 118) Like Eliyahu, who ran after his mother’s keys.
Today, when the entire world resembles a trash heap, we have to know that we are going to extract diamonds. Lot’s moral corruption was necessary for the seed of Moshiach to germinate. We are not going to imitate Lot, G-d forbid, but if we fall, we have to know that we can arise.
“Though the righteous one may fall seven times, he will arise.” (Mishlei 24:16)
The most glorious tree arises from a tiny seed buried invisibly in the dark earth.
“Know from where you came …. From a putrid drop.” (Pirkei Avos 3:1)
The anti-Semites want to say that we are beneath contempt. But we know exactly who we are and from where we came, and so does Hashem. Soon and suddenly, the Son of Dovid will arise from his deeply-hidden place, and the Torah he brings will illuminate the world like the sparkling radiance of a brilliant diamond.