When the city of Sodom was destroyed, only Lot, his wife and two daughters survived. During flight from the burning city Lot’s wife turned around after being command not to and turned into a pillar of salt. Our rabbi’s tell us she deserved this punishment because
like the people of Sodom, she was heartless. When guests would come to her house she would salt the food to make it un-eatable. She lived an isolated and selfish life and her punishment was midah K’neged Midah-“measure for measure.” So she became a pillar of salt.
Poor people would come to the home of Lot seeking bread and all that it represents; warmth, compassion, friendship, but she gave them salt, treated them with callousness, cruelty and disdain. Even when she received a reprieve and was saved from Sodom she felt no remorse no pangs of anguish for the people left behind. She turned around and watched her neighbors roasting in the furnace and remained unmoved by the catastrophe. Her punishment came fast. The rabbis say that it fitted the crime. Bamelach chatah ubamelach lakta. “By salt she sinned and by salt she was smitten.” Her sin was self-centeredness and cruelty, and her punishment was that she was forever to remain a pillar of melach. Abraham our father was the great teacher of chesed, kindness, looking out for the other guy even before your own wants and needs.
We are living in complicated times when we forget too quickly that there are other people in our midst that have wants and needs.
When we bend our need to suit someone else’s we are accomplishing the chesed the Abraham exhibited. This is more difficult than we can imagine so most of us don’t even realize how uncompromising and selfish we are. We can be balai chesed if we just give it a little more attention.
Rabbi Gabe Elias