LOT'S WIFE'S SALT PILLAR
Lot's wife Pillar is a famous statue made out of salt standing in the desert, so what's the big deal?
The book of Genesis describes the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which dwelt in the "Jordan Square" (an area in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea) and whose inhabitants led a particularly corrupt and cruel way of life, provoking God to send two angels to "transform" the cities on all their inhabitants.
Lot, Abraham's nephew, was one of the people who lived in Sodom. The angels were sent to save Lot and his family, which included his wife, daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren, the night before the city was destroyed.
Lot's sons-in-law laughed at the angels' warnings of impending disaster and chose to stay in the city with their wives and sons. Whereas Lot, his wife, and their two unmarried daughters were forcibly removed from the city by the angels after delaying and refusing to flee voluntarily.
The angels told them to flee for their lives from the ravine to the mountain without looking back. Lot, his wife, and their daughters fled to the city of Zohar with the permission of the angels, and their lives were saved.
But then something very interesting and strange happens: contrary to the angels' warning, Lot's wife looks back and becomes a "Salt Pillar"
Well, who was Lot's wife? What did she sin? And why did she become a salt pillar?
WHO WAS LOT'S WIFE?
Lot's wife, Irit, was from a local family of Sodom men. Irit's behavior, unlike her husband Lot's, was as corrupt and cruel as the rest of the locals.
Even when Lot risked his life and begged the angels to stay in his house, he was alone in taking care of their needs, with no help from his wife, who saw the act of hospitality with an evil eye, because of the laws of Sodom and Gomorrah, every act of kindness and helping others was considered a serious crime.
WHAT WAS LOT'S WIFE LOOKING AT?
When reading the Torah verses, it is unclear why Lot and his family were forbidden to look back, or what caused Lot's wife to disregard this warning.
Various explanations for these questions can be found in Chazal's Midrashim and Torah commentators.
Lot's wife received a punishment that was not only unusual and bizarre but also extremely severe. What caused it to turn into salt?
According to the Midrash, she was punished with salt because she sinned with salt: when Lot hosted the angels in his home, he asked his wife to bring them some salt. Instead of cooperating with her husband's hospitality, she became astute and used his request to spread rumors about the grave "sin" committed in her home. What exactly did she do? Went to all her neighbors and asked for salt "for the guests," and when the neighbors found out that they had foreign guests, they all gathered around the house to abuse and harm them.
A superficial reading of the Midrash gives the impression that Lot's wife's unique punishment through salt was determined almost arbitrarily, simply because it was the commodity her husband asked her to provide to his guests.
Furthermore, Lot's wife was punished not because she looked where she was not supposed to look, but because she had sinned against her husband's guests the day before. Why, then, was she punished only when she looked back at the escape?
To understand the deep meaning implied in the motif of the salt in the story told by the Midrash, one must first understand the sin for which Lot's wife was punished:
SALT AND MONEY
According to the Sages, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai once left Jerusalem after the Temple was destroyed and saw a poor woman picking barley from the feces of donkeys.
At the sight of the great rich man's daughter's depression, Rabban Yochanan was perplexed and asked her, "My daughter, the property of your father's house, where did it go?!"
"And that you do not know the parable that was accepted in the mouths of the people of Jerusalem, 'salt of wealth - missing?" she replied.
She replied that it was customary in Jerusalem to say that the 'preservative' of money is charitable giving: just as salt is used as a preservative for food that will not spoil, so when a person lacks money for charity, he is preserving and insuring his money.
That is, she hinted to Rabban Yochanan that her rich and philanthropic father's great acts of charity and kindness were less than he could give, and thus his wealth was not preserved, and she became poor.
This story and proverb illuminated the "salt" with which Lot's wife sinned:
Lot's wife, like the rest of the people of Sodom, did not want anything from her property and authority to be taken away for the benefit of others, not even a petty and very cheap thing like salt. Sodom's people believed that by doing so, they would be able to keep all of their property to themselves. However, it turned out that their spoiled and bad attitude had the opposite effect, and all of their property was doomed to annihilation and destruction as a result of their cruelty and selfishness.
Only as the wife of Lot, our ancestor Abraham's nephew, did she receive the right to salvation. But only on one condition: that you be rewarded for Sodom's extreme and evil possessiveness. As a result, the angels instructed her to forget all of her property and possessions that were still within the revolution and to give them up; if she passed the test and chose the path of giving up and compassion, she would be saved.
Sadly, even during the commotion and destruction, when the entire city was destroyed and only she and her family were saved, Lot's wife continued to drive the evil way of the people of Sodom and did not stop mourning her loss.
As a result, she was punished with salt, to a degree contrary to the measure: whoever thought she would take care of only herself and preserve her wealth at all costs without regard for others, a storm that became a lump of salt and became entirely a preservative, while nothing remained of herself and all her possessions.
THE DEAD SEA PILLAR TODAY
Is Lot's wife's salt Pillar still standing? Do you have any idea what it is?
There is no clear geographical identification in Chazal's tradition regarding the location of Lot's wife's cities of Jordan Square and the Dead Sea.
According to Halacha Anyone who sees the Dead Commissioner of Lot's wife receives two special blessings: "Blessed are you, O Lord, our God, King of the world, who remembers the righteous."
Lot's wife's salt pillar statue is a mountain in the shape of a salt rock that can be seen while riding on Route 90; it is recommended to pull over to the side of the road (carefully, of course), tell children Lot's story, and take photos next to the statue.