In this week’s Torah portion we read about the destruction of Sodom. When the angel informs Lot and his family of the imminent destruction of their home town, they are warned not to look back lest they be swept away (Genesis 19:17). And we all know, as they are leaving, Lot’s wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). What was so wrong with looking back?
I would venture to say that we have all been delayed on a highway due to the delays of a crash on the other side of the divide. We curse the people ahead of us, but when it is our turn we join the rubberneckers slowing down to look back at that crash ourselves. It is natural to want to see the spectacle of destruction, but we know that it is not beneficial to society.
The story of Lot’s wife stands in contrast to Avraham. He too was instructed to leave and in another way told not look back. God told him to: “Get out of your country, and you’re your kindred, and from your father’s house, unto the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). If he had really turned his back on his father’s house he would not have repeatedly come to the rescue of his cousin Lot. Where Lot’s wife looks back to gawk at the pain of other’s, Avraham turns back to aid and assist. I want to share with you an Irish blessing, “May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”