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Vayera

on Thursday, October 17 2013. Posted by Rabbi Uri Pillichowski

Teachers enter their chosen field to impart knowledge, demonstrate the beauty of wisdom and inspire future generations to become life learners. Educators rarely chose to teach for their own enjoyment and the teacher has yet to be found who explained that their vast wealth came from a successful career in the classroom.

When repeating the same behavior over and over, it is easy to lose focus, this is true of teachers as much as anyone. To retain focus teachers should frequently ask themselves, “Who am I here for?” This Dvar Torah will provide a prime example of easily lost focus. This week’s Sedra contains the well known incident of Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt. In examining her Divine punishment, this Dvar Torah aims to warn the reader of the danger of losing focus.

God records that the angel warns Lot of the impending destruction of his town, Sodom. After a lengthy discussion explaining that Lot and his family were to be saved, God wrote, “And it came to pass, when they took them outside, that [the angel] said, “Flee for your life, do not look behind you, and do not stand in the entire plain. Flee to the mountain, lest you perish.” The key instruction in this phrase, and one which Lot should have emphatically emphasized it his family was “do not look behind you.”

In his commentary on the angel’s warnings, Rashi explained why Lot and his family were prohibited from looking back. Rashi wrote, “You dealt wickedly together with them, but in Abraham’s merit you are saved. You do not deserve to see their punishment while you are being saved.” By turning back, Lot or his family would be stating they were righteous and worthy of being saved and of watching their evil neighbors, deserving of Divine wrath, be punished.

Lot’s wife didn’t heed the angel’s warning. Thinking she was meritorious of salvation in her own right, she turned around. God recorded, “And He turned over these cities and the entire plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and the vegetation of the ground. And [Lot’s] wife looked from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”

It is easy to imagine the difficult conversation Lot had with his family about it not being their merit that enabled them to be saved, but in the merit of Avraham their cousin. Yet Lot’s wife lost focus, she thought it was about her, and not her husband’s righteous family.

Teacher’s must not repeat Lot’s wife’s error. They must not turn their back on their students by imagining their efforts are the focus and instead they must recognize that their students’ achievements are where their energies must be directed. It is through their students’ accomplishments that their efforts are measured.

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