By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum
וישמע אברהם כי נשבה אחיו וירק את חניכיו וכו’ (פרק יד פסוק יד)
Our פרשה details the events of a tremendous war between five nations who rebelled against the four nations that until then had ruled them. One of the rebelling nations was סדם, Sodom, where לוט, Lot, the nephew of אברהם, lived. As the rebellion was being crushed, one of the captives in the war was לוט. Although it seemed that the rebels were clearly losing, אברהם bravely set out to save his nephew. He waged war against the powerful four kings with just 318 men on his side. Not only that but the גמרא relates how their ammunition was sand which miraculously functioned as arrows against their enemies. This turned the tide and אברהם won the war on behalf of the five kings. There were many unbelievable miracles that occurred at this time and anyone watching was inspired to trust in Hashem. The מדרש relates how אברהם utilized this astounding victory to prove to everyone the existence of Hashem and that we are obligated to serve Him. The odd thing is that although סדם was very involved in the war and owed its existence to Hashem’s miracles, a short time later סדם was found to be guilty of terrible sins. Not only that, but upon further inspection they had no merit at all to save them and they were summarily destroyed. R’ Eliyahu Lopian asks, how is it possible that a nation that was so inspired can still stoop so low so quickly? How can it be that all the open miracles had no effect on them at all? R’ Lopian answers that when a person is accustomed to following their animalistic desires and cravings, with no self-control, they will continue to do so against all reasoning. That is, unless a person proactively pushes against their תאוות and base drives, they will naturally continue to follow the pull of their יצר הרע. Even when they are acting totally illogically, until they decide to work on their תאוה they will continue to go along with it. The first step must be to stop and think about why they live as they do and then to make a conscious decision to change their ways. Without a true effort to work against their natural desires, a person will not change. This idea from R’ Lopian can remind us throughout our lives to take stock of our actions and make sure we aren’t acting merely out of instinct and desire.