Weekly Chasidic Story #572 (s5769-07 / 13 Cheshvan 5769)

A Much Deeper Interpretation

As soon as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein walked in to the sick man's room, the patient sent everyone else out.

(Connection: weekly Torah reading--Lot's daughters)


A Much Deeper Interpretation

In November 1921, when Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was the chief rabbi of the town Luban, a certain Torah scholar from the town fell seriously ill with a very unusual disease, in which the main symptom was that his tongue swelled up enormously. The doctors could not figure it out, and soon the man was on his deathbed from this illness.

Rav Moshe went to visit him. As soon as he walked in to the sick man's room, the man sent everyone else out, saying he had to speak to Rav Moshe in private.

After everyone left, the sick man turned to Rav Moshe and told him that he knows why he contracted this bizarre illness. It quickly became clear that talking was difficult for him because of his tongue. He said that the week before, when the Weekly Reading was Vayeira, he had given a sermon in which he berated the daughters of Lot for what they had done. In it he spoke very harshly about their act (Gen. 19: 30-38) and criticized them especially harshly for the brazenness of the older one in naming the child after the deed ["Moab" = "from Father"] and thereby publicizing it to everyone. He questioned why they merited to have the Messiah descend from them, considering what they had done [the Messiah has to be a descendant of King David, who is a descendant of Ruth the convert from Moab, the grandson of Lot in question].

He then related to Rav Moshe that the night before two elderly women had come to him in a dream and identified themselves as the daughters of Lot. They were upset at the way he had spoken about them and wanted to respond. They told him that he should not have accused them of being depraved and committing such shameful acts. He should have considered that they are from the family of Abraham and everything they did had a purpose.

They explained that they thought they were the last people on earth to survive the destruction and they had to ensure the continuity of mankind. That required them committing such an act, even though it was heinous. According to their perspective, they had no other choice.

Nevertheless [when during the pregnancy they realized that it was only the population of the five towns on the Dead Sea that had been wiped out], they felt that they had to publicize what they had done. They feared that if they did not, future generations might make a deity out of any child born to them, for they would consider it a virgin birth! After all, no other man was in the entire area, and surely no one would believe they cohabited with their own father, the brother of Sarah, wife of Avraham.

To avoid the result of people thinking it to be a virgin birth and possibly making a religion out of the mother and daughter, they decided that they had to publicize what they did, no matter how shameful - in order to ensure that everyone understood that there is no such thing as birth without a father. So the older daughter named the first baby Moab - "from Father."

She concluded that this is exactly the reason she merited to be an ancestress of King David - because of the self-sacrifice she displayed in the naming.

Lastly, they said to him, that is why you have to be punished [through your tongue] measure for measure, for the harsh words you spoke about us.

He concluded telling the story to Rav Moshe, turned to the wall, and passed away.

[Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from lifeinisrael.blogspot.com/2007/11/daughters-of-lot-and-virgin-birth.html, as translated from Igros Moshe vol. 8, introduction.]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895 - 13 Adar B 1986) was born in Uzdan, near Minsk, Belorussia. He became rabbi of Luban while young and remained there till 1937. After that he immigrated with his family to the United States, to the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There he became Rosh HaYeshivah of Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim, which became world-famous because of his presence. He became the most important halachic authority of his generation, and his rulings were accepted worldwide. They have been published in a multi-volume collection called Igros Moshe.


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