20. "And there was a strife between the herdsmen of Avram's cattle"
When Avraham discovered that Lot, his nephew, was engaged in Idol Worshipping, Avraham knew immediately that he had to disconnect himself completely from Lot. The spiritual principle of this story concerns the influence that our immediate environment exerts upon us. It is incumbent upon all of us to associate with people who are sincere in their desire for spiritual growth. Although our own intentions may be pure, the influences that surround us inevitably affect our way of life.
The Relevance of this Passage
The Kabbalistic definition of Idol Worshipping includes much more than simply praying to statues or other false gods. Whenever we allow an external object or situation to control our behavior, our thoughts, or our emotions, we are worshipping an idol. Many people, for example, worship the idol of money. They are disciples and servants to their own businesses. Others are ruled by appearances and the perceptions of those around them. The moment we allow the external world to control our hearts and minds, we are committing the sin of Idol Worshipping. In this portion, freedom from external negative forces and influences is bestowed upon the reader.
174. Rabbi Shimon said, Come and behold, It is written: "And there was strife (Heb. riv) between the herdsmen of Avram's cattle." The word riv is spelled Resh Bet without the letter Yud, which means that Lot wanted to return to idol worshipping, which was the custom of the natives. Thus, at the end of the verse, it is written: "and the Cnaani and the Perizi dwelt then in the land." THIS TEACHES US THAT LOT WANTED TO WORSHIP IDOLS AS THEY DID. AND THE REASON WHY IT GIVES RIV WITHOUT A YUD IS TO POINT TOWARD IDOL WORSHIP. IT FOLLOWS THE SECRET FOUND IN THE VERSE, "AND THE ELDER (HEB. RAV) SHALL SERVE THE YOUNGER" (BERESHEET 25:23). ESAV SAID TO YA'AKOV, "I HAVE ENOUGH (HEB. RAV - RESH BET)" (BERESHEET 33:9), BUT YA'AKOV SAID TO HIM, "AND BECAUSE I HAVE ALL (HEB. KOL)" (BERESHEET 25:11). THIS IS ALSO THE SECRET OF THE VERSE, "AND A MIXED MULTITUDE (HEB. EREV RAV) WENT UP ALSO WITH THEM" (SHEMOT 12:38).
175. How do we know that Lot reverted to his evil ways of idolatry? We know is from the verse: "and Lot journeyed from the east (i.e. from yore)" (Beresheet 13:11). And what is the meaning of "yore?" It means from Him-He who is more ancient than the world. And thus it is written: "and Lot journeyed from the east," and "it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east" (Beresheet 11:1). So, because there they journeyed away from Him-He who is more ancient than the world, it means the same thing here!
176. As soon as Avraham realized that Lot reverted TO IDOLATRY, he spoke to him: "And Avram said to Lot, separate yourself, I pray you, from me" (Beresheet 13:8-9)--you are not worthy of associating with me. So Avraham separated from him and did not want to travel with or deal him any more, because whoever accompanies a wicked person shall eventually follow in his steps and be punished because of him.
177. How do we know this? We know this from Yehoshafat, who associated with Achav. And had it not been for the merit of his ancestors, Yehoshafat would have been punished because of Achav. As it is written: "but Yehoshafat cried out..." (II Divrei Hayamim 18:31). Then he was saved, as it is written: "and Elohim moved them to depart from him" (Ibid.)
We must separate ourselves from Esav, from Yishmael and from the Erev Rav, this is our mission.