Shaya Cohen -


Creative Conundrums Vayera 2023


Lot’s wife looked back, and she thereupon turned into a pillar of salt.

Is there a symbolic lesson here?

After all,

You shall season your every offering of meal with salt; you shall not omit from your meal offering the salt of your covenant with God; with all your offerings you must offer salt. Lev. 12:3

Could it be that the reason we are to bring salt is to remind us of Lot’s wife’s error: she looked back. Perhaps every offering is supposed to draw a line between the present and past, and allow us to always move onward?

Are we supposed to learn about the laws of the offerings from Lot’s wife? Might that explain why this detail is included in the text?

G-d Takes Avraham to Work

Before destroying Sodom, G-d explains his thinking:

And the L-rd said: Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am going to do [to Sodom]? … he commands his children and his household after him to keep the way of the L-rd to do righteousness and judgment so that the L-rd bring upon Abraham what He spoke concerning him.

Is G-d teaching Avraham how to judge when a society is beyond redemption, and must be destroyed?

Are there lessons we should be learning from the story of Sodom that should be applied to Gaza?

How Could Sarah Laugh?

Isn’t it interesting that until Sinai, G-d does not even demand an exclusive relationship? We know Yaakov’s family had idols, and seemingly without consequence. And all of the forefathers referred to G-d not as the creator or god of all the world, but instead as “The G-d of Avraham/Isaac/Jacob” or “The G-d of my father(s).”

Perhaps this was because G-d in the text of Genesis never explains who he is? When Malchitzedek calls G-d “koneh heaven and earth,” Avram echoes the words back, as if they are entirely new.

If the forefathers did not know G-d to be the creator and master of the world, as Moses did: And I appeared to Avraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, by the name of Elokim, but by my name, YKVK, I was not known to them.

Could this be confirming the thesis? And if so, perhaps it explains why Sarah laughs?!

And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “Now that I am withered, am I to have enjoyment?

The ancient world had endless deities. The familial or tribal deity was not the same as the deity one worshipped for fertility. It would have been laughable to assume that one deity could do something that only a specialized deity could handle. So Sarah laughed.

Is there anything in the text that proves this hypothesis wrong, that tells us that the forefathers ever thought of, or identified, G-d as the creator and master of all the world?

Rhetorical Questions?

Lot says, Behold, now, I have two daughters who have not known a man. Let me take them out now to you, and do to them as you wish.

But isn’t it odd that he does not show the daughters? Indeed, the text tells us that Lot closed the door behind him.

So was this question always meant to be rhetorical? And if so, was Lot actually being chutzpadik to the townspeople?!

And would that explain why the townspeople, instead of saying something like “No, thank you. We’ll have the men instead!” see Lot’s offer as a sarcastic insult, and immediately respond with threats of violence?

Is Chalav A Gift to the Divine?

The very first fats in the Torah were those of Hevel’s offerings:

Hevel, for his part, brought the firstlings of his flock and from their fats (chlv). G-d paid heed to Hevel and his offering

Hevel’s offering is then echoed, in its way, by Avraham, who also gives chlv to others, the angels whom he perceived as being connected to G-d.

He took curds and chlv and the calf that had been prepared and set these before them; and he waited on them under the tree as they ate.

Is it possible that these two examples, where chlv is reserved for G-d, explains this later commandment?

You shall eat no chlv of ox or sheep or goat. Chlv from animals that died or were torn by beasts may be put to any use, but you must not eat it. If anyone eats the chlv of animals from which offerings by fire may be made to G-d, the person who eats it shall be cut off from kin. (Lev. 7:23-25)

Is chlv, (which is the same phonetic word as “milk”, and also connected to numerous commandments) something Hevel and Avraham designate to be for the divine, and that is why G-d’s commandment echoes their actions?

Is Sodom the Origin of Ketores?

Looking down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and all the land of the Plain, he saw the smoke [kitor] of the land rising like the smoke [kitor] of a kiln. (Gen: 19:28)

The word ktr is only found in all of the chumash in either the context of smoke/incense for divine connection and Sodom!

Is it a coincidence? Or could there be a connection between the incense leaving Sodom and Gomorrah, and the incense for the tabernacle?

Well… The incense of the mikdash was meant to be continuous, a constant reminder of… what?

Could it be that we smell incense with our nostrils. And it was into Adam’s nostrils that G-d blew His divine spirit to create Adam’s soul. So could the incense be a reminder of that connection, that when we smell, we are reminded of our ensoulment? After all, the instrument we use to smell is where G-d connected to Adam, and so connects to each of us.

If this is the case, then does the moment when the incense leaves Sodom and Gomorrah teach us that the divine spirit was leaving those people? Could it be both an imagery of physical death, but also a permanent spiritual disconnection?

When mankind is destroyed and the incense leaves the people, the link between man and G-d has been incinerated, the result being that the divine ensoulment into the people of Sodom and Gomorrah goes up in smoke?

This parsha question sheet takes the approach of reading the Chumash very closely. It is assumed that every letter and word has meaning, and all questions can be answered (at least every one we have come up so far!) So you’ll find the questions offered every week are deeply textual, seeking relevance to our lives today from the foundational document for Judaism and indeed all of Western Civilization. 

This sheet is distributed with the general approval of Rabbi Rose.

Our answers can be found at (use the search tool). Or email me at

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