Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb suggests that one of the biggest factors that inhibits our sense of gratitude is a sense of entitlement. We try to raise our children so that they have all that they need and more. This is a noble goal. However the downside can be that these children grown into adults who don’t realize that they need to exert effort in order to achieve the luxuries, and even the necessities, of life. No one can appreciate the benefits of a life to which s/he feels entitled. The dangers of this sense of entitlement are alluded to in our Parsha this morning.
In the middle of Lech Lecha, Avraham and Lot part ways. The cause of this separation was a disagreement between the shepherds of Lot and the shepherds of Avraham. Rashi explains that the shepherds of Lot believed that they were entitled to graze their sheep on land that technically still belonged to others. Their logic was that the land belonged to Avraham and his descendants, and Lot was currently Avraham’s closest blood relative. The shepherds of Avraham disagreed, claiming that this promise had not yet been fulfilled. The land still belonged to others, and grazing on that land was theft. From this dispute, we see that Lot characterized a sense of entitlement. Even without working, without effort, and without following in the ways of Avraham, Lot felt that he was entitled to the blessings promised to Avraham.
A sense of entitlement may explain Lot’s choice of neighborhood. The Torah tells us that Lot chose to live in Sodom. The people of Sodom were (13:14) Ra’im V’chataim LaHashem Meod: “were exceedingly sinful and wicked.” Even if Lot did not want to live as committed and observant a life as his Uncle Avraham, why would he move to a place full of wicked people? The answer lays in the Torah’s descriptive for Sodom (13:10): “Kulah Mashkeh” “it was well watered everywhere.” Sodom was irrigated by underground springs, and therefore it was always very fertile for agriculture. Lot moved to Sodom because wealth and agricultural success were assured. There was no doubt, and no need for effort. This fits with Lot’s sense of entitlement. It is not surprising that a city that fosters a sense of entitlement also fosters wickedness and callousness. Entitled people are too self-centered to worry about others, and take care of themselves even at the expense of their neighbor- both characteristics that are ascribed to Sodom.
We can contrast Sodom with Eretz Yisrael, a land that is entirely dependent on rain. Rain comes from Hashem. If inhabitants of Israel want rain, then they have to turn to Hashem in prayer. While in Sodom one was encouraged to feel entitled, in Eretz Yisrael one is encouraged to feel dependent, to recognize Hashem’s role in our lives, and work hard to be deserving of Hashem’s blessings. And when we receive those blessings- we are expected to be grateful.
In Israel, they began to request rain (V’tein Tal Umatar L’vracha) starting yesterday, the 7th of Cheshvan. This event coupled with the mistakes of Lot/ Sodom are good opportunities to remind ourselves of the dangers of feeling entitled, and the need to always be grateful , no matter how many (or few) blessings we recognize in our lives.