Last week, Lot left Avraham, his uncle, to settle in Sdom. Many have asked why the generous nephew of Avraham would do so. This week we see both Lot's positive interactions with others and how poisonous his surroundings were. When Lot sees the strangers entering the city, his instant response recalls that of his uncle; he invites them to his house to sleep for the night. He insists on having them visit and eat his food. We also see the unbearable corruption of the city. Unlike Lot, the people of Sdom abhor kindness. When new people enter the town, they wonder how they might be taken advantage of. Sodom is a place that consumes its inhabitants, and the residents of the city immediately seek to eradicate Lot's visitors. Why, then, did Lot choose to live in such a place in last week's parsha? Why live with such evil people? Many have suggested that Lot planned to influence the people of Sdom to be more righteous. He went to teach them kindness and convert them to a gentler way, just as his uncle did in Charan.
However, Lot miscalculated. The people of Sdom had no interest in the monotheism of Avraham or his great concern for others. They actively did not want to improve and resented those who tried to teach them to act better.
So what mistakes did Lot make? Why did his plan not work? Perhaps Lot attempted too much. He moved to a place characterised by its incredible evil and neglect of others. He wanted to influence and improve them, but instead, he endangered his life and his family and ended up being the recipient of influence.
The story of Lot is a cautionary tale. We often try to make the world around us a better place. However, we must always be careful. To improve the world, we must first ensure our safety. The message of Lot is that our surroundings matter, and we will only be able to teach others better behaviour if they first aren't a danger to us, whether physical or spiritual.