Rushing to Perform a Mitzva

November 17th, 2005 by Yaakov Ellis

ותשקין את אביהן יין בלילה הוא; ותבא הבכירה ותשכב את אביה, ולא ידע בשכבה ובקומה
And on that night they gave their father wine to drink; and the first born (daughter) came and slept with her father, and he was not aware of her lying down nor of her getting up

Bereishit 19:33

When first addressing the actions of Lot’s daughters, it is hard to view them as anything other than depraved acts. They got their father drunk in order that each would be able to sleep with him and have a child through him. However, when taking their motives into account, Chazal view their actions in a different light. The daughters of Lot should not be viewed as sinners. Instead, their actions should be viewed as positive deeds.

א”ר חייא בר אבין א”ר יהושע בן קרחא: לעולם יקדים אדם לדבר מצוה שבשביל לילה אחת שקדמתה בכירה לצעירה זכתה וקדמתה ארבע דורות בישראל למלכות
Rav Chiya bar Avin said in the name of Rav Yehoshua ben Karcha: a person should always strive to perform a mitzva first, for because of the one night that the older daughter preceeded the younger daughter, she merited to have her line join the progeny of the Jewish kings by four generations

Talmud Bavli Nazir 23b

Rav Baruch haLevi Epstein in his commentary Torah Temima, on this passuk, footnote 21 explains that Lot’s daughters had good intentions in what they were doing. To them, the entire world had been destroyed. They did not know if there were any other people left in the world – if there were none, then it was up to them to ensure that man would continue. So they each slept with their father in order to keep the world going. This act, which under any other circumstance would be a grave sin, is deemed to be a positive act on their part (called a dvar mitzva by the Gemara above).

And as their actions were positive ones, we have what to learn from their zeal in performing this mitzva. The older daughter was the more zealous of the two. She made sure that she was the first one to perform this mitzva (and as the Gemara states, merited that her descendents joined the Davidic line four generations earlier than the descendents of her younger sister: Oved – son of Ruth the Moabite, descendent of Lot’s older daughter – Yishai, David, Shlomo, Rechav’am – son of Na’ama the Amonite, descendent of the younger daughter of Lot.

A sinful act worthy of distain has transformed into a prime example of זריזים מקדימים למצוות – the zealous strive to perform mitzvot as soon as they can – and of the rewards granted for such zealousness.

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