Study Guide: Right or Left? East Is Not an Option

Study Guide: Right or Left? East Is Not an Option

Parashat Lech Lecha Study Guide

Text: Bereshit 13:5-13

5 And also Lot, who went with Avram, had flocks and herds and tents. 6 Now the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Avram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock… 8 So Avram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me… for we are brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you go to the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” 10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered… (before theLord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt… 11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed forward… Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. 13 And the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.

  • Why can Avram and Lot not live together? Is the reason only objective?
  • Why is Avram the one to offer Lot land, not vice versa? (Genesis 12:4, Genesis 12:7 might help.)
  • What might have happened if they would have followed Avraham’s offer of going one to the right and one to the left?
  • How does Lot’s choice fit with Avram’s offer? How does the Torah evaluate his choice? How does it let you know that?

Commentary: Radak on Bereshit 13:9

If you go to the left… – If you wish to go to the north of the land I will be in the south of the land in this corner in which we are today, for they were in the south of the Land of Israel as it said: “journeyed…toward the South…”
If you go to the right – And if you wish to stay here which is the south, I will be pushed away from you and go to the north of the land.

  • What difficulty in the text does Radak’s explanation resolve?
  • To orient themselves in biblical times people would face east (forward = Kedem, note the English term “orient”); that places the right hand to the south and the left to the north. Accordingly, what did Avram offer? When Lot goes “forward”, what direction does he choose?
  • Why do you think that Avram did not offer Lot the east? Lot acted contrary to Avram’s wishes. Why? Why should he not have done so? What image of Lot does the Torah subtly paint here?

See more: Parashat Lech Lecha

Originally posted as part of the Conservative Yeshiva at the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center’s Torah Sparks. Support Torah learning from the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center/Conservative Yeshiva for leaders and seekers around the world here.


  • Vered Hollander-Goldfarb teaches Tanach and Medieval Commentators at the Conservative Yeshiva and is a regular contributor to Torah Sparks, FJC’s weekly message on the weekly Torah portion. She received her M.A. in Judaic Studies and Tanach from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University and studied at Bar-Ilan University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Before making aliyah, Vered taught at Ramaz School and Stern College in New York.

  • The Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center (FJC) is a home in the heart of Jerusalem where leaders and seekers can find an authentic place in Jewish tradition to call their own. FJC offers opportunities to study, pray and explore within an egalitarian and inclusive setting, creating multiple pathways for finding personal and communal meaning.

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