In parsha Vayarah chapter 19 verse, 9, the torah uses an interesting word to describe the frenzy around Lot’s house in Sodom. The Angels came to Sodom after visiting Avraham. They come to Lot’s house and quickly a group of wild people circle the house and demand they turn over the angels. The crowd says “Gosh Halah” (hard to transliterate) which Rashi seems to translate as ” near and far.” The Artscroll translates as “approach away.”
The words “approach away” or near far seem contradictory. Does the crowd want to pull in or turn away. The Rashbam cites to Isaiah chapter 65 verse 5 where the word is also found “keep to yourself, do not come near me for I am holy.”
What happens to the crowd? They are stricken with blindness.
The Shikker Dovid would like to suggest that drawing close and moving away do not really refer to a spatial dimension. It is inward control, self-awareness, identity of self. The crowd in the Lot story lost control of itself. By losing self control, they lost inner awareness. In their frenzy to harm or violate they don’t know what they want to do. In their frenzy, they don’t know what they want. Their inner self is lost. Their blindness is physical but really a loss of themselves.
Evil confounds us to act against our own best interests. The lesson is not to be drawn to evil which ultimately leads to a loss of self awareness.
I always wondered how the Sodomites decided what punishments to impose upon visitors. Do you think they had a City council meeting? I would love to know what the other suggestions were. Always thought it would make a great SNL skit.