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Holy Haran

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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Holy Haran

The Sefas Emes is bothered why לוט merited to be with Avraham as well as having Dovid Hamelech and Moshiach descend from him.[1]


Rashi tells us that Nimrod threw the iconoclast Avraham into the כבשן האש, fiery pit after he smashed his father’s idols. Haran, who was there, said to himself if Avraham is victorious then I am of his supporters whereas if Nimrod is victorious then I am on his side.[2] When Avraham was saved they asked Haran whose side he is on. He answered Avraham’s. They then threw him into the pit and he was burned.[3]


Although it seems that Haran’s act wasn’t so righteous, let us see the view of some commentators. The Sefas Emes remarks לוט merited what he did in the merit of his father Haran who was Moser Nefesh himself by the כבשן האש although it wasn’t a fully altruistic act like Avraham’s. This is still included in being burned for the sanctification of Hashem’s name.


We are taught that לוט was saved from Sodom where the smoke of the earth arose like the smoke of a lime pit — כקיטר הכבשן.[4] The Gemara tells a story that the daughter of Nechunya (Nechunya dug cisterns along the roads for rainwater so that there would be abundant water for those who made the pilgrimage to Yerushalayim for Yom Tov) fell into a large cistern. She emerged safely from the pit since דבר שהצדיק מתעסק בו יכשל בו זרעו, that which a Tzadik, Nechunya, occupied himself with, his child won’t stumble upon.[5] The Chasam Sofer applies this idea here as Avraham knew that לוט would be saved since his father Haran honored Hashem by the כבשן האש thereby making it impossible that his son would suffer from the כבשן by Sodom. So, לוט was saved in the merit of his father.

The Chassam Sofer comments elsewhere that Haran was a big Tzadik (but not like Avraham) as he was Moser Nefesh[6] by the כבשן האש.[7] As a result, the women of the Jewish people come from[8] him.[9] Haran had three children: יסכהמלכה and לוט.[10] יסכה is Sarah.[11] Milka was the grandmother of Rivka and the great-grandmother of Rachel and Leah. So, the Jewish people come from Haran. There were also another two holy women not included in this who were also from Haran. That is, Rus and Naama,[12] as they were from Amon and Moav who descended from Lot. This is where Moshiach comes from.[13]


שרה (יסכה)   לוט          מלכה         
  עמון, מואב     בתואל        
                לבן           רבקה
      נעמה    רות      רחל, לאה              

[1] Sefas Emes, Lech Lecha, 5637, s.v. טעם.  After all, לוט was far from righteous. One place we see this is in the fact he chose his neighborhood because they were steeped in lewdness (13:10, Rashi. see also 13:7, 13, 14 Rashi).

[2] Haran was caught in the middle, unable to decide on his own. This is alluded to in the letters of his name. In mathematics, there are sets of ones, tens, and, hundreds. The letters א through י are in the set of ones, letters from י through צ are in the set of tens, and letters from ק through ת are in the set of hundreds. The letter ה of הרן, which has a gematria of 5, is exactly in the middle of the ones. The next letter, ר, 200, is in the middle of the hundreds, since the highest single letter gematria in the hundreds is ת, 400. Lastly, נ, 50, is in the middle of the tens.

[3] Breishis 11:28, Rashi.

[4] Breishis 19:28.

[5] Yevamos 121b.

[6] Chasam Sofer on the Torah, Breishis 22:20. Haran was in between meaning he was great but not as great as Avraham and not as bad as Nimrod (See Shela in Pesachim, Drush Shlishi). This is hinted to in his name as ה has a numerical value of 5. This is the midway point of single digits. ר is 200 which is the midway point of the hundreds (as ת, the last letter, has a gematria of 400). נ is 50, which is the midway point in the tens.

[7] In this light, we can grasp אור הנר יפה (Pesachim 8a) as that which הרן, which is comprised of the same letters as הנר, was Moser Nefesh at אור כשדים was great (יפה).

[8] The men, Yitzchak and Yaakov, come from Avraham. So, these people brought Godliness into the world. For this reason, the first letters of אברהם, לוט, הרן, יסכה, מלכה forms the name אלה-ים.

[9] Just as Haran didn’t do it on his own rather it was an outcome of Avraham, likewise, he merited the women that go along with their husbands.

[10] Breishis 11:29, 31.

[11] Breishis 11:29, Rashi.

[12] Indeed, הרן forms an acronym for הרן, רות, נעמה.

[13] If we take the initials of מלכה, יסכה, לוט, הרן, we get the word מילה, since the future progeny of the Jewish people came through them.

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