"If you go to the left I’ll go to the right, and if you go to the right I’ll go to the left” - famous words of separation, famous words that needed to be said regarding separation that had to be made. That’s the way it’s normally understood by most of the commentaries and the way most of us have it in our heads.
According to Rashi, Avraham actually said, “If you go to the left I will be nearby to support you on the right. And if you go to the right, I’ll be right there for you on your left.” The Siftei Chachomim explains that it would be odd for Avraham to be saying that he would run the opposite direction from Lot, because he just finished saying “achim anachnu” - we are brothers and shouldn't fight. So why now would he be saying I’ll go to the other end from wherever you go?
As Rashi sees it, Avraham was saying that on the one hand he needed to distance himself from Lot, but, he would never abandon Lot. And this little line has a profound message for us. There are people that we need to distance ourselves from on one level. But it doesn’t mean that we give up on them, that we don’t care.
The well known story of the footsteps illustrates this idea: A man saw a vision of all the scenes of his life. And through each scene he saw two sets of footsteps; one set was his, the other belonged to G-d, who had promised to accompany him always. But then he noticed that during the hardest times there was only one set of footprints. He asked G-d, “how could you abandon me during the toughest times?” G-d explained, “during the hardest times, I was carrying you.”
May we be blessed to feel love and compassion for others, for in the end this is the way of G-d, whom we strive and yearn to emulate. Although those we love may mistakenly feel abandoned, we separate only with an attitude of concern and support. Dear brothers and sisters are in their own space to our right or our left, and we view these positions as angles from which to offer support.
Rabbi Neil Fleischmann