Vayera - weekly Torah portion

Abraham “was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day” probably busy doing some thing or another, and not paying particular attention to what was going around him. Suddenly he lifts up his eyes and notices that “three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth” adding, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not [pass Your servant by. Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and]rest yourselves under the tree”. He does not know these people, he has no idea if they are friend or foe but despite that, choosing between fear and seclusion and trust and inclusion he chooses the latter. This is not necessarily the natural response of someone meeting another human being expectedly or unexpectedly.

#METOO - denounce sexual assault and harassment

For Abraham the easiest thing to do when these strangers entered his field of vision was to ignore them. He was busy at the middle of the day, it was hot, and he was minding his own business. When they enter his entire schedule is disrupted. Strangers arrive and without having the chance to prepare for it he finds himself in another task, the task of hosting calling for “bread cakes” to be prepared and “curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared” and serve these to his new acquaintances. Kosher food may not have been the strongest asset of Abraham but welcoming of guests and honoring the stranger certainly was part of his being.

As we continue to read this portion of the Torah we further learn of the sense of justice that Abraham possess. He learns of the plan to destroy the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah and complains, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” Then in a Talmudic approach he begins a debate with God, “Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” and gets the answer, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” He continues until a final attempt is made, “I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” Abraham probably knew not the righteous nor the wicked of these towns but nevertheless his sense of justice led him to fight the issue before God.

Abraham could have well ignored this issue of Sodom and Gomorrah. What does he have to do with the wicked dwellers of these towns? However, Abraham as a true believer cannot just brush this one aside. The potential injustice is to great. He recognizes it and sees it as his personal responsibility to state his mind about the situation. Just like with the guests he hosted he does understand there is a risk here but it is a risk that is worthwhile taking.

We must stand for justice fight against such phenomena even when there are personal or public risks. Just as Abraham at his time we must learn to find the benefits from taking the risks rather than bowing under its heavy weight. There will be those who scream at us, yell at us, intimidate us, and even threaten us. A decent debate is acceptable as long as it takes place within acceptable boundaries which respect the legitimacy of its participants, even when one is sure that the other side to the debate is utterly wrong and misleading. It is easy to fall prey to a style that becomes personal, uses foul language, screaming and cursing. We have to fight for a different style. It is more difficult and lengthy but worthwhile. Abraham was probably quite a strange person at the time, maybe we shall be viewed similarly. However, we must continue to try and persuade, seek good, strive for change in gentle ways, act with justice and host in our tent all seekers and lovers of what is good.

Shabbat Shalom.

Reuven Marko, 3 November 2017, 15 Heshvan, 5778

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