Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Torah Connection - Vayera

This past week my congregation participated in Global Hunger Shabat, joining congregations around the world to raise awareness about those who do not enjoy the abundance that we take for granted.

Part of the reading for this event is taken from this week's Torah portion, where Abraham argues with G*d on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  How much "collateral damage" is acceptable when destroying these bastions of evil? Not 50, or 40, or 30, or 20, or even 10 innocents must perish together with the guilty.

What can we learn from this?  First, that a small number of people can, in fact make a difference.  A small group of people banding together for justice against an unjust society can sway the course of events, whether we consider that to be a divine intervention or not.   Today, as we vote, we can think of those as the swing voters who ultimately determine the outcome of the election.

Second, that a small impact is worth making!  When we look at all the troubles in the world, whether it be global hunger, or institutionalized orphans, or oppressed people of all sorts, we can be overwhelmed.  If we cannot make a significant impact, why tilt at windmills?  This passage says, no, it is important to advocate even on behalf of a small number.  Saving even a single soul is like saving the whole world.

Finally, there is a subtle point that I noticed while reading this passage during our study session.  Abraham asks G*d for justice: "Far be it from You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty, so that innocent and guilty fare alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?"  G*d, however, responds to Abraham's plea with mercy:  "If I find within the city of Sodom ... innocent ones, I will forgive the whole place for their sake."  Abraham's request for justice is in fact denied -- the innocent and guilty will ultimately fare alike in this case.  Here is the tension between the "conservative" and "liberal" points of view.  Both seek to create a better world, but some seek to achieve it through justice, while others through mercy.  Judaism has a longstanding tradition of not choosing between them, but instead grappling with that very tension.  It is useful to remember, as we argue with each other over the political issues of the day, that our political adversaries are not evil incarnate, but just people with different opinions.



  1. Amen!

    May we soon return to a status, here in America, where we have political opponents, not political enemies.

    And may we ourselves help to make that happen!

    1. Call me a cynic, but I do not see obstructionists as people that see a better path.

    2. Really? Are you referring to Democrats trying to obstruct Bush's War on Terror or to Republicans trying to obstruct Obamacare? People who "obstruct" almost always do so because they sincerely believe that the policy in question is harmful, not out of spite. I agree that it is frequently extremely difficult to see how someone you disagree with (or 100% wrong, in your opinion) could have arrived at that position. Nonetheless, most people are rational and well-intentioned. It is likely that those "obstructionists" feel the same about your views as you do about theirs.

      That is why I think that this passage is so relevant. Abraham is arguing policy with G*d Himself! If even G*d could have positions that we disagree with, then disagreement is not prima facie evidence of evil, is it?


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