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Pleading for the World - Parshat VaYera, 5781

11/05/2020 12:46:58 PM



Abraham in stained glass

G-d said to Abraham: The outcry of the evil of Sodom and Gomorroh has come before Me. I will descend and destroy these sinful cities.
Abraham answered: Will You destroy the innocent along with the wicked? Far be it from You to do such a thing, far be it! Will the Judge of the whole earth not do justice? What if there are fifty righteous people in those cities? Will You spare them for their sake?
G-d responded, I will not destroy the cities if there are fifty righteous folk.
Abraham persisted: And if there be five less?
I will spare the cities if there are forty five.
I have presumed to speak to You, I who am dust and ashes. Will You spare the cities if there are but forty? Thirty? Twenty? Ten?
I will spare the cities if there are ten righteous. And with that, G-d's presence departed from Avraham.

What are we to make of this story? Is righteousness a shield against misfortune? Is righteousness transferable?
Maybe the point is that we are presented with Abraham's audacity in speaking out to G-d in protest and in accepting G-d's invitation to be a partner with G-d in establishing a world based on justice.
Maybe we are being shown a way to relate to the presence of chaos and evil in our society- a way based on not getting into the weeds and engaging on the lowest, angriest level. Instead, Abraham is on a different level entirely: a G-d-centered level. Sometimes crises cannot be solved but transcended.
Perhaps the gift of being a Jew is to simultaneously live in the world of the here and now and at the same time to inhabit a space in eternity and to see the human project from on high.
You are My witnesses, says G-d. Hillel said, "When I am here, Everyone is here." Your presence, your Jewish self, is and has always been a conduit of blessing. As Rabbi Nachman reminds us, the main thing is to not be afraid.

Wed, July 28 2021 19 Av 5781