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''Far be it from You to do such a thing - to kill the righteous with the wicked… Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the Earth do justice?' (18:25)
Thus Abraham pleaded with G-d when He confided to Abraham His intention to destroy Sodom. The text does not give details of what was wrong with that particular urban civilization, other than that they were 'evil sinners' (13:13). However, the prophet Ezekiel fills in some of the details when recalling that those of Sodom were 'proud, smug… and gave no support to the poor and the needy' (Ez. 16:49).
A few months ago, one of my non-Jewish students remarked to me: 'One of the things that I like about Judaism is that you people always discuss. That makes me feel comfortable, feeling at home. You reflect, think about things, even challenge things which in my way of life are fixed by dogma.'
[I was tempted to quote the Psalms: 'Happy are those who live in Your House' and suggest that the privilege of questioning G-d belonged to His family members - those who are closest to Him (Abraham being very much included), but I preferred to remain silent and bask in the implications of her insightful remarks. That could explain how G-d accepted Abraham's questioning Him - indeed He appears to have actually encouraged, or at least gone along with him. Others close to G-d also questioned Him. Moses. Jeremiah. Job.]
However, G-d's challenging Abraham may be additionally explained as giving a lesson in education and in bringing up children.
For example, a father is concerned that his teenage son who is 'dead set' to vacation a long weekend at Las Vegas. He could do one of two things. He could ground him at home and ensure that he stays home. Or he could say: 'I don't think it's for you, but you have to make the decision'. Later, the son comes back from Vegas and confides that he gambled and lost all his Bar-Mitzva savings. Father replies: 'So - what did you learn from this?'
With locking him up, he would not have gone to Vegas in the first place. There would have been bitterness, resentment, and possible later retaliation. With letting him go, there would have been a much greater loss - feeling out of place, money gifts from loving relatives gone to the one-armed bandits. But he would have learnt a lesson. He engaged in dialogue with his father. His father listened, even though he did not agree. But he still was prepared for his son to find out for himself. Yes, his son fell. But the father was there when he fell to pick him up. That was a true father and a true educator.
The message from the Parasha is that such is the way of G-d. He allows people to question Him. As He went along with Abraham's begging Him to spare Sodom in the off-chance that he might find ten men good and true - even though He knew that ten such people would not be found. He allows free choice. He allows people to make mistakes so long as they learn from them. And by making mistakes and learning from them, people progress spiritually (and materially), realizing the Wisdom of the Creator in the process.
For those looking for more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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