Sometimes, the connection between current events and the weekly parsha is glaring. This is one of those weeks. In this weeks parsha Avraham is inaugurated as a forefather. God Says that
Avraham is surely to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him. For I have loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of God, doing charity and justice… (Genesis 18: 18-19)
Immediately after this flattery, God presents Avraham with his first briefing. The city of Sodom, God informs Avraham, would be destroyed. The people of the city had previously been described as “wicked and sinful to God, exceedingly.” (Ibid 13:13) God plans to rid the world of this evil.
The dialogue between God and Avraham is then interrupted, with a breaking news update:
The men turned from there and went to Sodom…(Ibid 18:22)
These men were the messengers that were going to carry out the destruction (see Rashi Ibid verse 2.) So the plans were in place and the troops were mobilized. Operation Pillar of Salt would eliminate the wicked city.
How does Avraham react to these events? Does he pack his bags to take part in this mission? (We know that his age and health can’t stop him from doing a mitzvah, as he was able to run and greet the guests in verse 2). Does he at least celebrate this good news?
No. He doesn’t even accept God’s decision to destroy the city.
“Will you also stamp out the righteous along with the wicked? What if there should be fifty righteous people in the midst of the city? Would You still stamp it out rather than spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it?” (Ibid v. 23-24)
And when he realizes that there aren’t fifty good men in the city Avraham continues to bargain with God, to try and save the evil empire.
We see that Avraham’s defining attribute in this story is hope. He prays to the Lord, because he wanted the story to end differently. Maybe, if there were only ten decent men, things could change. They could serve as a spark, and eventually Sodom would be set ablaze in love, kindness and peace.
Alas, Sodom lacked even this spark. The angels arrive and do their job. Avraham awakes the next morning, and witnesses the destruction. (Ibid 19: 27) Despite his prayers the day before, he does not react to the destruction itself, because he realizes that justice has been served.
This week marked the commemoration of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. I was an infant at the time of his tragic death, and am not judging any of his actions. But he certainly embodied Avraham’s hope. He wanted the story to end differently. He refused to accept the fate of war and death, rather he yearned for peace and life.
It is far beyond me to decide how to properly apply this hope on a national and international level. Nor do I know how to balance this hope with personal safety and security, which was not a factor in Avraham’s story. But we can apply this hope every day, when we read the news.
When we read about a terror attack, we can be sad, afraid and angry. We can jump to conclusions that all of the Arabs hate us and there will never be peace. Avraham would not read like that. Avraham would definitely be sad, afraid and angry. But he would not allow the story to taint his perceptions of any other man, if possible. Was the terrorist acting alone? Was he mentally deranged? Were there any genuine condemnations? Avraham would ask these questions, because he hoped that the answers would be yes. He prayed that the answers would be yes. And it seems to me that Yitzhak Rabin would do the same.
This attitude can be applied to good news as well. When we read a story about coexistence or cooperation, we can celebrate. We can allow ourselves to hope and pray that those are genuine good human spirits among our enemies, and that one day they will prevail over those who murderer and hate.
Shabbat Shalom, Haveirim.