Steven Saks

A Common Patriarch: Differing World Views

The text of the Torah is often terse leaving much for the imagination to fill in. However, regarding the attempted gang rape of Lot’s two guests the opposite is true. Instead of simply explaining that a mob gathered outside Lot’s home demanding to “know” his guests we are given more detail.  Genesis 19:4 relates that “from young to old, all the people from every quarter” converged on Lot’s with the intent of violating his guests. 

The text specifically states that the mob was made up  “from young to old, all people from every quarter” to emphasize that this mob was not just made up of a small band of hoodlums, rather, this horrendous behavior typified the residents of the city. This narrative almost immediately follows the one of Abraham hospitality to strangers in order to  juxtapose the two competing world views. At the center of Abraham’s world view is the idea that kindness is a paramount value exemplified by patriarchs eagerness to host strangers. At the center of Sodom’s world view is the idea that hedonistic cruelty is normative as exemplified by the mob congregated  outside of Lot’s home. 

Unfortunately, we see the world view of Abraham and Sodom are still clashing in the form of Israel and Gaza. Israel, while imperfect (no state is perfect), exemplifies Avraham’s values. Besides making peace with six Arab countries and making peace offer after peace offer to the Palestinains, Israel  has integrated its Arab citizens.  Many Arab Israelis work as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists etc. as well as  serving as judges and sitting in the Knesset. In 2021 the Arab Ra’am party joined then Prime Minister Naftalie  Bennet’s ruling coalition.  

On the other hand, unfortunately,  the Palestinians have exemplified the inhospitable and cruelty of Sodom. You may take issue and argue that while  Hamas is certainly worthy of being lumped together with Sodom, lumping the Palestinians as a whole is painting with too broad a brush. 

While I readily grant that there are many good individual  residents of Gaza who emulate the values of our shared patriarch, Abraham, Gaza’s culture is akin to Sodom’s. Unlike Israeli terrorists who are denounced virtually across the board  and a source of shame for Israeli society, Palestinian terrorists are lionized as role models and financially rewarded. Children are inculcated to hate Jews by watching  dead Jews be counted on Sesame Street. Hamas was elected by the people of Gaza and those same people have consistently displayed high levels of approval for Hamas’ barbaric acts of terror. 

The destruction of Sodom and Gemorah  teaches us that evil cultures must be uprooted. The current Palestinian culture, Sodom like in nature, in its bloodthirst  must be uprooted. That is not to say the Palestinians as a people should be uprooted. To the contrary, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005 leaving the Palestinians with a state in everything but name. Israel is correct in doing everything in its power to minimize collateral damage. Any innocent loss of life is tragic for we are all created B’tzelem Elochim, in the image of God. However, just as the wicked Nazi culture was uprooted so too must this Palestinian culture of death. 

Based on the fact that Sodom’s mob mirrored Sodom as a whole, the Midrash Rabbah suggests that no one challenged the mob, either because they could no longer differentiate between right and wrong or because no one had the courage to do so.  Undoubtedly, there are Palestinians who realize the path Hamas is leading them down is reprehensible and immoral.  God willing, in the near future, brave Palestinians will remind their people that they too are the descendants of Abraham and should too emulate his kindness and love of all humanity. Just as Isaac, from whom Jews trace their lineage and Ishmael, from whom the Muslims trace their lineage, reunited in peace to bury their father Abraham,  we must not give up hope that in the not too distant future Israelis and Palestinians will coexist in peace. The ball is in the court of the Palestinians, all they need to do is to follow the lead of the Arab countries which have already entered into the Abraham Accords and accept Israel’s right to exist.  

About the Author
Rabbi of Sons of Israel, Woodmere NY. Vice President of Morasha Rabbinical Fellowship (affiliated with the Union for Traditional Judaism). Served as president of the Rabbinical Association of Delaware.
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