Lessons from the Parsha

Over the next few Parshiot, we see two distinct times where God decides to bring destruction on the world and its inhabitants. The first time is in this week’s parsha, where God warns Noach of an impending flood and instructs him to build an ark for him and his family. God states: “the earth has become full of robbery because of them and behold I am destroying them from the earth”. The second time of destruction is in two weeks’ time, where God instructs the angles to destroy the city of Sodom. Both these stories are destructions, but as we see in the case of Sodom, Avraham tries negotiating with God, stating that if there are some righteous people in the city, then it shouldn’t be destroyed. However, as we see later in the Parsha, God responds that there are indeed not enough righteous people in the city, and Sodom is ultimately destroyed. Since the Torah is a living and breathing document with messages relevant to us today, I think we can infer a couple of things.

Number One: We see that Avraham negotiates with God and agrees that if there are 50 righteous people then Sodom will be saved. When God says that there aren’t 50 righteous people, Avraham negotiates down 45 righteous people, and all the way down to even 10 righteous people. Yet when Avraham is told that there aren’t 10 righteous people, he stops negotiating. Why is that? Surely, there were at least one or two righteous people that lived in Sodom, who don’t deserve to die; does this mean that God is ok with collective punishment?

Number Two; in the case of Noach, there is no negotiation back and forth with God as to whether to save the people, versus the case of Sodom there does seem to be a negotiation back and forth. What’s the difference between the two? If you read through the parsha, you may be able to notice a distinct difference in the wording. When it comes to Sodom, the evilness in Sodom is regarding the sins of the people, versus in the case of Noach it says; “the earth has become full (of robbery) because of them”. Rashi infers from the wording “the earth”, that not only the people of Noach’s time were doing wrong, but it spread into the inner fabric of the world and society and that even wrongdoings had spread to the animals. I can understand a couple of things from this; actions have unintended ripple effects; we can never have a mindset that we live in an isolated bubble where we think our actions don’t affect others. This also may be why in this case (versus the case of Sodom), why there was no negotiation taking place; the fact that the evil seeped down to the inner fabric of society, to the point of no return, Noach didn’t even try to negotiate.

Number Three; you see in both stories the concept of destruction, something that some may wrongly think is in contradiction to our loving and caring religion. We see this is not the case. We see that evil needs to be eradicated and totally destroyed from the face of the earth. There is no room for negotiation. There is no room for compromise. There is no room for talking. When there is evil in the world, it needs to be destroyed. And when we don’t follow God’s commandments of destruction and annihilation (Amalek, for example) there are disastrous consequences that follow.

The news in Israel over the last 13 days have demonstrated to the world what evil truly is. However, what do we do with this evil and how do we eradicate it? We can have the smartest generals in the world giving the country deep military strategy, but is that enough? Because how do you destroy a radical ideology? Additionally, since actions have consequences, if you destroy evil in one place, will it directly cause evil to spring up in a different place? Does destroying evil cause even more people to be radicalized or is it a deterrent to others? If yes or no, how can you quantify this ratio ahead of time? Additionally, do we believe in collective punishment, and what are the consequences for collective punishment? And lastly, whenever you fight evil, there are consequences. Are we prepared to lose fellow Jewish soldiers in the pursuit of this goal? This also doesn’t even start talking about the safety of the kidnapped…

If I had the answers to these questions, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this to you. Rather, I would be directing strategy from the seat of the prime minister’s office. But since I don’t have the answers, I beseech upon the decision makers here in Israel to look at this situation through the lens of the Torah and through the eyes of God and before making any decision, ask yourself “what does God want me to do”. Lastly, remember that it’s not you making the decision for yourself; it’s a decision that will affect the lives of this generation and the next and the one after that as well.

When looking at things through the eyes of God and the Torah, it is impossible to not be victorious.

Shabbat Shalom!

About the Author
StevenZvi grew up in Brooklyn and in his professional life worked in the healthcare industry in New York City. Wishing to create additional meaning and purpose in his life, he moved to Jerusalem in November 2020, where he lives with his wife, works in the Medical Technology space and volunteers for Hatzalah. He uses his writing capabilities as a healthy outlet not to receive money, recognition or fame. It’s his hope that his articles will have some positive impact on the Jewish nation and humanity worldwide. He may not live forever, but his contributions to society might.
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