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October 25, 1991 - Image 52

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-10-25

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Abraham's Words
Clarify Our Tradition


Special to The Jewish News


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ne of the most moving
and dramatic dia-
logues of the Torah is
found in this week's sedra.
God wants to destroy the
cities of Sodom and Gomorrah
because of their wickedness
., "their sin is very
grievous." God reveals to
Abraham what is about to
take place. The Bible explains
this extraordinary foretelling
of the Divine plan to a mere
mortal: "For I have known
him to the end that he may
command your _children and
his household after him, that
they may keep the way of the
Lord, to do righteousness and
Abraham, the exemplar of
righteousness, the witness to
God's presence in the world,
was informed that he might
properly grasp the moral
significance of the Divine
judgement on the depraved
When Abraham learns of
the impending destruction,
he challenges God. The
patriarch's moral stature. is
considerably greater than
that of Noah, the progenitor
of the human race. Noah was
told about the flood that
would sweep away all living
things, and we find no protest
voiced by him on behalf of
humanity, only compliance
with the plan for the rescue of
himself, his family and the
Abraham-, in marked con-
trast, protests this Divinely
willed act of annihilation. To
him, Sodom was not an ab-
stract unit identifiable as a
"city." Sodom, in Abraham's
consciousness, was an area in
which there lived thousands
of individual human beings —
who loved - and wept and
laughed and suffered. In his
boundless love for man, Abra-
ham was aghast at the pro-
spect of the annihilation of
his fellow human beings.
In courteous language, yet
with the daring of a great
hero, Abraham pleads with
God: "Wilt Thou, indeed,
sweep away the righteous
with the wicked?" Had
Abraham stopped at this
point and said no more, the'
implication would have been:
"Therefore, God, save the in-
nocent and let the guilty
perish in their sin." But
Abraham's infinite love for all
people, including the wicked,

Irwin Groner is rabbi of
Congregation Shaarey Zedek.

is expressed in the continua-
tion of his argument:
"Perhaps there are fifty
righteous within the city —
wilt Thou indeed sweep away
and not forgive the place for
the fifty righteous that are
therin? Or for the forty or the
thirty or the twenty or the
Abraham's argument then
reaches a powerful climax in
one of the most daring state-
ments ever issued by man to
the Almighty: "Shall not the
Judge of all the _earth do
justice?" God's omnipotence
does not, so to speak, place
Him above tie laws of justice
and right. Man can "reprove"
the Almighty for arbitrary
acts which violate the fun-
damental attribute of God
which is mishpat (justice) for
"the Lord of hosts is exalted
through justice!' (Isaiah 5:16)
With Abraham's moral
courage, a new element has

Shabbat Vayera
Genesis 18:1-22:24
Kings II 4:1-37

entered the biblical and
Jewish tradition. Adam and
Eve challenged God by
. disobedience, but they had to
yield. Abraham challenges
God not by disobedience but
by accusing Him of violating
His own principles.
Abraham, in seeking to
draw closer to God, offers us
the highest aspiration of
which the human soul is
capable. In seeking to con-
front the Creator with the
questions that perplex Him,
Abraham is aware that he is
but a speck of dust in the vast
cosmos. But his humility does
not prevent him from seeking
the truth. What a powerful
image the Bible portrays of
this weak, mortal, fragile
creature who is prepared to
challenge the Lord of - the
Universe in the name of
justice. -
We, who live in the post-
Holocaust age, can read these
passages and identify with
the questions of Abraham. We
can draw strength from his
challenge. To be a Jew in the
tradition of Abraham is to be
both humble and defiant, sub-
missive yet critical, faithful to
the will of the Almighty, yet
capable of challenging Him in
the name of the highest stan-
dards of morality. Above all,
to be a Jew means to cling to
our love for mankind, even
when that love is severely
tested. Spiritually, we are all
the children of Abraham. 0

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