Friday, November 6, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat Shalom!

Ki eshm'rah Shabbat E-l yishm'reni Ot hi l'olmei ad beino uveini
Just as I keep Shabbat, G-d will keep me. It is a symbol for all eternity between Him and me.

Parashat VaYera - And He Appeared

Bereishit 18:1 - 22:24
Haftarah 2Melachim 4:1-37

And He Appeared
Sedom's Sins

Bereishit 18:17 And HaShem said, "Shall I conceal from Avraham what I do, 
18 now that Avraham is surely to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him?  
19 For I haved loved him, because he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of HaShem, doing charity and justice, in order that HaShem might then bring upon Avraham that which He had spoken of him."   
20 So HaShem said, "Because the outcry of Sedom and 'Amorah has become great, and because their sin has been very grave, 
21 I will descend and see: If they act in accordance with its outcry which has come to Me - then destruction! and if not, I will know."

Sedom was a very wealthy city, exporting gold and precious stones. The area had so many resources that its populance had not financial worries. No other city was blessed like Sedom. (Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer) The people, however, were very wicked.  In general, Sedom was distinguished by four sins. (Sanhedrin, Chapter 10)

1) Sexual immorality. A 6-hour journey from Sedom, there was an oasis containing pleasant springs and beautiful fruit trees. Every July, the people of the five cities, Sedom, 'Amorah, Admah, Tzevoyim and Tzo'ar, would come together and have a carnival. For four days and four nights, there would be eating, drinking, and revelling. Men and women would go together without regard to marital status, or family relationship. Sins such as adultery, incest and homosexuality were the norm at such celebrations. (Sefer HaYashar)

2) Would not allow travelers to pass through their cities. An agreement had been made that no hospitality be given, and that any traveler would have to spend the night in the street. Even the trees around the city were cut down so that birds would not receive any hospitality. (Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer)

3) Crime and Corruption.

4) Murder. The warped system of justice in these cities caused many people to be killed unjustly.

The people of Sedom were so wicked and corrupt that they deserved to be utterly destroyed. Even if they had repented, they did not deserve to have been forgiven. Still, HaShem had mercy on them, and gave them every opportunity to change their ways.

These cities stood for 52 years. For 25 years before they were destroyed, G-d provided them with portents from heaven that they were destined for calamity. Great earthquakes shook the area, and after each earthquake, a rainbow was visible (Bereishit 9:16). Torrential rains fell also; and the priests read all these as signs of impending doom. Still, they did not change their ways. (Yafeh Toar)

Hospitality is one of the mitzvot of the Torah, but the Torah had not yet been given. One might wonder why this was considered a sin, since hospitality is not included among the 7 universal mitzvot. Hospitality is such a logical act of kindness that people should do it without being commanded. How can a person see a fellow human being dying of starvation without having pity? (Bachya)

In general, G-d takes revenge when a person is hard hearted toward the poor. The cry of the poor ascends to heaven. One must also be very careful not to give the poor reason to curse him.G-d hears their cries even when they are without reason. (Tosafot, Rosh Hashanah, Chapter 1).

For all these reasons Sedom deserved to be annihilated.

Before destroying Sedom, G-d informed Avraham of His plans.

There were 7 reasons for this:

1) Sedom and its neighbors were in the land of Kena'an. Since G-d had given Avraham the entire land of Kenaan, He saw fit to inform him before He destroyed a portion of it. (Rashi; Zohar, p. 105)

2) Avraham was destined to become a great nation; he would be renowned as a great saint and doer of good.  Hearing of the destruction of these cities, people might ask, "Since Avraham is beloved by G-d, why did He not reveal what He was about to do? And if Avraham was informed, why did he not pray for them?" G-d therefore saw that it would be best to inform him. (Ramban)

3) Avraham's nephew lived in Sedom. (Yafeh Toar, p. 284)

4) Avraham was called the "father of a horde of nations." (17:3) It would not be proper to destroy a nation without informing its "father." (Rashi; Bereyshit Rabbah)

5) In Parashat Lech Lecha was described how G-d showed Avraham the punishments of purgatory. Since people cannot see them, however, they do not believe in them. G-d therefore informed Avraham of the sins of Sedom as well as the punishment destined for them. People would then be able to see with their own eyes that Avraham's source of information was accurate, and they would also see an example of divine punishment. (Bereishit Rabbah)

6) Avraham knew all the mysteries of the Torah before it was given [to Yisrael]. He was therefore aware even of the judgments handed down by the tribunal on high. Since nothing was concealed from him, it was fitting that he be made aware of the destiny of Sedom. (Ibid.)

7) During the war between Nimrod and Sedom, when Lot was taken prisoner, Avraham had taken Sedom's side against Nimrod. When Avraham saw that the Sedomi had retreated rather than fight, he assumed that they were pacifists who would do anything rather than take a human life. He thus had a very good impression of them, and could not imagine them as sinners. If G-d had destroyed them without informing Avraham of the reason, he would have thought their destruction was for no reason. (Tanchuma)

For all these reasons, G-d waited in Avraham's house in order to inform him.

R' Judah b. Levi said:
This may be compared to a king who made a gift of an orchard to his friend. Some time later he found that he had to cut down five beams in it. Said he: Although it was mine, and it was I who gave it to my friend, it is not right for me to cut down anything in it without cousulting him. Similarly, when Avraham went up to Eretz Yisrael, the Holy One, Baruch Hu, told him: "Raise now your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward and westward. For all the land that you see, to you will I give it..." (Bereishit 13:14-15). Therefore when He desired to destroy these five cities, Sedom, 'Amorah, Admah, Tzevoyim and Lasha, which according to tradition, were also destroyed, He declared, "I cannot destroy them without Avraham's knoweldge." Hence when He was actually about to overthrow them He took counsel with him, as our text states.

R' Hiyya said:
The Almighty informs the tzaddikim in advance so that they may call the rashim to do teshuvah and thereby avert their decreed punishment. Also, to leave no loophole for any complaint that He punishes unjustly.

R' Eleazar said:
If the Holy One, whose acts are truth and whose ways are just, does not execute His intentions before revealing them to the tzaddikim, so that men may have no possiblity of censuring His acts; how much more mere mortals take care that their actions give no grounds for the spreading of evil reports about them. Thus it is written, "And you shall be clean before HaShem and before Yisrael" (BaMidbar 32:22). (Zohar 1, 104b)

Source commentaries sited:

MeAm Lo'ez - Vayera, Culi
Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation, Kasher