Parshat Vayera

Torah Reading for Week of October 28-November 3, 2012


“The Greatest Moment”
By Gregory D. Metzger, AJRCA Fourth Year Rabbinical Student

In this week’s Torah, Abraham meets angels and learns that they are on a mission to destroy Sodom (and 4 other cites) because of the corruption of its inhabitants.  Abraham attempts to save all of the people on account of the innocent and the righteous.  He “negotiates” with G-d using justice as leverage.

“Abraham came forward and said, “Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?. . . Far be it from You to do such a thing. . .Far be it from you!  Shall not the Judge of all earth deal justly?”  – B’reishit 18:23

This is perhaps the greatest moment in the history of the Jews and the history of all people!  Abraham stands up to G-d for humanity in the name of justice and in doing so stands up for G-d. This is the beginning of a great relationship, a partnership with G-d.  Abraham’s voice echoing today is so loud that I was surprised when a student recently asked, “Does it really matter that Abraham stood for justice? Sodom and the other cities were destroyed anyway.”

His perspective is based in a common, but false, sense of powerlessness that leads to diminished responsibility.  He cannot hear the voice of Abraham, and thus, he cannot speak Abraham’s words.

In G-d in Search of Man, Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “The deed is the test, the trial and the risk.  What we perform may seem slight, but the aftermath is immense. ” Abraham’s risk, his call to justice, is huge – it echoes through every generation to this day.  Abraham’s voice resounds.

Our Prophets heard Abraham. They cried out to G-d and the people; for G-d and the people.  They asked for justice for all the people.  We can hear Abraham today.  We are the echoing voice of Abraham whenever we cry out in the name of justice; when we educate; when we advocate; and when we provide humanitarian relief to those who suffer injustice.

Midrash, stories and legends abound about Abraham. They often feature a guest or visitor asking Abraham: Who is he? And why is he so generous to strangers?  My friend Janice Kamenir-Reznik, Co-founder (with Rabbi Harold Schulweis) of Jewish World Watch gets the same questions.  Upon meeting survivors of the current genocide in Congo and Chad, she was asked “Who are you and why are you here.   What are we to you?”  Through her voice, the survivors heard Abraham.  “We are Jews”, she said.  “We come from an ancient tribe.  Our ancient laws teach us that every human being is created in G-d’s image with a spark of the divine.  We believe that we were given that spark for the purpose of pursuing justice and righteousness so as to earn the right to call ourselves G-d’s partners.”

When our eyes are open, we can see so many opportunities to echo and even amplify this uniquely Jewish message – to stand up to G-d for humanity in the name of justice and in doing so stands up for G-d.   Let us all find a place for our passion. Stand up, come forward and take action.  It is only through our actions that Abraham’s voice is heard in the world.  And it is through these actions we earn the right to call ourselves G-d’s partners.

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