Telephone Torah Study: What was the Real Sin of Sodom and Gomorrah?
This week’s Torah portion, Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24) recounts the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, birth and binding of Isaac, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the struggles of Hagar and the near death of her son Ishmael. Telephone Torah Study, this Thursday, 4-5pm.
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An Insight from Vayeira:
God then opened [Hagar’s] eyes, and she saw a well (Gen. 21:19). The Sages say this was Miriam’s well, created on the eve of the first Shabbat of Creation. The text teaches us that “All are blind until God brings light into their eyes.” (The Torah: A Women’s Commentary).
‘Hospitality: Can We Do Better?’ by Aaron D. Panken for the Union for Reform:
Biblical stories often form prototypical frameworks that define and shape later Jewish behaviors. The hospitality of Abraham and Sarah in Parashat Vayeira, for example, becomes for later commentators the quintessential moment that defines how Jews ought to welcome their guests. The moving scene of their hospitality to three messengers (really, angels sent by God) who visit during their sojourn in Mamre contains all the key elements of the best hospitality even today. Abraham and Sarah offer their guests a friendly response on arrival, proffer for them some delicious food, refer to them respectfully, and keep one eye directed toward their guests’ comfort at all times:
18:1] The Eternal appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre as he was sitting at the entrance of the tent at about the hottest time of the day. 2] Looking up, he saw: lo-three men standing opposite him! Seeing [them], he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and, bowing low to the ground, 3] he said, “My lords, if I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by. 4] Let a little water be brought; then wash your feet and recline under a tree, 5] and let me bring a bit of bread and you can restore yourselves. Then you can go on-now that you have come across your servant.” And they responded: “Very well, do as you propose.” 6] Abraham then hurried toward the tent, to Sarah, and said: “Hurry, knead three measures of wheat flour and bake some [bread-] cakes!” 7] Abraham then ran to the herd and took a young calf, tender and sound, and gave it to the servant lad, who quickly prepared it. 8] He took sour milk and [sweet] milk and the calf he had prepared and set [it all] before them; and as he stood over them under the tree, they ate. (Genesis 18:1-8)
In this idyllic, shady setting beneath the large oak trees of Mamre, Abraham and Sarah welcome their visitors and provide for all their needs; taking them into the shade; plying them with food and drink; helping them to relax, recline, and enjoy the hot afternoon. As they receive this hospitality, the angels serve their own salutary purpose: they promptly share the good news of the coming of the next generation in the family of our patriarch and matriarch.
Suggested Passage of the Week
Adonai appeared to him by the oaks of the Mamre as he was sitting at the entrance of the tent at about the hottest time of the day. Looking up, he saw: lo—three men standing opposite him! Seeing [them], he ran down from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and, bowing down to the ground, he said, “My lords, if I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought; then wash your feet and recline under a tree, and let me bring a bit of bread and you can restore yourselves. Then you can go on—now that you have come across your servant.” And they responded: “Very well, do as you propose.” (Gen. 18:1-5)