Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What was the sin of Sodom?

The usual suspects made a large meal of the fact that the now-cancled parade was scheduled during the week we read in shul about the destruction of Sodom and Gamorah. "Tee hee," you can almost hear them gloat, "Sodomites always get what they deserve."

The fools have forgotten that it isn't Jewish tradition that associates the destroyed city with homsexuality. As Robert Kaiser tells it: "Classical Jewish texts concur that God did *not* destroy Sodom and Gemorrah because their inhabitants were homosexual. Not at all. Rather, the cities were destroyed because the inhabiants were uncompromisingly greedy. Classical Jewish writings affirm that the primary crimes of the Sodomites were, terrible and repeated economic crimes, both against each other and outsiders. Saying "God killed them because they were gay" is, to say the least, not the Jewish teaching on the subject." For proof, consider the following texts:

Ezekiel 16:46-50 This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 109a If one wounded his neighbor they would say to the victim, Give him a fee for [performing the service] of bloodletting... If a poor man happened to come there, every resident gave him a coin upon which he wrote his name, but no bread was given [the store owners recognized the coins, and refused to accept them]. When he died, each came and took back his[coin]

Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer: Rabbi Ze era said: The men of Sodom were the wealthy men of prosperity, on account of the good and fruitful land whereon they dwelt... Rabbi Nathaniel said: The men of Sodom had no consideration for the honour of their Owner by not distributing food to the wayfarer and stranger, but they even fenced in all the trees on top above their fruit so that so that they should not be seized; not even by the bird of heaven... Rabbi Joshua... said: They appointed over themselves judges who were lying judges, and they oppressed every wayfarer and stranger who entered Sodom by their perverse judgment, and they sent them forth naked... Rabbi Jehudah said: They made a proclamation in Sodom saying: Everyone who strengthens the hand of the poor or the needy with a loaf of bread shall be burnt by fire

Ramban: ... [in] the opinion of our Rabbis, all evil practices were rampant among them. Yet their fate was sealed because they did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy - since this sin represented their usual behavior more than any other. Besides, since all peoples act righteously towards their friends and their poor, there was none among all the nations who matched Sodom in cruelty.

Mendel Hirsch: Boundless selfishness, greed for profits, misuse of power in service of their own interests on the part of those in authority and greed for lucre in all classes of the people, the oppression of the defenseless widows and orphans was what made the prophet give the people the resounding appellation of "the Lords of Sodom and the people of Gomorrah."


In short, the sin of Sodom was not the sin of Haggard, but the sin of Bush and Cheny, and others like them who do too little to protect the vulnerable or defend the rights of the innocent.

[Updated December 24, 2006]

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