Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Words of Mussar, Parshas Vayerah

When Abraham pleads for Sodom to be spared, he states that perhaps there are ten righteous people in the midst of the city. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch focuses on the words "in the midst of," pointing out that a righteous person by definition would be living among the rest, mingling and interacting, counseling and inspiring. Hirsch's "righteous man" doesn't sit cloistered in his ghetto, or in his study hall. Rather, he lives among the ordinary people, even among the sinners, as a teacher and a neighbor. He doesn't worry only about himself, and his family, but, like Martin Luthor King Jr., he worries about his city and his country, and he labors for their betterment. "Defilement" is a non-issue.

In Hirsch's gloss, Sodom, ultimately, is not destroyed simply because it was evil, but because there were no righteous men willing to work for its salvation. If even 10 righteous men had been literally in the midst of the city, working to improve the moral well-being of Sodom, the city would have been spared.

When the people of Jewish communities around the globe,refuse to risk "defilment" by acting together with the larger society for the sake of the greater good, aren't they, in a sense, creating a twenty-first century Sodom? Aren't they abandoning the world, and speeding its destruction?

Zion will be redeemed through justice and by those who return to her with rightuousness.

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