18 Cheshvan 5783

Am I compromising my integrity?

To set the stage of the message for today, allow me to give you a little history about Parashah Vayera.

Abram has now become Abraham and Sarai, Sarah. There’s a very interesting narrative in chapters 18 and 22 which are important in light of religions creating and trying to prove their own doctrines regarding the Torah. God tells Sarah directly that she will have a child. She and Abraham both laugh, thus their sons name will be Yitzhak which means laughter. The miracle here is that God does what man cannot do but he allows man to do what he can; it’s part of nature. Sarah was old and barren, but God opened her womb and Abraham had union with her resulting in a child. God did the impossible…He made her fertile. This formula is repeated each time in Tanach where we see a miraculous birth. God sets up a precedent and does not contradict Himself.

The haftarah portion in 2 Kings 4, we read about a wealthy woman who is childless and whose husband is old. Elisha told her that she would have a son, which she did. Again, the same miracle; God opened the womb and man did his part.

Next comes the story of Lot followed by the birth of Ishmael who is later sent away. It’s important to know that in Abraham’s day, there was a law in which a man who had a son from their maid, in order for this son to be unable to claim the inheritance, the father would have to send him away, to disown him. This sounds harsh, but later we see that from Ishmael would descend twelve princes.

Abraham repeats his lie that Sarai was his sister, and here she was taken captive by King Abimelech of Gerar. When confronted by Abimelech, Abraham said surely the “fear of God” is not in this place. They made a pact, and the blessing was that all the women in his household were able to bear children. We see this theme of miraculous conception repeated throughout the Scriptures…with Sarah, Lot’s daughters, Abimelech’s wife, and servants and many more. God sets up a precedent and does not contradict Himself.

Now I’d like to focus on the story of Lot. Last week, we saw several differences in the characters of Abraham and Lot. Abraham felt very responsible for his nephew; perhaps because he considered Lot as the one who would receive his inheritance, since he himself had no sons. Therefore, he rescued him from the kings of Sodom.

The three men who told them that Sarah would conceive, finally told Abraham that they were about to destroy the area of Sodom and Gomorrah due to their total lack of moral values. Abraham intervened and the bargaining process began. It is oblivious that there was not one person in that area with good values; even Lot because it says in Ber. 19:29 that “God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out”. That is from where the expression “in the merits of our forefathers, b’zechut avot, comes giving us the idea that they intercede for us.

Lot saw two strangers in the square and invited them to his home. Abraham had trained him well in hospitality and he followed the rules. Hospitality is extremely important in the Middle East, to the point of defending a person with your life. There are some subtle differences, however. While Abraham offered them water, food, and rest, Lot offered them rest and simply to wash their feet. It was later that he made them a feast with unleavened bread. Abraham called his wife to prepare bread, cakes, milk, and butter, and his servant to prepare the calf; whereas Lot prepared everything by himself. We don’t see his wife or daughters involved in anyway. This demonstrates that they were not properly trained.

When the men of Sodom tried to break down the door to “know” (meaning intimately) the two visitors, Lot offered them instead his two virgin daughters, but the men of Sodom were so degenerate, they refused them insisting on having the two men. Homosexuality was the tradition of day from whence the term Sodomite comes. The men to whom Lot’s daughters were engaged were not interested in listening or leaving with Lot. His own wife turned to a pillar of salt as she looked back longingly at Sodom. Lot and his daughters took shelter in a cave protecting them from the apocalypse happening outside. They thought they were the only people left alive, so they got their father, Lot drunk, and each lay with him to ensure the future of their father’s lineage. From this union, stem the Moabites and Ammonites. Devarim 23:4 says that Israelites are not allowed to join with the Moabites and Ammonites for 10 generations because they are tribes born from incest.

However, the lineage of messiah would come from Lot. This is important to understand. Nothing happens by coincidence. Our Creator knows how everything will turn out.

Ruth the Moabite married Boaz. They had a son Obed, who had Jesse, the father of King David. Boaz is descended from Judah and Tamar, his Canaanite daughter in law. She gave birth to Peretz and Zerah, also incest. This is the pedigree of King David! We need to think about what we can learn from this. According to our sages, it is so that King David could never boast about his pedigree. It is to keep man humble. When we come from humble beginnings, we cannot boast but we can be grateful for our successes. To further the lineage of messiah, King David’s son, Solomon married Naamah the Ammonite who gave birth to Rehoboam. Naamah is also in the line of Judah, the line of messiah. If we add the Canaanite, Tamar, we can never say that we descend from a pure lineage. Any success we have is due to God’s merits, not ours.

Now let’s return to Lot and my personal midrash. We Jews were called to be ohr l’goyim, light to the nations. We have been dispersed all over and sometimes we are the only Jew in the place where we reside. Little by little, our moral values may be compromised, and we become like the people around us instead of influencing them to be more like us. The pressure to conform becomes great. Israel has always lived under this pressure. They wanted a human king so that they could be like the other nations. God as their king was not enough. In the same way, religions have made a mere human into a god because they have problems with the invisible God. This is how idolatry has entered the picture.

Another issue with Lot was his materialism which became stronger than his moral values. Sometimes we sell our soul for money and power, whereas God wants us to have His values; He is the Giver of life and everything we own. Instead, we prefer to get what we can, in our own way no matter the cost. Many of us have fallen into this trap.

If Israel doesn’t set a good example to the world, the finger will always be pointed at us because of our God-given calling. Lot was isolated in a perverted society, and he gradually lost his sense of good moral values. Perhaps he thought that their lifestyle wouldn’t affect him if he simply accepted that it was okay for them. That is the greatest lie, because sooner or later we fall into the trap. I have often told you the story of when the Red Cross didn’t alert society to the consequences of using blood tainted by AIDS from drug addicts and other people with questionable lifestyles. They knew the dangers, but it was not politically correct to tell the truth. The result was that many innocent adults and children died. This is the consequence of compromising our values.

Lot’s mentality was changing to the point that he even offered up his own virgin daughters to those evil people. The irony of the story of Lot is that in the end his two daughters lost their virginity “to him”– an example of midot keneged midot, measure for measure.

I am not a bigot, but I am upset that today the moral majority is being silenced and immorality is invading our society. God has not called me to be a judge and people can live however they want, but they do not have the right to impose their immoral lifestyles upon me. I have the right to say that certain lifestyles are wrong. The saddest thing is that even in Judaism, there are rabbis who are openly living it and saying that it is right. The Torah is quite clear about certain behaviors, yet today everybody does according to his/her own understanding. How can they say that they are following the Word of God? I do have the right to cry out that this is wrong, however in our society, according to the law if I speak out, I am labelled a bigot and, in some cities, even arrested.

Most of us are guilty of not speaking out and have accepted the world’s views without complaint because we are afraid that others will mock us or call us names. Even I have kept silent when I needed to speak up. Fear is the strongest ingredient used to silence individuals from speaking out against injustice. We see that in countries like North Korea and China. In so–called free countries, we can no longer speak about anything that is not ‘politically correct’.

The worst injustice is moral injustice. We, however, know the difference between right and wrong and we must not make what is wrong, right nor what is right, wrong. If people choose to live on the wrong side, that is their business, but if I follow them, I am in the wrong and have no excuse. We don’t need to destroy those around us who do wrong; we need to choose to differently and be a light to them.

When we read that the descendants of Abraham would be blessed and that those who cursed them would be cursed, we would do well to remember that Abraham also had descendants through Ishmael as well as through the six sons of Keturah, who he married after the death of Sarah. Anyone who teaches us to hate their descendants, the Arabs, is wrong. We are to pray for them. Our Messiah Yeshua told us to pray for our enemies, to intercede for them. We want them to do what is right. It doesn’t mean that we cannot stand up and defend ourselves against those who want to hurt us or kill us, but we must not harvest hatred in our hearts against other people who have done wrong to us. Hate is a poison that will destroy us. Let us work to be open, honest, to love the Truth, to not judge others, and let us live according to the moral values of the Torah. May we choose not to be affected by those around us who want to impose their immorality upon us but let us have enough love of God within that we can pray for them.

Shabbat Shalom
Based on Ranebi’s message from 18 Cheshvan 5776