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Congregation Brothers of Israel

L'dor Vador—From Generation to Generation since 1883
לדור ודור



This coming Shabbat (November 15-16), we will read Parshat Va-yera the story of Sodom. God saw that the people in the city were evil. God believed there was no one of redemptive value in the city and God was ready to destroy it and start again. Concerned about taking such a drastic action, God says, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” (Genesis 18:17). God informs Abraham of the potential action. Abraham argues with God about the action. In the end Sodom is destroyed after Abraham’s nephew Lot is saved from the city. How is it that an omnipotent being seeks a mortal’s approval for such an action? One potential answer comes from the Hasidic scholar, Yizhak of Vorki (1779-1848) who teaches the following: There is no action of heavenly origins in the world that does not contain within it the element of Hesed (Loving kindness), even in times of transgression and judgement – may God preserve us. Thus, when Sodom was overthrown, the element of Hesed was present in that Lot was rescued. Hence Scripture says, “Shall I hide from Abraham” – that is, the attribute of Abraham, the attribute of Hesed, “what I am doing” – there cannot possibly be any act that does not contain within it an element of Hesed. (The Aura of Torah by Rabbi Larry Tabick, 2014) Yizhak of Vorki was no stranger to suffering, he lived in Tsarist Russia at a time of great anti-Semitism and Jewish persecution, but he avoids the theological challenge that if God is omnipotent and always loving, how could God allow such suffering to happen. Or the reverse God is not all powerful, so why believe in such a powerless God. Instead, Yithak of Vorki believes that even in tragedies and disasters whether natural or manmade, God’s love is always present and is found in the courage, the unity, and compassion that seems to always come through during such difficult times. Perhaps he was right, natural  disasters like hurricanes when people setup mobile kitchens to feed the homeless and volunteers who help a community recover from the disaster. Recently, we saw local Philadelphia unions volunteering their time and expertise to repair the damage to homes in the aftermath of a horrific shooting. These are the times that we see people step up to help and demonstrate the Hesed which eases the suffering. For me this week, I will be thinking about ways I can help relieve another person’s suffering in the face of tragedy. It is in these moments that we gather Divine sparks and help heal the world.
Shabbat Shalom

Wed, November 13 2019 15 Cheshvan 5780