This Torah Tidbit is brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Check out the full dvar tzedek on which this excerpt is based at AJWS.
This week’s Torah portion, Vayera, is the stuff of Hollywood movies – an epic tale of right and wrong, and the story of one man fighting against the odds to stand up for what he believes in. Vayera recounts the story of Abraham (played here by a bedraggled George Clooney, naturally) trying to convince God not to destroy the people of Sodom and Gomorrah for their moral corruptness. In doing so, he puts his own relationship with God – not to mention his own life – on the line.
Read more from this week’s dvar tzedek author, Leil Leibovitz, below the jump – but be warned, there are some serious spoiler alerts in there.
“In this week’s parshah, this unremarkable man—his one grand deed was an act of blind obedience, leaving his father’s home on God’s unreasoned command—does a remarkable thing: He talks back to God. “Will you even destroy the righteous with the wicked?” he challenges. “Perhaps there are 50 righteous men in the midst of the city; will You even destroy and not forgive the place for the sake of the 50 righteous men who are in its midst?” And if 50 deserve mercy, how about 40? Or 20? Every time, God assents; and every time, Abraham haggles on, hoping that enough righteous people will be found to merit saving the towns.
It makes for almost comical reading—I imagine a growingly brazen man questioning an increasingly baffled deity—but the story’s message couldn’t have been more serious…In facing down God, Abraham acts on behalf of people he has never met—most of whom, he knows, are unworthy of his compassion. He has no illusion that sparing Sodom would do much to redeem the city of its wicked ways. And yet, he believes innocent lives everywhere are always worth fighting for.
We could ask for no better role model when it comes to activism…Often, we, like Abraham, see a situation that bothers us immensely and resolve to challenge it. When we do, we learn right away that hurdles abound, and that any human undertaking is going to present its share of frustrations, reticence, confusion, ingratitude and regret. And, often, the path to change involves grappling with mighty figures of authority. The key is to rise to the occasion despite the enormity of the challenge; to acknowledge our ordinariness and yet never shy away from extraordinary pursuits.
Check out the rest of Leil’s dvar tzedek commentary on AJWS’ website here. And let us know – what cause or injustice do you believe is worth fighting for?