“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly?” Genesis 18:25


 It was an astounding, unparalleled occurrence. Abraham, who since childhood had tenaciously fought for acknowledgement of there being one indivisible God, now challenges the very Being for whose recognition he had so resolutely argued. 

Learning of the impending destruction of Sodom, Abraham beseeches God to have mercy on the entire metropolis. Daringly, he argues; “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” 

What motivated Abraham, to whom billions trace their monotheistic belief, to take such an audacious and decidedly non-obsequious stand on behalf of the Sodomites, renowned for their licentiousness and barbarous cruelty? 

The perspicacious German-Jewish rabbi, Samson Raphael Hirsch, provides an illuminating answer to this quandary: “The idea of a righteous man…which Abraham visualises… is not one who keeps to his own four walls… gives up the masses and just looks on at their ruinous moral lapses… His righteous man is to be found…‘in the midst of the city’ and in lively connection with everything and everybody. He never leaves off admonishing, teaching, warning, bettering… however distant the hope of success.”

This is a startling explanation. Abraham did not silently accept the status quo of moral decay and destruction awaiting Sodom because that would not be submissive devotion, it would be careless impropriety that God frowns upon. 

In history, there have been many who, often at considerable personal risk, challenged formidable forces. To take one example, many Jews strenuously challenged the injustices of South Africa’s apartheid system. When Chief Rabbi Louis Rabinowitz delivered thundering animadversions against apartheid from the pulpit of Johannesburg’s colossal Great Synagogue, some congregants cringed, thinking: “Why can’t he just focus on Torah and stop articulating dangerous politics?”

However, Rabbi Rabinowitz, like Jews throughout the centuries, was following the ancient Abrahamic tradition of refusing to turn a blind eye to injustice under the pretext of piety. 

Abraham, the first Jew in history, demonstrated that true Godliness is not only about self-development and religious devotion. It is equally about sharing spiritual light with others, whatever their faith and never despairing of the potential of any individual to achieve greatness, no matter how estranged from moral rectitude they may be. 

We are all enjoined to argue for those others have written off, to engage them, tend to them and show them a better way. 

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