Vayera, Genesis 18:1-22:24, Parshat Hashavua for Shabbat, November 12, 2022

Abraham is a paragon of Jewish virtue. While Noah is said to have “walked ahead of God,” Abraham “walked with God.” In this week’s Torah portion we have two examples of his character. The first is at the beginning of the Torah portion, when Abraham welcomes three mysterious strangers to his camp and treats them with hospitality and generosity, feeding them despite his convalescence from surgery. (Genesis 18:1-8) As recognition of his behavior Sarah and Abraham are promised a child. The second episode happens a little later (Genesis 18:20-33). God is outraged over the immortality of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is worth noting that according to our rabbis their sin was not sexual immorality but treating strangers cruelly. In this instance Abraham argues with God over his plan to destroy the cities, killing the innocent along with the guilty. Abraham challenges God saying,  “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:22) Then he negotiates with God trying to get God to spare the cities for the least number of innocent people. Here again Abraham takes the side of people he does not know. This is one of the Jewish views of leadership, hospitality, generosity of spirit, sharing our resources with others and defending others for the sake of justice. It may run counter to the spirit of the moment, but our tradition teaches that these values are timeless and lead to a healthy and just society.