Rabbi’s Weekly Message

Rabbi’s Message, Nov 1, 2023


Illustration: Jacob de Wet II (1641-1697)  Sodom and Gomorrah Aflame.  Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt--- Darmstadt, Germany.
                Sometimes, it’s really quite simple.  Sometimes, the shades of gray do not obscure the fundamental, black and white, reality. Sometimes, one of the parties of a conflict is truly an evil adversity.
                The Bible story that occupies much of this week’s Torah portion is about an evil society, the society of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  They were instinctively xenophobic.  In their eyes, strangers were perforce enemies.  This is the polar opposite of what the Torah narrates just one chapter earlier, in which Abraham jumps up to receive the strangers who had appeared at his tent flap. He instinctively seeks to connect with them through solicitude and kindness. In the continuation of that earlier story, the strangers are actually angels, and God communicates through them to Abraham that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are on trial for their very existence. We learn that they are judged guilty, and with good cause.
                That story speaks to us every year. But this year it speaks with special urgency. Because this year, we read the story while actively mourning the 1,400 victims of murder at the hands of Hamas and its allies and the over 200 kidnapping victims still held by those cruel disciples of hatred.
                Hamas is not the first iteration of the Arab rejectionists who refuse to accept an independent Jewish state in the part of the world they insist is their house and only theirs. But Hamas has attempted to position itself as being even more zealous in its devotion to death and destruction than many of the other would-be leaders of the Palestinians.  It was founded in 1987 as an organization bent on being still more anti-Israel than the other anti-Israel groups on the ground at that time.  In 2007 it won control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority. Since then, it has used Gaza as its launching pad for attacks against Israel.
                For the past 16 years, Israel tried to contain Hamas, rather than eliminate it.  But last month’s barbarous attack upon Israeli civilians shows that there is no scenario in which a surviving Hamas leadership is compatible with peace in the region.  Hamas represents the unreconstructed, death-dealing jihad of the seventh century, armed with the weapons of the twenty first. 
                Well-meaning people, erroneously applying western standards of civility to the news emanating from the Middle East, imagine that a speedy cease-fire is the goal to work for. Therefore, they seek to pressure Israel into desisting from uprooting Hamas from its warren of war-making redoubts. But that is misguided.  If Hamas survives as leader of Gaza, there will be no peace.  There will only be more death in the future.
                It is time for the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to echo in this world.  I know that sounds harsh, but Hamas has sown the wind.  If it does not reap the whirlwind, there will be no end to this cycle of killings, beginning each time at the choosing of Hamas.
                We Americans made peace with Germany and Japan after Pearl Harbor only because the evil and genocidal regimes in control there were eliminated.  That is the model to keep in mind as we seek to rid the world of Hamas, the Sodom of our millennium.